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Friday, September 30, 2011

Paralympic trip for Bruce Trust boat

Trip to the Paralympics for Bruce Trust boat Diana: Picture by Bob Naylor©

A Bruce Trust hire boat specially designed and purpose built for use by disabled people will be at the Paralympics in London next year thanks to the offer of a free mooring for the duration of the games by British Waterways.

The Trust, based at Great Bedwyn on the Kennt & Avon Canal, are now busy making plans for the trip and they have already visited the site with BW staff to ensure that it  is suitable for wheelchair access.

They will take their 10 berth boat, Diana, to the games and they will moor on the Hertford Union  canal near to the Olympic Park from Wednesday 29 August until Sunday 9 September.

They will make the cruise in both directions with the help of their own band of volunteers, local Rotary Clubs and some of their customers — with a qualified skipper and an experienced crew aboard at all times. 

Bruce Trust administrator, Rebecca Bruce said: "This will give our customers a new adventure and a change of scene from their regular trip routes and while Diana is moored in London we will have customers to stay for a couple of nights each, either to see London or have accommodation close to the Games if they have managed to get tickets.

"And having the boat there will show just what facilities the Trust is able to offer people with disabilities and their families — and that an enjoyable boating holiday a real possibility." 

Finds out more about the Bruce Trust and its fleet of specially designed boats at: www.brucetrust.org.uk

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photographer Don McCullin at Tate Britain

Tate britain is currently staging an exhibition of the work of photographer Don McCullin who is recognised as one of the most important war photographers of the late twentieth century.

Throughout his career he has documented the devastation caused by events of international significance including conflicts in Vietnam, Lebanon, Cyprus and Biafra and his photographs have depicted war-torn regions with clarity and honesty.

This display, selected in collaboration with Don, takes a broader view of his photographic practice. 
In one of his first overseas assignments, to Berlin in 1961, he photographed a city troubled by the uneasy coexistence of military occupation and everyday life. 
His studies of homeless people in east London and the urban landscapes of northern England, made from the 1960s onwards, reveal the harsh reality of life for the poor in post-war Britain.
'Photography isn’t looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.'  Don McCullin
From the late 1980s he has been increasingly interested in rural landscapes, producing dramatic compositions from places as different in character as the countryside around his Somerset home and the former battlefields of the Somme. 

Tate Britain — The home of British art from 1500 to the present day
London SW1P 4RG
020 7887 8888
Entry is free except for major exibitions
Open every day 10.00–18.00
Last admission to exhibitions 17.15
Open until 22.00 on the first Friday of each month for Late at Tate Britain
Closed 24, 25, 26 December (open as normal on 1 January)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

British Waterways couldn't even organise a piss-up in a brewery says canal trust president

K&A Canal Trust President, David Bruce
Picture by Bob Naylor©
By Bob Naylor

Brandishing a copy of the British Waterways Annual Report at a meeting in Devizes about the transfer of BW to a new waterways charity David Bruce, President of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, made a savage attack on what he sees as the financial mis-management of BW.

Referring to the annual report he spoke of the failure of the BW nationwide pub partnership last year saying, "It went into administration — they cannot even organise a piss-up in a brewery — this report says 'Our venture into pub partnerships had to be put into administration by the creditors'".

David who has run successful pub and brewery businesses and started a charity that makes it possible for people with disabilities to take a canal holiday then rounded on British Waterways Marinas which he said spent £5.8 million to generate £6.6 million: "Its not worth getting out of bed for." he said, "Why are they fiddling about with marinas -  trying to break even? These are the guys that are going to be running our charity next year." 

Pension Fund deficit
He pointed out that in the financial year ending March 2011 there was a pension deficit of £59 million, which he said will be transferred to the new charity. "While Defra were concerned about who's going to use the towpath - and access to it - not one word has ever been mentioned in any consultation document about what's going to happen to the £59m pension deficit."

Emperor's new clothes
Likening the unquestioning acceptance of the plan to create a new waterways charity to the children's story of "The Emperor's New Clothes", he again read from the annual report saying, "On page 33 it says that the whole group has a net cash flow deficit of £6.6m - and the deficit on the operational activities before tax is £10.1m. That doesn't come out when you get open letters from the Waterways Minister. He just says, 'This is a super idea - I do hope you will co-operate in making sure it happens'.  

There were nine directors last year whose salaries cost £1.4 million  — paid by the British taxpayer, "These are the guys that are going to be switched into the National Waterways Charity —  they also get taxable benefits such as company limousines that add £77,000 on top of that 1.4 million." 

"I've never met the CEO", he continued, "He may be a lovely bloke — but last year he trousered £234,000. How is the new charity going to pay for that next year? He is the chief executive of what will become a charity. Even if the charity cannot afford it and decides to make him redundant imagine what his pay off is going to be.  And he referred to a BW executive director who left last year saying: "I don't know if he was sacked or just decided to leave, but he got paid £188,000 in lieu of notice and he walked away with a total of £342,000 of our hard earned taxes.  None of this has ever been touched upon in the Defra consultation documents".
Directors pension pot
"These executive directors - and there are only eight of them now, because, remember, the other bloke cleared off with over a third of a million quid last year — well the accrued pension value of those eight people is £6 million. So in the year when, to quote from this report, the 'group deficit for BW was £29 million' they still managed to keep £6 million for the directors' pensions."

Flogging off the nation's assets
He expressed his concern that BW are selling off real estate and cutting off one of the revenue streams of the new charity. He said, "In the chairman's report it says that in the last three years £45 million worth of freehold assets have been sold by BW to 'retain liquidity'. In my language that's to stop the cash running out and had they not sold £45 million worth of assets they would probably have gone bust. But they weren't just assets — these were 'income generating assets' - they generated rent and that rent went into looking after the canals.

"And they are awfully pleased with themselves at the moment because they say that they have managed to make a profit of £11 million — but they only managed that by flogging off the nation's assets."

Directors' bonus payments
As to the 'performance' bonuses the directors awarded themselves after the AGM — he encouraged people to sign the e-Petition calling for  the Government to put a stop on the £15,000 lump sum bonus for Chief Executive, Robin Evans and the £12,500 for the other Directors. 

Maintenance budget cuts
All the country’s canals and, from David’s perspective, particularly the K&A, need appropriate and adequate maintenance if they are to remain open to traffic and continue to be an asset for the communities through which they flow. And herefered to the experiences of hirers of his Bruce Trust boats  —  explaining that recently BW bankside staff have had to help to push the boats free when they have become stuck.

Lack of maintenance and dredging in particular is having effects on businesses and other users of the canal. The K&A Canal Trust tried to get some new trip boat licences and was told 'no you can't because the canal is too turbid'. David's response to this was clear:, "The reason it is too turbid is because the canal hasn't been dredged and boats just stir up the mud - if the mud gets stirred up you get turbid water. And every now and then that turbid water goes down into a nice clean river like the Kennet and that upsets the fishermen so you then get the Environment Agency and Natural England involved. But if BW had not reduced its water maintenance budget by £9.5 million we probably wouldn't be having those problems."

All Party Waterways Group
The non-political group of MPs and Peers who make up the All-party Parliamentary Waterways Group have been discussing the proposed move to a charity. David reported that they issued a report as recently as last June saying that the new waterways charity must not be BW by another name. "But", he added, "I think this new charity is going to be exactly that even though the APWG has said it must not be. How do you avoid that when three of the new Trustees are BW directors including the chairman and the vice-chairman?"

David concluded by saying  that the K&A Canal Trust would be making a robust reponse to the latest Supplementary Consultation document and he expressed his disgust that Defra had reduced the 12 week consultation period to six weeks: "For no other reason than to meet their own deadline of creating the charity on April Fool's Day 2012."

The Annual Report & Accounts is available to read online.

Read Celebrating Our Canals & Rivers 1948–2011, British Waterways' Transition to Charitable Status.

You can read the full consultation response at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/files/110912-waterways-summary-responses.pdf.

You can read the supplementary consultation at: 

Fact File
David Bruce has been in the international brewing and leisure industry for more than 40 years and he was the founder of the Firkin Brewery pub chain.

He set up the Bruce Trust in 1988 with his wife Louise and the Trust operates four wide beam boats specially built to make it possible for people with disabilities and their families to take canal boat holidays. They operate their boats from Great Bedwyn and Lower Foxhangers on the Kennet & Avon Canal.

David is currently Executive Chairman of Country Food and Dining which has five farm shops — mostly in the south of England.


Simon R said...
BW Directors' pay- off if they are made redundant is at least a year's salary. (Annual Report 2010/11 page 50) http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk/media/documents/BW_Annual_Report_and_Accounts_2011.pdf
September 29, 2011 10:42 AM

Kirsten Elliott said...
While a lot of what he says is true, I can't help thinking this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, given the parlous state of the K&ACT's finances. Is anyone interested in forming a new K&A pressure group? I even have the name - KAPITAS. It stands for Kennet and Avon Pain in the Arse Society - the aim being to be a perfect nuisance to the powers-that-be till they appreciate what an important asset they have here.
October 2, 2011 3:09 PM 

Monday, September 26, 2011

The 14ft grp cruiser being sold on eBay by Mikron Theatre to raise funds to continue touring their shows has less than 2 days to run and the bidding stands at £250.

Go the auction at: Mikron Cruiser  and you can follow a link to the outboard motors they have for sale from there.

Sydney Wharf, Bath — work begins

Sydney Wharf, Bath: Picture by Bob Naylor©
Work begins today on Sydney Wharf in Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal and will continue until Friday 28th October. 

The navigation width will be reduced and the winding hole will be out of use.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Petition calls for stop on BW directors' bonus payments

A petition asking government to intervene to prevent payment of bonuses to British Waterways Directors — and the money spent on maintenance of the waterways instead — is now online.

The petition says:
No bonuses for British Waterways directors

British Waterways employees were denied a pay rise last year due to 'lack of funds'. This year some staff were awarded a £200 PA rise and were told that there was no more money to offer. 

  • It was recently announced that as there would be a 9 Million Pound deficit at the end of this financial year yet the Directors of British Waterways will be paid lump sum bonuses of up to £15,000 this year. 
  • The Chief Executive (Robin Evans) will get a £15,000 payment on top of his annual wage of £222,000. Other Directors will all receive a £12,500 lump sum payment. 
  • The bonuses equate to one third of the whole pay pot for 0.5% of BW staff compared to two thirds of the pot being shared between 99.5% of the staff.
  • The signatories of this petition believe that the government should intervene and stop these bonus payments and the money should be spent on waterway maintenance instead.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Waterways Minister's vision of BW charity move

Richard Benyon Pic by Bob Naylor©
Waterways Minister Richard Benyon has released an open letter today on the British Waterways move to become a  waterways charity
22 September 2011
In March, I launched a consultation on moving British Waterways in England and Wales into a New Waterways Charity. We received over 350 responses – the majority supportive. Over the summer, we discussed the responses with the new charity’s transition trustees, who will bring the new charity into being. I have now announced our intention to proceed.
I am grateful to the organisations and individuals who submitted responses. They show the commitment and enthusiasm that people up and down the country have for the waterways – both as a national network and as a local amenity. As a result, we have made several improvements to our proposals:
  • We will set the initial size of the Council at 35 members. The Council will grow over time. For example, as other waterways join the charity.
  • From the very start, the Council will have directly-elected members. Private boaters, boating businesses and employees of the new charity will all elect their representatives to the Council. Over time, the proportion of directly elected members will increase to 50% of the total.
  • Each of the Waterways Partnerships, working closely with the charity’s 11 management units, will develop a localism strategy, so that local communities, enthusiasts, donors and volunteers are all engaged. The Waterways Partnerships will have fair and broad representation from a range of interests.
  • We will create an All Wales Partnership, so that the Welsh voice is heard distinctly in Wales. There will also be a Partnership to cover the waterways museums.
  • The Chairs of the Waterways Partnerships will all have a seat on the Council, and will meet at least annually with the Board of Trustees. The Chairs will meet as a group as often as they wish.
  • We will make the transfer of the waterways subject to a Trust: the waterways will be held and operated for the public good in perpetuity on behalf of the nation. Free pedestrian access to the towpaths will be protected.
Some respondents were concerned about the funding of the charity; others made suggestions for maximising donations and making efficiencies. The Government will transfer to the new charity the property assets of British Waterways in England and Wales, as a ‘dowry’ (valued at about £380m). At a difficult time for the nation’s finances, this represents a great start for the charity. In addition, I have committed the Government to a long-term funding agreement. We shall be discussing the terms of this with the transitional trustees later in the autumn.
Once we have created the charitable company, we will transfer the functions through a Transfer Order, subject to parliamentary approval, and the assets through a Transfer Scheme. On 12 September, I published a supplementary consultation paper, which seeks views on this. The consultation is open until 24 October and can be found on our website at http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/09/12/waterways-1109/. I hope that many of those who gave us their views the first time round will also respond to this consultation. We will issue a response later in the year.
When I launched the first consultation in March, I mentioned my great pride in the Kennet and Avon Canal in West Berkshire – and my passionate commitment to a prosperous future for the inland waterways in the charitable sector. The progress made in the past four months has taken us much closer towards achieving that vision. Over the next few months, we will be looking for members of the Council and the Waterways Partnerships. The charity will then start to take shape. It is an exciting time for the waterways and their many supporters.
Richard Beynon.

Police appeal for help to find missing in Bath man

Marcus Baker has not been seen by his family or friends since August 15, 2011. His family are concerned for his welfare because he needs medication and and they don't know if he has any. 

Marcus is 6'3" tall, with a thin build and short light brown hair. He has a small scar below his left eye and a broken front tooth.

Anyone who knows where Marcus is or has seen him since he went missing should contact Bath Police Station on 101.

Up to the minute news on Twitter

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mikron Theatre sell donated boat to raise cash

Mikron Theatre's Ruby funding appeal has been given a boost with the donation of a cabin cruiser and four outboard motors which they are selling on eBay.
They had two successful trips to do shows on the Kennet & Avon Canal earlier this year but the company desperately needs funds if they are to tour again next year.  

For the first time since Mikron was formed 39 years ago they have no secure formal funding and they are appealing for help to make their 40th year of touring a reality.

The 14ft FRP cruiser that they are selling on eBay is at: Mikron Cruiser  and you can follow a link to the outboard motors from there.
Find out more about Mikron Theatre and their Ruby appeal at: Mikron Website

Wiltshire and Bristol Ships in the 15th Century — Devizes lunchtime talk

Tim Bowly of University of the West of England will give an illustrated talk at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes next month about the maritime activities of Wiltshire and Bristol shipping in the fifteenth century which will include examples of Wiltshire involvement. 
Tim will look at some of the Bristol ships identified in documents, the various types of medieval ships, the merchandise that they carried, the ports that they used, navigation, pilgrimages by sea, ships of war, piracy, and finally exploration.

He will introduce some people engaged in fifteenth-century Bristol life: William Cannyngs, William Worcester, Robert Sturmey, John Cabot, of course, and from Wiltshire, John, Lord Stourton, who was a major land-owner in Wiltshire.

It is on Wednesday 12 October 2011 at the Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Long Street, Devizes.

The start time is 1.10pm and it will last about 45 minutes.

The cost is £2.50 and there is no need to book — just turn up on the day... bring your lunch and tea/coffee will be provided.   

For more information go to: Lunchtime talks

Devizes canalside development protesters facebook page

Saving Devizes 
... campaigners fighting the huge canalside housing development plans in Devizes now have a facebook page ➤➤

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Car in the cut at Newbury

An Audi car that has been in the Kennet & Avon Canal near to Bull's Swing Bridge in Newbury since early on Wednesday morning last week is being removed today.  A crane and BW staff are on site today to clear the canal.

Pictures by Allan Mercardo©

Car craned out of the K&A Canal at Bulls Swingbridge in Newbury this week— Film from Newbury Weekly News...

Local MP speaks out against plans for Devizes canalside housing development

Devize MP Claire Perry is supporting local people who are opposing plans to build more than 400 houses on land beside the Kennet & Avon Canal near Coate Road Bridge in Devizes.

Devizes MP Claire Perry. Picture by Bob Naylor©
She said: "In my view it’s time we stopped just building houses in Devizes and thought about the jobs and infrastructure we need to support our community.  In Devizes we have seen five large housing developments over the last 10 years, two of which were initially turned down, only to be won on appeal by developers referring to the top-down Regional Spatial Strategy.  

"The result, as we well know, is even more traffic congestion and falling air quality as many new residents 'out-commute'".  

She explained that as an MP she has little influence over local planning but it does not stop her getting involved and she has made her concerns known to Wiltshire Council — and also she has signed the e-petition opposing the development.

The petition can be found at: EPetition

Read the forthright views about the development of canalside resident, cartoonist and photographer Mike Roberts at: Devizes in Danger

In 1968 Council described K&A Canal Trust scheme as 'pie in the sky'

A grant application for £100 from the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust was not well received by Devizes Rural Council according to a report in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald in February 1968. Councillors felt that the scheme to restore the canal was 'pie in the sky' and that the trust should be asked to produce plans showing how the money was to be spent, lest it be squandered on a small part of the canal with nothing to show for the money after 12 months.

Councillor Maurice Lesley of Bishops Cannings said that he was not against the canal being developed… if it could be done at a reasonable cost, but he complained that when he had asked Trust Chairman, Sir Hugh Stockwell, what was planned for the canal, how much it would cost and when it would be done he got no reply.

Coun MJ Read said that the cost of putting the canal right  could run into thousands of pound and he said: "It leaks like a sieve and in the summer it smells and is full of scum" and he went on to say that because of this children hated having to visit the bird sanctuary between All Cannings and Stanton.

Coun Harold Angell said: "They could quite easily spend £100 on a very small part of the canal and within 12 months it would be entirely wasted".  He felt that the trust should be asked to produce a co-ordinated scheme from Devizes to Pewsey before a grant of £100 could be made.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Shock resignation of Barge Association chairman

The behind the scenes wrangles at the BDA (The Barge Association) came to a head at the weekend and led to the resignation of Chairman, Andy Soper.

Andy Soper, right, with Vice Chairman Guy Toye when 
they spoke on behalf of the DBA at a conference run 
by the VNF (The French navigation authority) at Decize
on the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy this summer.  
Picture by Bob Naylor©
In an email to members he explained that four newer members of the board did not agree with the way he has been running the board and he said:  "During the meeting two proposals to change our Articles were tabled that would limit Directors' terms of office to six years and thus remove half of the existing Board. These would have been passed if I had not stood down as Chairman and regained my Director's vote (The Chair has only a casting vote in the event of a tie)".

He also said that he is sure that the four newer members will use their majority on the Board to push through their policies.

Andy will continue as a Board Director and he said: "Sadly and with a heavy heart I am standing down as Chairman of the Association — and of this meeting now — but I will continue to support the needs of barging members."

The board elected Penny Rickard as the new Chairman.

Members shocked
On the  Association forum a member said: "I was shocked, surprised and confused when I saw Andy's post. I must admit that, probably like most DBA members, I have no idea what is going on behind the scenes." 

Another member called for the ordinary members to hear from each board member about their vision of the DBA and its future.  This view was expressed by another member who also said: "I think it is a tragedy that Andy should feel it necessary to take this step. I don't recall the newest (or any) Board members being elected on a mandate to fundamentally change the way the Association is run."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Troubled canal trust needs administrator

The Kennet & Avon Canal Trust which has had a troubled financial and administrative recent history is now looking for an administrator to replace the General Secretary — who replaced the General Manager at the end of last year.

The job is advertised on the K&A Canal Trust Website at: K&A Canal Trust job offer

The Devizes based job offers a salary of up to £17,000 for a 37½ hours week working 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday and the advertisement says that some flexibility will be needed to support early evening meetings on occasions.

For an application form, job description and more information contact Pauline King, Trustee at: staffing@katrust.org.uk 

The financial and leadership crisis at the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust together with falling membership led to the the Trust Chairman — and former General Manager — Mike Rodd to admitting in May that the Trust now does little to benefit the canal but instead puts most of its energies into simply 'sustaining' itself. 

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