Independent? Really?

May 2017 - Allan Richards has had to use Freedom of Information requests to see minutes of a Waterways Ombudsman Committee Meeting back in December, which, he reports, show just how hard C&RT tries to maintain the pretence that this committee is independent.

The minutes, which were which were recorded by C&RT Assistant Company Secretary, Yetunde Salami, show three 'Independent' members present and one C&RT representative, Gill Eastwood. However, one of the so called 'independent' members, Janet Hogben, just happens to be a C&RT Trustee.

Janet Hogben, was appointed a Trustee at C&RT's Annual Public Meeting in September 2016 and, according to C&RT, is a member of the board's remuneration committee (not the Waterways Ombudsman Committee). She is the chief 'people officer' at EDF Energy.

C&RT do not say what Hogben's charitable credentials are and a search on the internet suggests she has no previous experience in this area. Likewise, C&RT do not say what her connection is with Inland Waterways.

Perhaps that is because her only connection appears to be her flat overlooking the Regent's Canal in the Kings Cross/St. Pancras area?

Perhaps it is co-incidence that the Waterways Ombudsman has been spending time investigating complaints from local residents in that area about smoke from boat stoves, noisy generators and general anti-social behaviour.

It also might be a coincidence that the committee minutes state 'resolution of Regent's canal cases resides within the Trust's policy. The installation of electricity bollards should be carried as soon as possible'.

... and, of course, it might be a coincidence that one of the Ombudsman's documented cases starts 'Ms K lives in a flat overlooking the Regent's Canal near St Pancras. She complained about nuisance from smoke emitted by boats, noise, which was mainly from engines or generators running sometimes at unsocial hours, and bad behaviour in the form of threatening or upsetting interactions with some of the boaters concerned. She said that these problems also affected her neighbours.'

Surely Ms K couldn't possibly be Janet Hogben of EDF Energy, or a neighbour of hers?

Whatever the truth of the matter, no progress appears to have been made on electricity bollards despite Islington Council's offer to fund installation.

No doubt, somebody has mentioned that some boaters would be unable to use them for heating or charging without expensive upgrade. Some may not be able to afford electricity charges and others may not wish to use them for a variety of reasons even if they have the means to do so.

As to Janet Hogben, perhaps future Waterways Ombudsman Committee minutes will show her as a C&RT Trustee rather than an 'independent' member.

Photos: (1st) Janet Hogben recorded as an 'independent', (2nd) Janet Hogben, appointed a Trustee in September 2016 and chief 'people officer' at EDF Energy.

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