An Open Letter to the Canal & River Trust

I doubt you will read this, but hundreds of other people will, and that matters to me. Nonetheless, in the hopes my words might get through, these are the things I wish to say to you. I am tired of being passed from one CRT person to another, my questions unanswered, my complaints not dealt with. I am tired of feeling like I’m being kicked into the long grass. I am heartily sick of your institutional arrogance, your attitude to boaters, and I find much of what you do an affront.

I consider it an obscenity that a British charity has the power to cause homelessness, and that you threaten people with homelessness, disgusts me. You have the legal right to do this, but that does not give you a moral justification, in my book. I am deeply offended that you use public money to fund your enforcement department and no doubt your court actions designed to relieve people of their homes. Your website, makes no mention of this. Every penny, according to you, is spent on the kind of environmental and heritage work a generous public might be willing to fund. I wonder what would happen if we started putting your enforcement notices in the public domain. I wonder if people would give you money if they knew how you spend it. I wonder if corporate sponsors will want to take you on, if they know about the work enforcement does. How long will it be before the media takes up the story ‘charity causes homelessness’? Have you got your statements ready for those interviews?

How about lovely Brian Blessed, your public face and ardent supporter? Have you let him read enforcement letters? Do you think he’ll feel good about those? Is he going to keep throwing his weight behind the charity that makes people homeless?
You are not fair or even handed in how you run enforcement. It is discernibly not about the good of the canal. Boaters who pay for moorings, and who do not live on their boats, seem to get way with overstaying. Live-aboard boaters are harassed for far less. You don’t police the speed limits on the canal; large, expensive boats can put up waves of a foot or more in height and you won’t bother them, probably because the boat owners are wealthy. Enforcement is simply about getting more money out of people who live on their boats. There is nothing charitable about your enforcement department.

You have made me sick with anxiety over the last few years. Your ill-founded threats, the last one of which had no discernible legal basis whatsoever, are no way to treat people. I believe in service, I actively support charities and always will. You had the chance to view me as both a valuable customer, and a potential future supporter, and you blew that, with me and a great many other boaters too. You forget that every person you send unpleasant letters to, has friends, family, colleagues. You forget that we can put our letters in other people’s hands, and tell the stories of our experiences to people who will not be giving you money either. You forget that boat dwellers are people.

If I could afford to sell my boat for scrap metal, I would do so, for the simple pleasure of denying you the boat license money and mooring fees from some future owner. Customer services? I don’t think so. Public relations? Not in any reality I’ve ever visited. The charity that makes people homeless is not one that I will ever support, and as that label comes to stick to you, I think you’ll find the warm-hearted, charity givers in the general populous won’t send their money your way, and that corporations won’t want to associate themselves with the kind of public reputation you will soon have. The charity that makes people homeless is not going to be financially viable, because you cannot squeeze enough money out of boaters to compensate yourselves for what your own actions will inevitably do to your finances.

Or, you could stop spending public money on enforcement, let the police and local authorities handle those rare problem cases, and do something good with the money this will save you. Make those changes, and you may be in with a chance.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

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