The Canal & River Trust’s new chief executive, Richard Parry, has spent his first few months in the job getting first-hand experience of the things that are central to the charity’s purpose. “All our many users, especially boaters, are vital to the Trust,” he says, “I want to make sure we listen carefully to views from the cut and openly share our ideas and plans for the future so that we get input from those whose commitment to our waterways is greatest.”
After his introduction to the Trust and its many diverse activities, Richard is today announcing his plans for the year ahead to improve engagement and communication with boaters. “We have a lot to talk about as we shape our planning for the years ahead,” he adds, “I want to make sure our plans align with what our customers want. There are also things we can do in the short term that will make a difference in the next year. So today I’m announcing a range of initiatives to engage with and benefit boaters and waterway users in general. Our governance arrangements already provide us with considerable input from waterway users through our Council, local Waterway Partnerships, and Advisory Groups – especially the Navigation Advisory Groups. Whilst we value these relationships I am determined to do more to open up the Trust’s thinking to as wide a range of views as possible.”
The headlines are:
- A series of open meetings planned for Richard to meet boaters and hear their views, starting in early 2014;
- Carrying out a large scale survey of Boat Owners Views this winter with the results to be published in the spring;
- Setting up an on-going boaters’ research panel to track regularly what a representative sample of boaters thinks about what we’re doing and the hot topics of the day to inform what the Trust does;
- A programme of regular meetings with both the national boating organisations and local user groups to discuss the Trust’s longer term priorities including, in a fresh approach to planning, the Trust’s proposals for its repair and maintenance work with discussion of the Trust’s work programme for 2014/15 and beyond;
- The Trust will also seek informal input from national user groups to the emerging plan to target up to an extra £2m spend on control of offside vegetation this winter in response to feedback already gathered from this autumn’s local user group meetings;
- Regular social media live chat sessions with Richard Parry to reach those who may not be able to come to meetings;
- Identifying boaters willing to help us achieve better communication on the ground, working with the Trust’s Waterway teams to provide up-to-date information to those out cruising via notice boards and the ‘towpath telegraph’ as well as digital media;
- Bi-monthly updates on the Trust’s efforts to support better and fairer use of towpath moorings, with the first report available now; and
- A review of our traditional User Group meetings to ensure they meet the needs of boaters and other users and to encourage as many people as possible to attend.
Richard is also announcing today that – in line with the commitment given by the Trust in 2012 – private boat licences will rise in April 2014 by 2.8% in line with inflation, and will be increased by no more than inflation for the following two years.
To maintain the Trust’s commitment to transparency, every two months, Richard will hold a press briefing with the waterway press to set out current performance and take questions about any Trust activities or future plans.