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“Out of this rather unpleasant and shortsighted edict they have managed to salvage a central regeneration department...”

Chairman

Do we need to ask questions?

as property development to bring in money). The Third Sector is all the charitable, co-operative, community interest etc etc companies that aren’t part of the government but don’t distribute profits to shareholders either, and BW sees a possible future in that area. As you would expect BW is hiding behind the usual chestnut of ”it’s not yet fully defined as we are doing a lot of consultation at the moment”. Actually no it’s not consultation, that’s what they are doing with the staff. It’s a debate they are having with the public. But in the shorter term one thing does seem definite: only a few years after they devolved all their experts from central departments to be embedded into each waterway region so they could play a proper part rather than just be a token expert, BW have decided to bring them all back together into central department to save costs. Now I’m not going to comment on the logic of this move - I don’t run BW, why should I know what makes business sense. But I would like to point to a problem that may occur and suggest you might like to investigate how it might affect your favourite restoration. The big issue is BW have said that (i.e. been told that) their waterways units must only do core business: keeping the existing track going, installing vital bollards, that sort of thing. Adding on bits of canal to the network doesn’t count. Now out of this rather unpleasant and short sighted edict they have managed to salvage a central ‘regeneration department’ which will lead on restoration issues centrally. But, thanks partly to all that consultation stuff, it’s all a bit vague about how it will work. Of late BW have had some nice useful guys who have been based locally and who have been doing a nice job just tootling along getting little grants here and there (which we helped them spend) and, most importantly, building contacts and continually pushing the idea of a successful restoration to everyone who would listen and plenty who would not. Are they still to stay in place but managed from a central unit? Or are they all to be replaced by a team of shiny hard-nosed professional regenerators who don’t get out of bed for less that £10million? Or will all these local officers who are fully committed to the concept of restoration have to re-invent themselves* so they can survive a culling. Given the fact that the regeneration department is bound to be underfunded (or even worse, expected to generate its own income)I’d like to present three scenarios we need to worry about: (1) The whole of BW’s restoration effort becomes a load of shiny hardhats that only dig big projects. Don’t get me wrong I’m not against shiny hats – I’ve worked with lots of them and they have done some really good stuff of late, but this scenario will mean that all those little £10K countryside access grants that get a bit of towpath restored get missed out on and so any potential restoration just goes backwards. And there is no chance of anyone working up a believable big HLF type bid. 2) The entire regeneration department is local delivery officers so that any really big bid that someone manages to write won’t be seen as deliverable because they don’t have any shiny hats. 3) The most likely – they will have both types of people but there will be a division so that the crucial jump from the community small scale to the big regeneration won’t happen. Because I think they can only do the jump from tiny to big by properly harnessing volunteers – and that takes the sort of skills that BW have always been very short of anyway and I see nothing in this package that says they are going to improve on this. And without that skill I think their regeneration department will not be delivering the goods. So here is what we all need to do – ask questions! The BW directors are on tour visiting lots of places (including the National Festival) so go along to your nearest event and ask questions. The questions are all very simple : “what’s happening with restoration” etc. But what is crucial is to not accept the simple answer that will come back. Keep pushing – “Yes we know that it is still all in consultation but give us your vision”. “What do you see as

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Profile for The Inland Waterways Association

Navvies 235  

Navvies 235. Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways

Navvies 235  

Navvies 235. Magazine for volunteers restoring the waterways