How much?

November 2018 - Canal & River Trust's Boaters' Update 27 July 2018 starts 'Welcome to the latest, bumper, edition. There's something for everyone; read about our positive Annual Report (we've spent more this year than ever before - £132m - on maintenance) ...'

However, although Boaters Update suggested the figure of £132 came from the 2017/18 Annual Report, boaters are having great difficulty finding where in the Annual Report it actually says this and how this figure is broken down.

One boater is known to have emailed C&RT's chief executive, Richard Parry. Although he has received a prompt reply stating that the chief executive believes "the ‘bulk’ of the £132m is for boats and navigation", he is still awaiting a requested breakdown.

Another boater, Peter Scott, has waited over three months for what he calls "an honest answer" before making a complaint that C&RT has misrepresented the amount spent on "maintenance" in both in its Boaters Update, its 2017/18 Annual Report and its audited accounts that form part of that report. (narrowboatworld - Where was £132m 'maintenance being spent?). Allan Richards’ investigation finds that C&RT has been misleading on its maintenance spend for years.

C&RT inherited British Waterways statutory responsibilities as a navigation authority. As a charity, it has a longish list of charitable objects -

The Trust’s objects are:

2.1 to preserve, protect, operate and manage Inland Waterways for public benefit:
- 2.1.1 for navigation;
- 2.1.2 for walking on towpaths; and
- 2.1.3 for recreation or other leisure-time pursuits of the public in the interest of their health and social welfare;

2.2 to protect and conserve for public benefit sites, objects and buildings of archaeological, architectural, engineering or historic interest on, in the vicinity of, or otherwise associated with Inland Waterways;

2.3 to further for the public benefit the conservation protection and improvement of the natural environment and landscape of Inland Waterways;

2.4 to promote, facilitate, undertake and assist in, for public benefit, the restoration and improvement of Inland Waterways;

2.5 to promote and facilitate for public benefit awareness, learning and education about Inland Waterways, their history, development, use, operation and cultural heritage by all appropriate means including the provision of museums;

2.6 to promote sustainable development in the vicinity of any Inland Waterway for the benefit of the public, in particular by:
- 2.6.1 the improvement of the conditions of life in socially and economically disadvantaged communities in such vicinity; and
- 2.6.2 the promotion of sustainable means of achieving economic growth and regeneration and the prudent use of natural resources; and

2.7 to further any purpose which is exclusively charitable under the law of England and Wales connected with Inland Waterways;

C&RT's statutory duty to maintain its waterways is covered by 2.1.1 above. Most reading Boaters Update would associate the word 'maintenance' with C&RT's statutory duty under 2.1.1. but, as can be seen, C&RT has plenty of other charitable objects that it can and does spend money on.

Each annual report, contains a breakdown of C&RT's charitable spend. The one below is for 2012/13, C&RT first full financial year, where its total charitable spend was £123.9m -

A similar chart can be found for following years breaking down charitable spend into 12 categories -

1- *Maintenance, repairs and minor works (£20.4m)
2- *Major infrastructure works (£18.4m)
3- *Vegetation, waste and contract management (13.4m)
4- Operational buildings
5- Customer service and facilities
6- *Dredging (£4.4m)
7- Training, safety, volunteering management, travel, etc.
8- National operational, technical and engineering teams
9- Waterway regeneration and restoration
10- Museums and attractions
11- Allocated support costs
12- Other

1,2,3 and 6 above have an asterisk against them because they would be accepted by most as direct spend on C&RT discharging its statutory duty as a navigation authority. The Trust spent £56.6m on these "direct" categories in 2012/13. As to the other eight categories, they may have a proportion of the expenditure attributable to "maintenance" but certainly not 100%!

Hidden away on page six of the 2014/14 annual report is an astounding claim: 'This year we spent more than £120m in repairing and restoring our waterways and the thousands of structures and facilities that make up the network, including reservoirs, aqueducts, locks, bridges, towpaths, culverts and embankments.'

Note the difference between £56.6m "direct" spend and £120m claimed spend ...

A trawl through the audited accounts finds that most of the 12 categories are not mentioned. Why? Also, from the audited accounts, it would appear that C&RT's "more than £120m" is actually £120.5m. It is simply C&RT's total spend on charitable activities (£123.9m) minus its spend on museums and attractions (£3.4m in the accounts).

C&RT continued to misrepresent the amount it spent on "maintenance" in 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 using a similar dubious calculation. Whilst it gross income rose year on year, its spend on charitable activities rose by a smaller amount. Of particular note is that its "direct spend" was almost flat-lining. The following graph shows this (see the blue column) -

Let's tackle this from a different angle. Over a three year period, C&RT's gross income rose by over £40m. Over the same period, its charitable spend rose by £33m. However, its direct "maintenance" spend (i.e. categories 1,2,3&7) rose by just £1.3m. So where is all the extra money going? Certainly not on directly maintaining waterways.

Since its first annual report, C&RT has bragged about its rising income year on year. It has bragged about its increasing charitable spend. It has hidden the fact that what can be measured as maintenance spend has hardly increased.

Which brings us rather neatly to last financial year, 2017/18, and Peter Scott's complaint. Last year, C&RT's gross income rose by less than 2%. This was boosted by donations from its two wholly owned trading subsidiaries , BWML and Canal & River Trading CIC. A jump of £4m on expenditure on raising funds saw a corresponding fall in charitable spend from £156.9m to £153.0m.

C&RT should have accepted, even on its own very dubious calculations, that the amount spent on "maintenance" (or "waterway operation maintenance and repairs" as it is called in the 2017/18 annual report) fell by £4.2m (£152.5m (2016/17) to £148.3 (2017/18))

Instead it started to manipulate its figures to "prove" that the amount spent on 'Waterway operation, maintenance and repairs" had actually increased by £6.7m from £124.9m to £131.6m. This formed the basis for its £132 claim in Boaters Update:

'Welcome to the latest, bumper, edition. There's something for everyone; read about our positive Annual Report (we've spent more this year than ever before - £132m - on maintenance) ...'

To sum up -
- C&RT has been using a very dubious calculation for "maintenance" since its inception.
- Last year, it manipulated, its figures in an attempt to show a fall of £4.2m in its calculation as an increase of £6.7m - a £10.9m difference!
- It would appear that C&RT's direct spend on "maintenance" is almost static despite significant rises in its gross income and its charitable spend.

So who is responsible? Is that same person delaying a response to Peter Scott?

One could blame Damian Kemp who published the £132m claim in his Boater's Update but failed to provide the simple breakdown requested. He appeared to ignore Peter Scott's request for a breakdown of the figures and later claimed that he had not received an email asking that it be treated it as a Freedom of Information request.

One could blame Melissa Ashdown-Hoff, C&RT's information officer, who kept apologising for delay but never produced the information requested either -

14/9/2018 - ... "I am so sorry for the delay you have experienced in receiving the information you requested."
8/10/2018 - ... "I am sorry for the lengthy delay which you have experienced which is inexcusable."
5/11/2018 - ... " I am sorry for the lengthy delay you have experienced."
14/11/2018 - ... "I am so so sorry for the delay. I appreciate that you had already waited a considerable amount of time for the information before the request was even forwarded to me and the service you have received so far is really not great or anywhere near good enough.

However, one suspects that these two are merely pawns subject to the command of those above them.

One could blame C&RT's auditors. However, they only audit C&RT's accounts rather than the explanation of those accounts given in the annual report. Having said that, Carol Rudge, Grant Thornton UK LLP's auditor did fail to spot that "Waterway operation, maintenance and repairs" (i.e. "maintenance") was given two different values in the audited accounts (this assumes the accounts were not altered after they audited).

That leaves Sarah Kelly, C&RT's FD, who is credited with production of the 2017/18 Annual Report by virtue of receiving an "openness award" for it - C&RT’s award for ‘Openness’ explored. It is Sandra Kelly, together with Richard Parry and Allan Leighton who both signed off the report who must bear the blame for the misrepresentation of "maintenance".

One is left wondering who in C&RT has sufficient seniority to actually answer Peter Scott's complaint ...

Photos: (1st) A breakdown of C&RT's charitable spend for 2012/13, C&RT first full financial year, where its total charitable spend was £123.9m, (2nd) Direct maintenance spend as opposed to charitabe spend and income, (3rd & 4th) Extracts from the 2017/18 annual report, (5th) Any answers Alan Leighton and Richard Parry?, (6th) Any answers Sarah Kelly? (seen here accepting an award for openness).

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