Point of Order: Open Letter to British Waterways & DEFRA

Several recent press releases have claimed that members of the Transitional Trustees are in fact Trustees of the Canal & River Trust. A search of the Charity Commission website reveals that no such body has been registered which suggests that a Board of Trustees cannot exist.

This is misleading and appears to pre-empt ongoing Parliamentary process, the statutory obligations of the Charity Commission and possibly also the rights of those recently democratically elected to stand as the Members Council of the proposed new charity.
In response to another issue, John Dodwell, a Transitional Trustee, as reported in Waterways World explained:
The Trust was deliberately set up using temporary Articles, because the public Consultation had not closed nor had the funding deal been agreed. An advisory committee, set up by Defra, identified the eight initial trustees. The Trust had to start somewhere!
“The Articles will be revised before the waterways are transferred, including provision for the Council to take on the role of appointing/dismissing Trustees (including the existing ones). Far from the government ‘getting the waterways off its books’ we will be outside old regime of grant cuts and variable objectives and with Government paying known sums for 15 years.
This describes a process of understandable and prudent preparation for the presumed transition to the new charity. However, it doesn’t justify the release of statements that imply that the transition to charitable status has already taken place when Parliamentary procedure is still under-way.
Some observers have suggested that commenting on such issues is pedantic and not germane to the future of the charity. BW have been criticised in the past for not following procedure – notably, with regard to lack of proper consultation – and, as a result, there is a vociferous body of waterway users who are not convinced of the value of a transition to charitable status.
Surely, rather than feeding the fires of these detractors, it would be preferable to practice good Public Relations by making sure that the single word ‘Transitional’ is included in any future statements about the progress towards transition. At the very least, this would help those of us that are trying to counter negative opinions and misinformation about the future of the waterways,