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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

K&A Canal Trust annual Christmas cash crisis

Another year has passed and the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust again finds itself in a dire financial situation and members of the Trust are confused and worried by financial reports from its Trust Council's meetings that they feel bear no relation to the real situation.

The recently published Trust Council minutes report Treaurer, Tony Nares, telling trustees that he expects a loss of £37,000 for 2012 — although he hopes that this will be reduced to £25,000 with reclaimed Gift Aid.

The Trust minutes claim that a profit of £50,000 was made in 2011 — a claim which appears to be flatly contradicted by the accounts lodged with Companies House. These make it clear that that the difference between income and expenditure for 2011 was a surplus of only £108.

Tony Nares told the trustees that it is now essential to drive down unnecessary spending wherever possible in order to reach 'a stable and controlled financial situation'. 
To try to get through this latest cash crisis the trustees plan to:
  • delay payments until after April 13, 2013 wherever possible 
  • reduce the cost of producing leaflets and delay printing them 
  • reduce staff costs 
  • review the production and distribution of the Trust magazine 
  • review membership fees 
  • find ways to promote legacies and donations 
After this financial crisis management strategy was agreed, Chairman Dr Mike Rodd then proposed a bonus payment of '10% of the surplus income over budget' for the staff at the Crofton Pumping Station… and this was approved by Trust Council.
A lack of transparency in the running of charities, a perception that too little money is actually going to the cause and too much money going on staff salaries make people less likely to contribute according to a recent survey — see: Lack of openness in running of charities deters potential donors says survey
Request for information ignored
A long-time member of the K&A Canal Trust wrote to its Chairman and former General Manager Dr Mike Rodd recently asking for clarification of statements in the published Trust Council minutes and she received no reply.  

The member has since sent him another email and still had no response.

Here is the email that Dr Rodd will not answer.

I am disappointed that you have not replied to the email I sent you on 11th December. Please confirm that you have received this one.
As I am having to write this second email, I am taking the opportunity of asking several other questions relating to the November Trust Council minutes.

Variance from the 2012 budget
I am shocked to read that once again there is a strong variance from the budget. How can this be? I have emails from you dated 15th and 16th March 2010 where you make it clear that you took no responsibility for drawing up the 2009 budget. You were however, responsible for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 budgets. Why then, did you produce a budget that was ‘clearly unrealistic’? This raises more questions.

Why has the Trust Council yet again found itself in this position in the autumn? In November 2009 I asked the same question of then treasurer Neil Lethby. I was appalled to discover that you did not carry out cash flow analysis. At the AGM following Suzanne Gaia’s appointment as treasurer you very proudly announced that she had introduced cash flow analysis – your words were ‘we should have been doing it before, but she’s put us on the right track now’. But what is the point of cash flow analysis if you are not comparing the reality with the budget and taking action to correct any variance as it appears – rather than letting it build up until the annual ritualistic reading of the end of season financial positions?

I am particularly shocked about this because I suggested you look into the offer of free management consultancy from Cranflield. I know that many organisations have benefited hugely from this. Your reply to me on 16th December 2009 was “this could be tricky as I am a Visiting Professor in Cranfield, associated with the guys who do this work for the Cranfield Trust.” You had an opportunity to use free management support and you chose not to follow it up – I have to wonder whether this decision was made, not on the basis of whether it would be for the good for the trust, but because it would be personally embarrassing to you.

You have to take personal responsibility for the financial failings of the K&A Canal Trust. Not only have you been responsible for the budgets since 2010, but you have also been responsible for the financial management since 2009 and you clearly have not kept your eye on the ball by monitoring performance throughout the year and making essential adjustments where and when necessary.

It’s also worth remembering that the grant funding that was secured to pay for your post as general manager was for three years. In the application for that funding the second objective in your job description was ‘To manage a sustained increase in financial performance…” Not only did you fail to do that, you actually exhausted the full 3-year grant in 2 years. This is a shocking mis-use of public money. It was always expected that your post would be self-financing after three years through your fund-raising and business development activities. You clearly failed. 

The overdraft
I think it is shocking that the charity’s money is used year after year to fund an overdraft. When Neil Lethby presented the budget to Trust Council in 2009 I asked why there was no provision for building up reserves. Neil asked me to explain what I meant by reserves! In the three years since then there has obviously been no attempt to build up reserves or bring down the overdraft. Last year the situation was saved by a couple of ‘timely’ bequests. A charity with a turnover of approaching half a million pounds should have better financial management than this. What is the cost of financing the overdraft?

Enterprise was set up with a loan from the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust — how much interest does the Trust receive from Enterprise for the set-up loan? Is it not time that the loan is repaid especially if the charity is spending more on financing its overdraft than Enterprise is paying for its loan? I know that HMRC Charities takes a critical view of loans that are not made on proper commercial terms and they expect a planned repayment schedule to be in place. Would Enterprise be insolvent if the loan had to be re-paid?

Bonus to Crofton staff
Under Item 5.b Trust Council agreed to review staff costs and make savings where possible. Having made that decision it is amazing that moments later under section 6a Trust Council agreed to pay a bonus to Crofton staff. Surely, the first call on an unexpected surplus must be to reduce the loan to the parent charity and to reduce the charity’s liability for overdraft charges. The commercial trading arm was set up with one objective – to raise funds for the parent charity.

Under section 5c it is reported that Pauline King will lead a review of the production and strategy of the Butty and that Charles Reiss will be invited to serve on the review. In 2009 Charles Reiss wrote a comprehensive report on the future of the Butty that (according to David Rees, the Chair at the time) was accepted in full by Trust Council. That report recommended the production of a 12-page newsletter similar to those produced by CPRE rather than a 40-page full colour magazine. This has never happened. In fact the Butty grew in size. Please send me a copy of the Trust Council minutes showing when their decision to approve Charles Reiss’s recommendations was over-turned. There must have been financial implications to that decision.

Golden Jubilee Appeal
I understand that you are leaving the chair to concentrate on fundraising. But on your past achievements it is hard to believe that you will be successful. I fear that any individuals or groups who might contribute to your campaign are likely to find that their donations or grants are frittered away in the way the 3-year £75,000 KDC grant was exhausted in 2 years with no appreciable benefit to the canal.

I realise that what I have written is critical of you as an individual, but of course whilst you were general manager the trustees had a level of responsibility for allowing you to remain in post whilst not fulfilling the objectives in your job description. They also had individual responsibilities to govern the charity and its finances appropriately. Now that you are Chairman the buck stops with you and the trustees you lead.

I look forward to receiving your response to the issues that I have raised and answers to my questions.
The Kennet & Trust Council minutes for the November 2012 meeting  
Related stories:
Crunch time for the K&A Canal Trust
Trust does little for canal admits K&A Canal Trust Chairman
Financially troubled canal trust to abandon iconic canalside
BW take volunteering lead on the K&A
Chair today . . . gone tomorrow — yet another new Chairman for the K&A Canal Trust
Canal Trust's 'financial nightmare' year
General Manager latest departure from K&A Canal Trust
Trust needs media manager
Trust seeks treasurer to see it through 'financially difficult times'
Continuing cuts and departures at troubled K&A Canal Trust
K&A Canal Trust cash crisis
Resignation setback for BW's 'Third Way' plans

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lottery boost for UK’s fastest declining mammal

Water voles, said to be the UK’s fastest declining mammal, are to get a  £25,000 boost from People’s Postcode Lottery (PPL) to finance a fundraising appeal launched by the Canal & River Trust (CRT) earlier this year.

Water vole: Picture by Canal & River Trust
The CRT, which manages 2,000 miles of waterways in England & Wales, launched a public appeal to raise money to help one of the waterways best known mammals along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in July. 

Now, following PPL’s support, a small team of volunteers from the CRT and the Lancashire Wildlife Trust will be going out on the towpath to survey a 13km stretch of the Rufford Branch of the canal between Tarleton and Burscough to identify where support is needed.

Once common and widespread, water vole populations have declined in recent years largely as a result of habitat loss and predation by mink. They are now a protected species and although still found in and around the waterways, most vole colonies have become small and isolated with their UK population falling by 95% since the 1970s. 

Stephen Leigh, Canal & River Trust ecologist, said: “We surveyed this area in 2008 for water voles and found that they were living along the canal but their colonies were isolated by the varied landscape of the canal banks. We need to update this survey so we can then plan where we need to soften the engineered canal banks and plant them with vegetation to connect up any existing water vole areas to enable them to thrive along the water corridor. 

“Water vole populations have rapidly declined in recent years, largely as a result of habitat loss and predation by mink. This support from the People’s Postcode Lottery makes a massive difference as we can extend the water voles territory, enhance the area where they live and play our part in conserving and restoring their populations.” 

Following the survey work, more volunteers will be needed to help carry out the habitat enhancements which are vital to provide food and shelter for these furry creatures and to provide a green corridor to enable them to disperse.

Missing Wiltshire publican may have jumped from ferry say police

Missing Wiltshire publican
Malcom Levesconte

Police searching for Malcolm Levesconte, landlord of the Royal Oak at Shrewton who disappeared along with almost £30,000 of customers' Christmas savings say that it possible that he jumped from a ferry bound for France.  
Wiltshire Police say that boarded a ferry to St Malo in Brittany on December 9th but they cannot be sure that he arrived in France.
Det Sgt Mike Standing said: "We are continuing to treat Malcolm Levesconte's disappearance as a missing person inquiry but at this stage we do have to accept there is a possibility that he did not make it to France and may have taken his own life by jumping into the sea,”
Anyone with information about Mr Levesconte’s whereabouts should call 101.

Lack of openness in running of charities deters potential donors says survey

Charities are complaining of falling donations — and recent research shows that a lack of transparency in the running of charities, a perception that too little money actually going to the cause and too much money going on staff salaries are making people less likely to give.

A survey by not-for-profit sector consultancy nfpSynergy prompted Joe Saxton, its Driver of Ideas, to comment “We recently called for an easy way to find out how much of their income charities spend on what they’re fighting and campaigning for. If charities want to increase donations and maintain the donors they already have, action should be taken - and quickly.

“The evidence is clear; people want to know how their donations are spent. Charities should sing from the rooftops about how they spend their money. It’s time the sector stopped huffing and puffing and bit the bullet”.

The poll found that 61% of people said that too little money going to the cause was stopping donating... the third-year-running that this has been the top choice.

Half of people questioned would be put off by “not being clear how donations are spent”, while 47% said they would hold back their donation if “too much was spent on staff salaries.”

The research, based on a survey of 1031 British adults, also revealed that the method of fundraising also features prominently in people’s reluctance to give. Nearly half (43%) said they wouldn’t want to donate if fundraisers were “too persistent” and a third (34%) keep hold of their money if fundraising methods are “too intrusive”.

The study also shows a split in whether people think charities should save for the future. Just over half (51%) thought charities should spend as much of their donation as possible on this year’s need, but 43% were happy to see more spent on fundraising if it would increase future income.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Boat Safety Scheme changes mean boat owner must be present for the examination

The Nationwide Alliance of Boat Surveyors & Examiners (NABSE) warn that changes to the Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) that come into force on January 1st, 2013 may take some boat owners by surprise.

Although boat owners who are members of NABO, RBOA, RYA, TBA and the IWA may have been informed of changes to the BSS by their representatives on the Boat Safety Scheme Advisory Committee, other boat owners may not be aware that they will now have to be present at the examination — or arrange to have a representative there.

Graham Freeman, Chairman of NABSE said: “Despite the fact that a large proportion of the changes to the Examination Checking Procedures are editorial, boat owners should be aware that new checks will require them, or a representative, be present at the time of the examination.”

New checks are:
Shore Power / Alternative Sources of Power
If shore power is connected to the craft, the boat owner (or his/her representative) will be asked by their BSS Examiner to disconnect the shore lead and/or isolate generators and/or inverters to create a safe environment for the Examiner to carry out the newly introduced 230v ac related checks. While the new checks relating to 230v ac systems are ‘Advisory’, any non-compliances noted at the time of the examination may result in the award of a Warning Notice — which could be of interest to the Craft’s Insurer.

Gas Locker/s
If the craft has a gas locker/lockers, the Examiner will require access to the whole of the locker bottom to ensure that there is no path for leaked LPG to enter the interior of the craft. If full visibility of the bottom of the gas locker/s is not possible, the boat owner or representative will be requested to disconnect and remove gas bottles to enable this check to be carried out — and refit and reconnect them after completing the check. If the Examiner is unable to complete this check (due to non-availability of the owner/representative and/or obstructed visibility of the locker floor), the BSS Examination Record will be annotated “Not Verified” and a subsequent visit will have to be booked before a BSS Certificate can be awarded.

In preparation for these changes, all BSS Examiners have attended training seminars to ensure consistent application of the new checks from 1 January 2013 and boat owners are advised to visit the BSS website: www.boatsafetyscheme.org/about-us/news-from-the-bss/ecp-review-2012  for more information about these changes and how they may affect their preparation for their next BSS Examination.

NABSE’s submission to the consultation in August can be found at Item 12 on their newsletter page at: www.nabse.co.uk/Pages/NewsLetter.aspx

We have received this response to a tweet about this story...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Police hunt for Wiltshire publican moves to France after pub Christmas cash goes missing

Missing landlord, Malcolm Levesconte, 59, 
of the Royal Oak at Shrewton
Police are searching for a Wiltshire publican following the disappearance of a Christmas savings club thought to be worth more than £30,000.

Malcolm Levesconte, 59, landlord of the Royal Oak at Shrewton was last seen boarding the ferry at Portsmouth on Sunday evening bound for St Malo in Brittany.

Police say that at this stage they are treating this as a criminal investigation — and also as a missing person enquiry.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Mr Levesconte is asked to contact Salisbury CID on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be left anonymously.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Failed canalside community pub to re-open with new tenants

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet on the Kennet & Avon Canal that had been run by the Barge Inn Community Project since August 2010 using a hand-out of £430,000 from the Big Lottery Fund suddenly shut its doors and sacked all its staff recently following successive years of trading losses.

Their Chairman, John Brewin admitted to the local paper that they had not registered for VAT saying: "We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems." He did not deny rumours that the VAT debt was more than £100,000.  

The pub's owner, Ian McIver, says that new tenants have been appointed and the pub will re-open its doors on Friday December 14th.

Read: Canalside Community pub calls last orders

K&A Canal chosen by national charity for boating holidays for people with disabilities

The Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) are working with the Bruce Trust based at Great Bedwyn on the Kennet & Avon Canal to make boating holidays possible for more people with disabilities.

A Bruce Trust holiday boat passes Pewsey Wharf on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
The Bruce Trust is well known for organising holidays for people with disabilities and their carers on their purpose built wide beam boats — but their boats must have a minimum of three experienced and non-disabled adults on them. And they provide training for groups who need it before the start of each season.

Unfortunately this means disabled people who are not part of a group cannot take a holiday with them — which is where the Disabled Afloat Riverboats Trust (DART) come in.

They have been working with the Bruce Trust for many years and they hire boats from them and fill them with people who are unable unable to find a group to bring them on a holiday.

Rebecca Bruce of the Bruce Trust said: "It's brilliant as it means individuals don't have to miss out on a holiday just because they cannot get a big enough group of family or carers together and also enables them to mix with other individuals which they thoroughly enjoy." 

If you have not been on a canal boat before then why not look at their programme of holidays. Paul Treble of DART said: "The trust welcomes anyone who would like to come. The difference is that if you have a special need DART can cater for it and allow you to participate as much or as little as you fancy in the activities on offer."

Paul said: "DART passengers travel in comfort on a wide beam boat visiting local towns such as Hungerford, Pewsey and Bath and guests are welcome to take part in activities such as steering the boat, operating locks and helping with shopping."

So, if you are disabled in any way, a carer or anyone else for that matter why not investigate what DART has to offer you as an individual or your family or small group of friends. All you have to do is book up and get to the base. After that just relax and let the DART crew look after the details of catering and activities. 

This year they have a choice of 13 holidays on offer ranging in length from three to seven days — and all based on the Kennet and Avon Canal. 

Contact DART 
Tel: 07778 842 358 or go to www.glosdart.co.uk.

Fact File

The Bruce Trust was formed in 1988 by Louise and David Bruce after they sold their chain of Firkin Pubs in London. 

They were keen to plough some of the proceeds into a project that would benefit the community and they had become intrigued by the possibility of offering self-catering holidays to disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people cruising on the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

After much research they initially put their own money into the project — and over the years have received many generous donations to the Trust which have enabled the fleet to be increased to four specially-designed, purpose-built, wide-beam canal boats.

The extra width of the boats give plenty of space for wheelchair users to manoeuvre and the boats have special built-in facilities, including hydraulic lifts, wide-access boarding ramps, low-level bunks, heating and specially fitted showers, toilets, etc. 

Rebecca, Hannah and Diana have been designed so that wheelchair users can steer the boat using the tiller and both Hannah and Rachel have been fitted with a remote steering device that enables someone with less upper body mobility to steer from their wheelchair, using a joystick.

The Bruce Trust has enabled more that 11,000 disabled, disadvantaged or elderly people together with their carers, friends or family to enjoy participative canal-cruising holidays on the boats - as one family explained, “With increasing age and disability my father Harry’s days of enjoying canal holidays seemed to be over. But last week, there he was rising up on the lift to take the tiller once again and having a wonderful holiday with four generations of his family”. 

The holiday makers are helped on their way by the dedication of over  70 voluntary helpers who make sure that the Trust can operate in the best and most economical fashion. 

Some voluntary helpers also get involved with crewed day trips and this year more that 500 people from day centres or residential homes for the elderly were able to come out for a day of peaceful cruising on the canal.  

Email:  rebecca.bruce@brucetrust.org.uk
Address – PO Box 21, Hungerford, Berkshire, RG17 9YY
Telephone – 01264 356451

Friday, November 16, 2012

K&A Canal Stoppage

The Kennet & Avon Canal is closed to navigation at Woolhampton Swingbridge (31) until further notice because of a hydraulic failure.

For more information call: 03030404040

The bridge has been repaired and the stoppage notice has been lifted.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Boat dwellers and canalside villagers agree... they all want peace — and quiet

Canalside residents and boaters at Honeystreet on the Kennet & Avon Canal are working together to overcome a noise and litter problem there.

A 'Quiet Zone' sign has now been put up near to the 
Barge Inn at Honestreet.
The inconsiderate use of generators by some boaters at Honeystreet on the K&A Canal has brought boat dwellers, the waterways manager and the parish council together to try to bring peace and quiet to the area — and it has resulted in a section of the canal through the village now been designated a quiet zone.

The Kennet & Avon Canal is no stranger to allegations of unacceptable behaviour by boat users, particularly aimed at people living on their boats in the Bath and Bradford on Avon area, and scurrilous stories have, save for a very few incidents, proved to be completely untrue.  

When the issue of boats and moorings at Honeystreet appeared on the agenda for Alton Parish Council earlier this year rumours quickly spread  anticipating a 'boater-bashing' repeat of campaigns waged against boats and boaters at the eastern end of the canal — and the fear that there could be an an attempt to try to stop boats mooring in the parish.

The Parish Council responded quickly to quash the rumours and Parish Clerk, Charles Reiss, issued a statement distancing the parish council from the prejudiced rhetoric of some of the critics of boaters on the K&A Canal. And he invited everyone interested to come the Alton Parish Council meeting in the Coronation Hall in Alton Barnes to give their views and discuss the issues. 

Parish clerk, Charles Reiss, front, left, talks to K&A Canal Waterways Manager, Mark Stephens during the fact-finding walk at Honeystreet. Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©

The afternoon before the meeting members of the parish council had walked the canal in the parish with Waterways Manager, Mark Stephens, Damian Kemp of the BW moorings team and Richard Birchall of the Residential Boat Owners Association and they were able to explain to Mark the problems they felt existed.

A packed meeting that evening  heard discussion that was mostly concerned with the affect that noise from the campsite at the Barge Inn and some boaters had on other canal users and local canalside residents. 

The Parish Council Chairman said that litter and boats overstaying on the moorings are also problems. He said that the village welcomes boaters, but that these problems need to be dealt with. 

A boater explained that most boaters routinely clear up after themselves and others, but she felt that it would be worthwhile to organise towpath tidies in the area a suggestion that found favour with everyone at the meeting.  Mark Stephens said that BW would remove large items of litter such as discarded ballast 

The meeting agreed that signs designating the canal through the village as a quiet zone, along with encouragement of quieter behaviour from campsite users and boaters would help to solve the problem.

Another problem that Mark Stephens identified was that because of the extremely poor condition of much of the towpath on the Long Pound in the winter boaters tended to moor in places like Honeystreet where it is less muddy and he promised to look for ways to improve the towpath.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Police ask for help to find missing Bristol man

Avon and Somerset Police are asking for help to find Steve Hamlin, a vulnerable 60-year-old man, who has gone missing in Bristol.  He was last seen outside Barclays Bank in the Horsefair in the city at 3.30pm today.

He is a white man, about 5ft 7ins tall of stocky build with close-cropped grey hair and he has a slight beard/stubble. On one of his knuckles there is a tattoo saying "love
". He is wearing a green mid-length green jacket, black jogging bottoms with a stripe down the side and was wearing a woollen black hat and he walks with a slight limp as a result of a former leg injury — he may appear confused. 

Concern is mounting because he is due to take his medication this evening.
Anyone able to help, or Steve himself, is asked to contact Trinity Road police station on the force number 101 or on-line using the following link: http://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact/crime_reporting/

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Shock closure of K&A canalside pub

The Barge Inn at Honeystreet.  Picture by Bob Naylor: WaterMarx©
The popular canalside pub, The Barge Inn, on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Honeystreet has shut up shop and sacked all its staff without notice.
When previous landlords, June and Adrian Potts, retired after running the pub for 17 years the pub was taken over by The Barge Inn Community Project in August 2010 using a £430,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund in association with the BBC TV programme 'Village SOS'.
Popular with canal users and croppies
The pub has always been popular with local people and canal-users in general — and particularly with crop circle enthusiasts who have flocked to the pub from all over the world to study the creations in cornfields nearby.
Business sold as going concern
It has been repeatedly reported that the community buy-out saved the pub from closure — and the management team running the pub never did anything to correct that impression — but former Landlord, Adrian Potts, said that they sold the business because they were retiring — as a going concern.  "The community group offered to buy the business for the asking price which was a fair market price — so it was sold to them" he said. And he went on to say, "there was never a possibility of the pub closing."
Stills from the BBC news programme:
'How Clean is Your House' co-presenter
Aggie MacKenzie — and the ceramic sink.
How clean is your kitchen?
From the outset the community group committee worked closely with the BBC because of the Village SOS Project funding — and as part of this link the TV programme 'How clean is your house' came and filmed at the pub. Some film from the programme was shown on the local BBC TV station as a news item and portrayed the pub as being in a filthy and disgusting state. Mysteriously the actual programme never saw the light of day and Adrian Potts describes it as 'wholly innacurate'. "We paid a commercial cleaning company to come in when we moved out and they spent a whole day making sure that the kitchens were absolutely spotless before we handed it over " he said. "Yet the film that appeared on the local TV news showed a disgustingly filthy ceramic sink that they said was in our kitchen — but we have never ever had a ceramic sink in our kitchen — this was a total misrepresentation of the facts"
Community Project?
Although it was heralded as a community project the group ignored the massive local objections to a major music festival at the pub and they went ahead with the festival which was not a financial success — the following year the site for the music was moved many miles away to an isolated site on the Marlborough Downs — with festival-goers being bussed from the pub to the event.  Little is said of this event, but it is doubtful that it even covered its costs.
The project's first accounts declare massive losses
The accounts for the business while it was being run by the community project show a business that was failing from the outset. The accounts for the period ending May 2011 showed that the trading company's liabilities exceeded its total assets by £56,517. In a note lodged with Companies House with those accounts senior statutory auditor, Andrew Coombes, said: "The financial statements indicated the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern'" and he warned that the financial statements did not include the 'adjustments' that would result if the company was unable to continue as a going concern.

"The financial statements indicated the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the company's ability to continue as a going concern"
Andrew Coombes, auditor of accountants of David Owen & Co., Devizes
Community project still in deficit after busy summer trading
The accountants again expressed their concerns about the company's ability to continue as a going concern in a note with the accounts that covered the period to the end of September 2011 when they only showed a net profit of £19,676 after the busy summer period — and with the winter, which is always a quiet time for isolated canal side pubs, still ahead. At that time their current liabilities exceeded the total assets by £43,146 — and they had net liabilities at that time of £50,192.
£100,000 VAT debt?
The chairman of the buyout group, John Brewin, told the local newspaper, The Wiltshire Gazette & Herald,  that there was a large VAT debt but he would not confirm the £100,000 figure which is rumoured locally, He said, "We did try to register for VAT but we had the most awful problems." He also admitted to the paper that their running costs were far higher than those of the previous tenants and after a very poor summer their trade had fallen away completely.  It is alleged that their wage bill for a nine-month period was £166,000.  When asked how this compared with his wage bill former Landlord, Adrian Potts said: "Our total wage bill for a full year was between £60,000 and £70,000. I just cannot see how they could possibly afford to spend that sort of money on staff costs."
Newspaper comments
The story in the Gazette & Herald has attracted many critical comments including: "This is the second time a large sum of public money has seemingly disappeared down a black hole chasing a concept that many of us thought spurious anyway. The Pewsey PACT centre was bad enough but this is appalling. It is time that the Lottery Commission were instructed publicly to account for their actions and more notice was taken of whether the whole community were behind the project in the first place."
Pub to "remain closed pending stage two refurbishment"
While the pub is closed its owner, Ian McIver of Honestreet Ales is continuing work on the re-building of the adjacent barn to create an arts venue and a new sign has appeared on the door of the pub saying that the pub will "remain closed pending stage two refurbishment".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

K&A Canal Winter moorings

Winter moorings for 2012/2013 operated by the Canal & River Trust are available at the following locations on the Kennet & Avon Canal: 
Avoncliff West £10.19 per metre
Crofton — £11.50 per metre
All Cannings — £11.50 per metre
Theale Swing Bridge — £12.67 per metre
Tyle Mill Above Lock — £12.67 per metre
Woolhampton — £12.67 per metre
Thatcham Bridge — £12.67 per metre
Darlington Wharf — £12.67 per metre
Top Lock Bath —  £12.67 per metre
Broad Quay — £12.67 per metre
Honeystreet — £13.05 per metre
Seend Below Lock — £13.05 per metre
Seend — £13.05 per metre
Seend Barge Inn — £13.05 per metre
Semington — £13.05 per metre
Devizes Wharf West — £13.08 per metre
Bathampton East — £13.21 per metre
Wootton Rivers — £13.58 per metre
Pewsey — £13.58 per metre
Hungerford Wharf — £13.75 per metre
Hungerford Church —13.75 per metre
Dundas — £13.75 per metre
Great Bedwyn — £13.98 per metre
Newbury Wharf — £14.50 per metre
Newbury Lock — £14.50 per metre
Kintbury — £14.50 per metre
Horton — £14.53 per metre

The moorings will occupy up to half of the visitor moorings at the sites. The prices quoted are per metre, per month.

For more information — and to book — go to:

The moorings can only be booked online

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Planned Boat Safety Scheme changes 'ill thought out' says examiners' professional body

The Nationwide Alliance of Boat Surveyors and Examiners which represents Boat Safety Scheme examiners and surveyors who examine boats on waters in the scheme is not happy with changes that are being proposed.

NABSE Chairman, Graham Freeman said, " While some of the proposed changes are purely editorial, some are ill-thought out and some are un-implementable for legal reasons.  

"Notwithstanding the technicalities involved, adoption of these changes will increase the duration of the BSS Examination and, if approved, are likely to result in increased costs to the boater."

NABSE are calling on examiners and boaters to look at the proposals and send comments  on the changes to them before the end of the consultation period on August 28, 2012.

Dowload the proposal document at: http://www.nabse.co.uk/Pages/ECPReview.aspx

And submit comments to: http://www.nabse.co.uk/Pages/contactus.aspx

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nature watch app launched

A new app for the iphone has been launched by the Canal & River Trust 
If you are a regular visitor to canals and rivers a new app for the iPhone will help you learn more about the wildlife you see — and you can log your sightings to help the Canal & River Trust nature team in their work.

eNaturewatch features:
· Information and pictures of 60 different species of wildlife
· Log your sightings while you’re out and about
· Find out what other people have seen in your area


Newbury Waterways festival

"Despite the soggy summer, we are determined to run a fantastic summer festival celebrating our wonderful canal"
says Newbury Waterways Festival Director Rob Dean  

The theme of this year's Newbury Waterways festival is “Diamonds and Gold” in celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust’s Golden Jubilee.  As well as the spectacular display of colourful and decorated narrowboats Victoria Park will be filled with stalls, activities and entertainment — and the tripboat 'Jubilee', which re-located to Newbury from Bath this year, will be running trips from the wharf during the festival  

The festival will conclude with the traditional duck race with more than a thousand sponsored plastic ducks competing to win their sponsor a prize. 

The Festival is on Sunday 22 July from 10am to 5pm and entry to the festival is free

Saturday, June 16, 2012

MBE for K&A Canal campaigner

Waterways campaigner, Fred Blampied of Saltford has been awarded the MBE in the Queen's Birthday honours.

Fred has been active in the campaigns for Bristol Docks and the Kennet & Avon Canal since 1960 when Robert Aikman, founder of the IWA, addressed a meeting at the YMCA in Bristol which resulted in the formation of the South Western Branch of the Inland Waterways Association with Fred as its Chairman.

From the beginning the branch had working parties on canals in the area and they worked alongside the Kennet & Avon Canal Association.

Their first major challenge came in 1969 when Bristol Council announced plans to close the city's docks and close the feeder canal that led from the city centre to the River Avon and then on to the Kennet & Avon Canal.

The IWA Branch waged a campaign of opposition that included a petition of the House of Lords. Eventually the plan was scrapped.

Since then, Bristol Docks have become a major attraction and the annual Harbour Festival has gone from strength to strength.

Fred said, "Our inland waterways have become appreciated nationally.  We owe a big thank-you to all who have contributed to our campaigning during the last 55 years."

WaterMarx picture editor, Bob Naylor said: "Fred has been a tireless campaigner for the Kennet & Avon Canal and for Bristol Docks — and his pictures from the early days of the battle to save the canal from closure and then the restoration campaign are outstanding — when I worked on a project to digitise and archive old photographs of the K&A I could always recognise Fred's pictures immediately because of their superb quality."

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kennet & Avon Canal Waterway Renaissance Awards success for BW projects

Two British Waterways projects on the K&A Canal were recognised at a ceremony in Birmingham when the Avon Vale team and the Bath Flight project were both runners-up in their classes.

The passion of the Kennet & Avon Canal's early supporters who fought to save the canal from closure and abandonment has been re-kindled by a group of British Waterways volunteers based in Devizes who saved and restored as sunken BW work-boat and put it to work to help controlling offside vegetation who were runner-up in the 'Volunteering' class.
John Kirby, the project leader, said: "We are delighted to have our work recognised in this way — and we are also not at all sorry to have come runners-up to the Waterways Action Squad who work with 1000s of 16-25 year old youngsters on Waterways volunteering projects in the North West of England. We need young people to get involved with the canals and rivers and they are worthy winners."

The BW scheme to restore the Bridges & Chimney on the Bath was runner-up in the 'Historic Environment' class.
The project received praise for the way that  historic fabric had been retained where practicable and sympathetically replicating the original pattern. The bridges have been restored, making them safe for public access, without losing their patina and character.  The judges also commended the scheme for the retaining the intricate detail of the chimney’s masonry which they said now stands proud once again overlooking Bath’s rolling hills and downs telling its story for many years to come.

The results in full
Area-based Regeneration
Winner: Granary Wharf, Leeds

Winner: Canals for the Community, Stoke on Trent
Runner-up: Ladywell Fields, Lewisham
Commended: Dewsbury Waterways
Commended: Revitalisation of the Monkland Canal, Glasgow

Design & Construction
Winner: The Peace Bridge, Derry/Londonderry
Runner-up: A11 Bow Riverside
Commended: Dutton Upper Horse Bridge, Cheshire
Commended: Granary Wharf, Leeds

Education & Learning
Winner: Lagan Legacy, Belfast
Runner-up: Beauchamp Lodge’s On the Waterfront
Commended: Waterways Action Squad

Flood Risk Management
Winner: White Cart Flood Prevention Scheme, Glasgow
Runner-up: Tregaron Flood Alleviation Scheme

Historic Environment
Winner: Heritage Boatyard & Restoration of Mendip, National Waterways Museum
Runner-up: Bath Bridges & Chimney Restoration
Commended: Cefn Flight of 14 Locks – Education through restoration

Winner: A11 Bow Riverside Footbridge & Walkway
Commended: Kings Cross Central Canal Fund Masterplan

Natural Environment
Winner: Itchen Navigation Heritage Trail
Runner-up: Beam Parklands

Winner: Wallbridge Project, Cotswold Canals
Runner-up: Leeds Waterfront Festival  
Commended: Long Preston Deeps                                         
Commended: Tregaron Flood Alleviation Scheme
Commended: River Nene Infrastructure Improvement 

Recreation & Tourism
Winner: Leeds Waterfront Festival                         

Strategy & Masterplanning
Winner: Edinburgh Union Canal Strategy
Runner-up: Bedford Waterspace Study                
Commended: Spalding Waterspace Study           
Commended: Kings Cross Central Canal Fund Masterplan

Winner: Waterways Action Squad                           
Runner-up: Avon Vale, Kennet & Avon Canal
Commended: Langley Mill Swingbridge, Nottinghamshire

Outstanding Achievement Award
Droitwich Canals Restoration

Friday, April 27, 2012

K&A Canal volunteering renaissance

Waterway volunteers will be recognised in the Waterways Renaissance Awards for the first time this year — and a group on the Kennet & Avon Canal have reached the finals of the award.

The Devizes-based Avon Vale Group completely restored a British Waterways workboat that had sunk on the Bath Flight on the K&A Canal — and they now volunteer for BW clearing offside vegetation on the canal.

Members of the team, from left, Chairman, John Peters, Team Leader, John Kirby, Adrian Softley and Secretary Rod Hannah after they had brought the boat to BW's  Caen Hill yard to begin the refurbishment: Picture by Bob Naylor© 

The group was formed after a group of canal enthusiasts  realised that financial constraints had led BW to have to concentrate on essential maintenance work at the expense of jobs like off-side vegetation management which meant that the navigation width was rapidly becoming narrower.

John Kirby with the boat on the Bath Flight: 
Picture by Bob Naylor©
They believed that they could do something about it — if they only they had a boat— and in 2007 they heard about a sunken BW workboat on the Bath Flight.

They negotiated with BW to take it over and restore it to its original condition so that they could use it to work on the canal. They towed the boat from Bath to Devizes and took it out of the water and immediately set about removing the engine that had been submerged for some time could be brought back into use.  
Pete Dunn, left and Eric Argent check out the engine 
after the boat is refloated: Picture by Bob Naylor©
After having the hull grit-blasted they repainted the boat in its original BWB colours, refitted the cabin and replaced the engine and they were ready to go.

British Waterways gave the team five years to complete their refurbishment — but they completed the work by 2010 (two years ahead of schedule) and they immediately began the work of clearing the offside bank on the Long Pound near Devizes to widen the channel.

Working one day a week they have made a marked difference on the 16-mile Long Pound and the core team has begun recruiting more teams so that the boat can be used more often — and they have also encouraged work to start on other stretches of the canal using other BW workboats. 
While the team were waiting for Avon Vale to be craned
back in the water after the work was complete they
repainted the Canal Centre on Devizes Wharf:
Picture by Bob Naylor©
As well as the bankside work they have also become a valuable resource for BW as a team of boat handlers. They move BW workboats to sites ready for maintenance to start — freeing up BW staff for essential maintenance work. 

On a waterway where the culture of volunteering on work directly connected with the canal had been lost — this project is a significant step towards returning to the hey-day of volunteering on the K&A that existed in the 1960s and 1970s. And just like the early years of volunteering on the K&A local businesses have been encouraged to play their part.  The Avon Vale Group has always been totally self-financing through the support of local businesses including Boat Safety Examiner Mike Price, Victoria and Spencer Collins at The Boat Yard Hilperton, Devizes Marina, Protect Fire Equipment, Devizes Commercial Signs and  HMG Paints who have been generous with materials and services. The groups Treasurer, Peter Jordan also runs a '100 Club' which has monthly draws.

The team busy clearing bushes on the offside of the canal below Town Bridge in Devizes during a recording for 
Radio 4 Open Country: Picture by Elaine Kirby©

They have had regular coverage of their project in local papers and on local and national radio and television and the project has been an inspiration for other groups along the canal who have drawn strength from its success of this project and gone on to develop their own projects.

Project Leader John Kirby said: "Our project shows how a small number of people with a vision, determination and passion for what they are doing can make a project happen — and make a difference for the benefit of all users of the canal."

One of the groups more unusual 'jobs' to raise funds for the boat was when they used the Avon Vale as the removal ‘van’ for a remote canal-side house in the Bath Valley that had no suitable road access by road.

The Avon Vale moving furniture at Murhill near Limpley Stoke: Picture by Bob Naylor©
The group had a two-stage assessment on the way to the final,  first with Eileen McKeever, the Strategy and Engagement Manager at the Environment Agency and then with Ian George who is the Maritime Technical Director at Hyder Consulting Ltd who are partners with BW in the Renaissance Awards.

The final results will be announced at a ceremony at the ICC in Birmingham on 23rd May.
The Waterways Renaissance Awards is run by The Waterways Trust and recognises exceptional projects that have turned inland waterways into desirable places for living, learning and leisure.