Tag Archives: charity

Social justice isn’t just for Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving, for charity, for doing a shift at the local homeless shelter. If you’ve had any contact with the Christian messages associated with the season, you’ll be familiar with the charitable aspect.

However, if your giving and your social justice activities are just for Christmas, pause and ask yourself why that is. Equally, if those around you only seem to care seasonally, see if you can start a conversation about why that might be. Homeless people will still be cold and suffering in January. Charities will still need supporting.

The trouble with having a charitable dabble over the festive period is that it can ease our consciences and make us feel better about ourselves. It has a similar function to those old Lord of Misrule, Twelfth Night and Saturnalia celebrations. You get it all out of your system over a few days, and by this means, the status quo is maintained over the rest of the year.

Just as pretending a twelve year old is the Bishop for one day of the year isn’t actually a cultural revolution, a bit of seasonal charity isn’t social justice. If we want radical change, we have to commit to it as a whole year round thing. We have to start calling out the people who think they can rock up at a shelter or a food bank in December and thus qualify as decent human beings. Especially when they happen to be politicians whose policies created all the misery in the first place.


Pagan Aid

Pagan Aid logo

Pagan Aid is a new Pagan charity – https://www.paganaid.org/ It has Greywolf, and PF President Mike Stygal on it’s board of trustees, and a vision for changing the world, quite simply. I was lucky in that I got to hear founder Ian chandler talk about this project in its early stages. Ian works in international development, and had noticed that while other religions have charities expressing their values around the world, pagans do not. A Pagan charity would support people to live in sustainable ways, in harmony with the earth, and with no reference to their spiritual beliefs.

It’s really exciting to see Pagan Aid get official charity status and launch into the world.

From their website:

Our beautiful, sacred Mother Earth is under attack. Her forests are being cleared. Her minerals are being plundered. Her rivers and seas are being poisoned. Her sky is being choked and her climate changing. Her creatures are being driven to extinction.

Meanwhile millions of people live in extreme poverty. Some of them are poor as a result of the exploitation and industrialisation of the environment. Some of them have no choice but to deplete their local environment because of their poverty.

PaganAid wants to break this cycle of destitution and destruction by helping people to meet their basic needs through living in harmony with nature. We will do this by funding small-scale projects that help poor and marginalised communities to protect and develop their own livelihoods and the environment about them – projects that put equal value on ending poverty and protecting Mother Earth.

You can hear Ian Chandler being interviewed in this edition of the Druid Podcast.

Donations are very welcome – you can do that via the website, and if you’ve skills, experience or other relevant things you want to offer, do get in touch with them.


A real charity case

Below is a press release from the National Bargee Travellers Association. Please share the link, this story needs to be in the public eye so that people understand what a donation to ‘charity’ Canal & River Trust means in practice. This situation is sick, and only widespread public condemnation will bring this outfit into line. It is my personal opinion that there is nothing charitable about the Canal & River Trust and that their behaviour is a affront.

Waterways Charity demand £76,000 from disabled boater denied Legal Aid

Following a Section 8 case, the Canal & River Trust (CRT) is bringing further court proceedings to obtain over £76,000 it claims it spent on legal action against disabled boat dweller George Ward. Mr Ward’s Legal Aid covered advice but he was unable to obtain Legal Aid for representation in court. If he had been represented through Legal Aid, CRT would not be able to make this claim for legal costs.

CRT is aware that Mr Ward’s only income is Incapacity Benefit and Disability Living Allowance of £102 per week. He has been unable to work since an injury that left him disabled. Mr Ward’s only assets are his home, a pair of historic boats needing extensive repair work that he bought for £3,830. If CRT is successful in enforcing its costs order, it can petition for Mr Ward’s bankruptcy which means his boats can be sold to pay the costs, leaving him homeless. Much of the £76,000 CRT claims to have spent was used to pay the QC, Christopher Stoner, who unusually for this type of case, represented CRT in case management hearings as well as at the main trial. According to CRT’s Bill of Costs, Mr Stoner’s fees amount to almost £45,000.

BW/CRT started Section 8 proceedings in 2010 after Mr Ward was unable to get a Boat Safety Certificate in time to re-license his motor boat. On the day that he got the Certificate, BW issued the Section 8. During the court proceedings BW prevented him from re-licensing his butty boat, claiming that its licence depended on the motor boat being licensed, which was not true as both boats had been licensed independently. Mr Ward attempted to licence his boats several times but each time BW sent back his cheque, even when he tendered all the money BW alleged he owed including a disputed Late Payment Fee of £150.

Mr Ward eventually bought a second motor boat for £1,100 and tried to license the two boats not subject to Section 8 proceedings, but BW again returned his cheque. Shortly before the hearing in Bristol County Court in October 2012, he sold the first motor boat, using the proceeds to repair his second motor boat. The court granted the Section 8 but this was nullified by the fact that the boat had a new owner. The Judge declined CRT’s request to apply the Section 8 to any other boats belonging to Mr Ward and did not grant CRT the injunction it wanted to evict him from its 2,000 miles of waterways for ever. An injunction could have meant that Mr Ward risked being sent to prison simply for living on the two boats that had never been subject to Section 8 proceedings.

George Ward said “CRT’s move to take over £76,000 from me that they know I don’t have is vindictive and malicious. They are determined to hound me off the waterways. They failed with the Section 8, they failed to get an injunction, so they are trying another way to make me homeless”. He continued “This is harassment, they are trying to put psychological pressure on me so that I move off the canals. They won’t succeed, except over my dead body”.

CRT knows that if Mr Ward had obtained Legal Aid for representation in court it would not have been able to claim these costs from Mr Ward. There is no realistic prospect of recovering £76,000 from a 54-year-old disabled man on benefits whose only assets are worth less than £4,000. Civil court costs cannot be recovered through deductions from welfare benefits. Neither can costs be recovered from money paid to the same organisation for another purpose. CRT is aware that pursuing Mr Ward for this debt will make him homeless.

CRT could have allowed Mr ward to re-license his boat when he obtained the Boat Safety Certificate, and could have sought to recover the disputed late payment charge as a Small Claim. CRT could also have used its discretion under Section 17(11) of the British Waterways Act 1995 to permit his boat to be on the waterways without a Boat Safety Certificate until the certificate was obtained. Instead it vindictively pursued him with a Section 8 action and rejected all his attempts to pay.

In the absence of a Solicitor to represent him, Mr Ward was assisted in court by Nick Brown, Legal Officer of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA). This was necessary partly because Mr Ward found the court hearings extremely distressing. In a move that was obviously intended to intimidate Mr Brown and silence the NBTA, CRT also sought a costs order against Mr Brown. The Judge rejected this, stating in the Judgement that Mr Brown had been “helpful and polite”.

The Royal Courts of Justice provides guidance regarding “McKenzie Friends” (unqualified assistants for people in court without a legal representative). Nowhere does this guidance include a warning that a McKenzie Friend is at risk of a costs order against them for helping someone who would otherwise face court proceedings alone and unassisted.

Section 8 (2) of the British Waterways Act 1983 entitles CRT to remove an unlicensed boat from the waterway. A Boat Safety Certificate is normally required before a boat can be licensed.

For more information contact: secretariat@bargee-traveller.org.uk


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, canalrivertrust.org 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.


Solstice time

I will admit to not seeing in the dawn. I woke at seven with the alarm clock, with a body that hurts and no energy at all. This did not come as a great surprise to me, such that I had not made any solstice arrangements. This used to be one of the festivals I went to considerable effort to celebrate, with trips to Stonehenge, overnight vigils, dawn celebrations and so forth.

I can’t do it this year. My body simply isn’t going to take more abuse and I can feel the creeping warning signs of depression and exhaustion. Other people have greeted the sun today, I am not needed, I feel, and Druidry is not about martyrdom.

I’ve got a hard fight on my hands right now, one that I’ve been caught up in for years, but have finally got some movement on. You may have seen yesterday’s post about how charity should be charitable. If not, please do swing over and read that one, it’s important.

The trouble with fighting, as I’ve said before, is the fear of being hit harder and suffering more as a consequence. It may be that some of what has happened to me recently is as a direct consequence of putting in a complaint about the atrocious driving of the patrol boat. As ours seems to be the only boat round here hit by the latest insanity – a demand that we sit on our mooring, for which I can see no legal basis, I have to wonder if this is an attempt at harassment. I’ve heard stories about Canal & River Trust staff, back in the days when they were British Waterways, coming out to threaten protesting boaters in person. That may, of course, be hearsay and I have no direct evidence. But at the same time, the local enforcement officer has made sure everyone knows he’s ex-military, and (again, I only have this second hand) “here to sort us out” so I am nervous that he might turn up in person and that some serious stress awaits me. I find him intimidating.

On twitter, @canalrivertrust told me yesterday that they do not want to make anyone homeless, which I pointed out rather begs the question of why they go round threatening boaters with just that thing. Apparently someone is going to contact me. I’ve not checked my email yet, I do not think I can handle it today without getting ill. Anxiety is a ravaging sort of ailment and this pushes all the buttons. I won’t meet up in person to ‘chat’ though, I need written evidence so that I can put it in the public domain. I’m not looking for a deal that gets them off my back, I want justice for all boaters, and freedom from harassment for all boaters.

Others online have asked why I don’t take this to the Charity Commission, whose job, supposedly, is to monitor and police charities. I have done this, and so have others. Complaints are dismissed either because they do not consider it their place to involve themselves in disputes between boaters and CRT, or because (second hand here) they don’t see any conflict between making people homeless, and charity law. They certainly don’t have any problem with the idea that a charity has attempted to pressure me to act illegally. Nice one. That gives me so much faith in the Charity Commission, that frankly, I could weep.

And so for midsummer I offer tears, sweat and panic to the gods of justice, trying to fight a whole system that has been set up in inherently crooked and unreasonable ways.


What is charity?

Legally speaking, a charity should be all about providing public benefit. Usually this means raising funds to do things that need doing, but cannot be paid for in more commercial ways – medical research, environmental protection, famine relief… we know perfectly well what charity is supposed to look like. I gather there’s a growing scandal in the USA around how little public money donated to charities finds its way to where it is needed. If you’re aware of this and want to add details in the comments, do pile in. I think it is important to publicise this kind of thing and to know how our money is used.

How much money should a charity pay people to work for it? Many charities have employees and could not possibly run with just volunteers. I think, for example, of the nearby Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, which needs experts and a lot of person hours to function. I take no issue with them paying people who do vital work. I don’t think most of us would object to paying people to get the job done. However, if most of the money seems to be paying for something other than getting the job done, I think it’s fair to ask questions.

I think we are entitled to expect charities to uphold the law in all ways. That seems like a fair ask. No charity should exist to benefit the powerful and affluent at the expense of the poor and vulnerable. I also think that charities should be entirely transparent about how they spend the money they are asking people to give them.

So here’s a thing. Over at canalrivertrust.org.uk it says this “Every penny you donate will be spent directly on work to conserve, restore and enhance your canals and rivers – and to educate people about them”. (It’s on the donate page, if you want to check.)

What it doesn’t say, is that this ‘charity’ has an enforcement department. That’s a whole team of people who are paid, not voluntary, and whose job it is to monitor the movement of boats. The enforcement department is paid to write letters (employee time plus postage costs here) that pressure boaters who live on their boats into taking moorings (CRT owns many moorings, there is a financial benefit to them in doing this). The enforcement department routinely threatens people who have no mooring, with homelessness. You can legally have a boat and not have a mooring. This department is a legacy from their time as a government outfit, but I question what a charity is doing even having an enforcement department in the first place.

The website does not say “some of the money you will donate will be used to pay for threatening letters to be sent to boaters, and if we take people to court, we’ll use your money to pay for that, too.” They do take people to court, incidentally.

Do we feel comfortable with the idea of donating to a charity that could use that money to take a person’s home from them? In what way does making a person homeless constitute public benefit? They say it is to protect the canal, but boats that sink are left on the bottom, apparently less dangerous than one that has not PAID THEM to have a mooring. Isn’t that interesting?

If you want to take this up with them directly, @canalrivertrust on twitter, or consider swinging round to this site – http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/charity-should-be-charitable
In the meantime, if you are aware of any other uncharitable charities that need bringing to public awareness, do mention them in the comments. Name and shame.


Interfaith Druid

I spent the weekend at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust in Slimbridge, selling art and books as part of their Christmas market. For those of you who are either further away or not devoted bird watchers, this is a big nature centre, lots of water birds, and a big foyer suitable for doing events in. I had Druid books on the table, unshockingly, and I did sell some.

I also had several conversations with random people who saw ‘Druid’ on the book covers and wanted to talk about what they’d seen in the news, something about interfaith and charity… half remembered stories that made them uneasy. I ended up filling in gaps as best I could. I only have a partial grasp on what’s going on, but, The Druid Network – a registered English charity, applied for a place on the Interfaith Network (I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s called.) This is a big, publically funded interfaith group. The Druid Network were turned down, ostensibly on the grounds that it would cause disruption, despite no evidence of any Druid ever having disrupted any of the smaller interfaith groups where Druids attend.

It looks a lot like prejudice. Worse yet, it is prejudice in an organisation that gets its money from the state, and has therefore some sort of mandate. If you want to be a bigot in your own private playground, I for one don’t have the energy to bug you about it. I’ll go someplace else. But, if you are a big, official outfit and there is no ‘somewhere else’ that makes a viable alternative, I am not a happy bunny.

I like interfaith work. I’ve had a little bit of formal exposure. I like the kind of random informal stuff I end up doing at events. I also like the Druid Network (I’m a member but in no way qualified to speak on behalf of said outfit). I do not like what’s happened here. The whole point of interfaith is inclusion. I’ve heard plenty of protest against the idea of ‘fringe nutters’ getting a toe in the door anywhere. Usually from people who assume ‘fringe nutters’ are all the people they haven’t heard of, and the odds are good they’ll include folk like the Bahia and Jains in there. As well as us, of course. Tabloid thinking, we all know how it goes. ‘I haven’t heard of it and therefore it’s a worthless pile of rubbish’ is not the mindset that makes interfaith work. ‘I don’t like it so I don’t want to have to deal with it’ is another attitude you cannot take into interfaith work. It all starts to sound a bit like ‘don’t take my toys away!’

Some of the bigger UK faith groups have not been getting good press lately, for other acts of exclusion (Church of England saying no to women Bishops). Politically this sort of behaviour just isn’t clever, and it doesn’t help anyone. We need to be able to talk to each other. We need to foster open communication to reduce fear and prejudice. We need to accept at the table anyone who feels moved to be there, no matter how fringe, or weird or ‘not us’ we think they are. Exclusion is a good way of breeding resentment and entrenching bloody stupid ideas on both sides. We need something a lot better than this. I wait with interest to see what we actually get.


Guest Blog: Walking your talk

Mark put this out as an email, and I asked if I could reblog it because I think it’s a great example of doing your druidry, and quite literally walking the talk. So, with his permission, here we go…

 

By Mark Lindsey Earley

Well, I just about did it! I had foot problems leading up to the walk, so A/ wasn’t able to train very well, and B/ started the walk with very sore feet, which didn’t bode well!

Towards the end it made sense to stow my boots and I did about six miles (where the route was over soft grass) barefoot.

This made it feel even more like a pilgrimage (which in many ways it was, to me). Arriving at the Avebury stone avenue felt very numinous, and being barefoot,  walking at a very sedate and measured pace, holding two staffs, I felt like a bronze age high-priest making a very dignified entrance (and for a while, a bit less like a fat, middle-aged bloke stumbling along like a slowed-down Ozzy Osbourne).

As I approached the Avebury henge I came over all unnccesary. This was probably a combination of relief & achievement; the poignancy of my 300- odd comrades, who were nearly all walking in memory of someone they had lost to dementia, and the sheer magic of having physically linked two of Wiltshire’s (and the world’s) most magical places.

The walk was stunningly well organised and the route was fantastic. I would have expected a few dull bits, or maybe a few short spells trudging alongside busy roads, but we had none of that. The route led through the wild, martial expanses of Salisbury Plain, past barrows, ancient earthworks and target zones (!), down into the vale of Pewsey, through water meadows, parkland and picture-postcard villages, along the Kennet and Avon Canal and then up the huge and dramatic escarpment onto the wonderful Marlborough Downs. We passed  Adam’s Grave, a chalk White Horse, walked along the amazing Wansdyke (the West’s answer to Hadrian’s wall) and past West Kennet Longbarrow. I absolutely love this part of the world.

A huge thank you to all who sponsored me, spread the word, dog-sitted etc. and to John for the loan of two trecking sticks which saved my life.

Anyone who still wishes to donate has until Halloween. I’m 48 % of the way to my target, so please keep the sponsorship coming in. Thank you.

Lots of love

M

 


Druidry the waterways and Justice

One of the things my Druidry drives me to do is challenge injustice when I encounter it. There’s not a vast amount I can do on this issue apart from speaking out, but, if you are not impressed by what I share below, then please reblog, or tweet the link or otherwise help to put the word out. I believe that governments should be bound by the rule of law, and should not be able to go beyond the laws that govern us all to serve their own ends.

We’re back to the outrageous behaviour of British Waterways again. Much of the content in today’s blog has been taken from other sources and is online other places. Thanks to a Freedom of Information request, we now know that  BW’s internal Licensing and Enforcement management reports between June 2011 and March 2012 show that BW has set a target for “all boats not moving at least 30km during their contract period to be within  enforcement process. The policy of taking enforcement action against “all boats not moving at least 30km during their contract period”  is at odds with the evidence given to the House of Commons Select Committee on the British Waterways Bill 1993-94.

The only time frames and distance requirements in the guidelines are as follows: You must move every 14 days unless you have a very good reason not to (like a broken leg, or a broken gear box). You should not return to the same spot in under a month unless you have changed direction – eg reached the end of a canal. Over the term of your licence, you have to move more than ten miles. The license lasts a year, but I’ve seen for myself that BW is harassing boaters about their movement over the winter months, not with regard to the 14 day requirement, but with regard to not having moved 30km in something a lot shorter than the period of their license.

Furthermore, the policy of taking enforcement action against “all boats not moving at least 30km during their contract period” has remained secret. It was not disclosed to the User Groups who met with British Waterways Legal Director Nigel Johnson and other officers including the Head of Enforcement Denise Yelland, the author of the Licensing and Enforcement management reports, on 23 June 2011 to discuss the revision of the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers. The policy and the secrecy with which it is being pursued appears to reveal British Waterways’ objective of removing itinerant boat dwellers from its waterways.

Let’s pause and repeat that. A government body, soon to be a charity, looks like it has a policy to remove poor people from the canals. Since when was it the business of a charity to ‘cleanse’ a space of poor people who live there so that the rich folk have more room in which to play with their toys? There is every reason to think that British Waterways prefers not to mention it’s creative interpretation of the law to boaters, so as to hold a threat over the heads of itinerant boat dwellers with the intention of pressurising them to move off the waterways altogether, rather than giving them information that would enable them to know how to avoid enforcement action. My own experience is certainly consistent with this. Emails saying things like ‘I wish to comply, please tell me what to do’ were not even answered. Also, I have emails in which BW staff have told me that any person with a conneciton to an area – work, family, school doctors, that means the need to be in viable striking distance of somewhere, cannot be continuous cruisers. This isn’t in the guidlelines either, and would rule out pretty much everyone but the indepenedantly wealthy.

My source says… “In addition, British Waterways reported in its Boating Projects report for May 2011 that it has plans to introduce “longer term towpath [mooring] permits” in certain areas such as the Kennet and Avon canal which boaters without a home mooring must pay for to “allow” them to travel in a way that the rules already entitle them to do. To introduce such permits would be unlawful, but to introduce them without informing boaters of the policy of taking enforcement action against “all boats not moving at least 30km during their contract period” amounts to extortion in addition.” Which is interesting because such towpath moorings already exist on the Sharpness to Gloucester canal, I have no idea what the legal basis for them is. Morally I find them suspect because we are told that the point of a permanent mooring is to provide a safe place, off the towpath for your boat when not in use. Mooring permenantly on the towpath is magically safe if you pay to do it.

You can download all the Licensing and Enforcement reports and Boating Projects reports that were provided in response to this FOI here:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/boating_management_and_consultat#incoming-281372

The Minutes of Evidence of the Select Committees that drafted the 1995 British Waterways Act are available for the public to read and copy in the Parliamentary Archives, contact archives@parliament.uk.

Alternatively, you can email enquiries.hq@britishwaterways.co.uk and tell them what the likelihood is of you giving money to a charity that acts in this way. Feel free to write to your MP as well if you are in the UK. This is not just about the abuse of boater’s most fundamental human rights, it is about the principle that government bodies should not be able to act in this way. They should have to uphold the law. They should not be extorting money from people or using threats, they should not be causing homelessness. What would happen if other departments took the same attitude? If we let them get away with this unchecked, what comes next? Culling protected species for the benefit of rich people who like to shoot pheasants? Oh, they’re talking about doing that already…


Floating Madness

Last week there was a blog on Autumn Barlow’s site about the things British Waterways do around boat licensing. I live on a boat, and I’ve spent the last week wondering how much to say openly. So here goes…  I do not like what I see when it comes to BW and their attitude to people who live on boats and I do not think they interpret the law fairly. I also believe that there is a conflict of interests issue here, and that people who benefit financially from a system should not be allowed to police said system as well.

My situation is this. I am paying for a permanent mooring for my boat because British Waterways have told me that I must do so to comply with the laws. I have always moved my boat in accordance with the law, but the rules are vague, and their interpretation is not the same as mine. However, if I used the mooring I’ve been obliged to pay for, I would be breaking the law.

Let me explain. There are no available moorings on this canal that have planning permission to be used residentially. All we have are leisure moorings where people can leave hobby boats when not in use. You can live on residential moorings, legally, all the time, you pay council tax and everything. But we don’t have any of those. So in essence I have been told that I am legally required to pay for something that I cannot use, and do not want.

The only way to go up against this, would be to refuse to take a permanent mooring and wait for British Waterways to take me to court, and then slog it out. Or in other words, my only other option is to gamble with my home, because if I lost, I would lose my home. As I have a child, there is no way I am going to risk his physical or emotional security, so I’m paying up.

I do wonder what’s going to happen when British Waterways becomes The Canal and River Trust. British Waterways has made people homeless in the past and, to my knowledge, has threatened a lot more people with homelessness, threatened to take boats out of the water, and encouraged people who live on boats to seek council housing instead. These are people who own their boats and who live far more independently than they would in a council house scenario, at a time when the system is over burdened anyway. Making that entirely crazy.

In these hard financial times, are people going to put their hands into their pockets to support a charity that spends time and money taking people to court, and making them homeless? To my mind, that is absolutely in conflict with the nature of charity. I’d bet I won’t be alone in thinking that.

With my Druid hat on, the whole scenario raises a lot of issues for me. The Canal and River Trust will be responsible for canals and rivers. That’s a great deal of our water supply and watery infrastructure. It’s a huge environmental consideration as well as covering a lot of heritage and history. For me, there’s a spiritual aspect to the rivers as well. These are things I want to see protected, and things I care about passionately. Personal issues aside, there’s a huge moral dilemma for me here. I want to support the environmental and heritage angle of the Canals and Rivers Trust. But at the same time, I also care about human rights issues. I’m conscious that by speaking up about the treatment of boaters, if I succeed in drawing attention, I will be undermining a charity that should be doing work I believe in. But I want to support a charity that spends money on restoration and conservation, not one that pays people to monitor the movement of boats, and spends money on harassing people, no matter what the legal justification is. To the best of my knowledge, the enforcement department at British Waterways is talking like it expects to be part of the charitable trust.

Laws should be fair and reasonable, complying with one should not push you into breaking another. No one should have to pay for something that they cannot use, that’s just nuts. The breaking of laws and the enforcement of laws is, in my opinion, the business of the police, and not the proper work of a charity. Those who benefit financially if allowed to interpret the laws unchecked, should never be given the power to police the system. There should be no victimless crimes, and how far a boat moves really makes no difference to anyone so long as it moves often and far enough not to violate planning laws. Under no circumstances should a charity be working to make a person homeless. The whole system needs cleaning up.