Annual Public Meeting in Birmingham
CRT held its 6th Annual Public Meeting on the Austin Court theater on Wednesday 26th September , a stones throw from Old Turn Junction in central Birmingham.
This public meeting, which would be referred to as an AGM is most other settings, is open to any and all interested parties and was led by Allan Leighton, the Chair of the Trust with Richard Parry (CEO) and his senior team providing a series of presentations to highlight the achievements and challenges over the last year. They also outlined the key elements in the plan for the year ahead. These presentations were followed by a Q&A session from the floor.
I can't hope to capture everything which was said, but here are the stand outs as I saw them:
Allan Leighton (Chair)
- Income stands at £204.9m, an increase of 5% after allowing for exceptional one off grant income received last year.
- Volunteer activity grew to 600,000 hours
- Aim is to develop CRT from a National Asset to a National Treasure
- Wider use of the waterways can make a real difference to national well being.
- The heat of activities remains and will always remain navigation
- The regions have been trimmed to 6, each with a director
- A new brand identity has been delivered in line with new objectives
- Asset quality continues to improve
- Investment values have grown from £480m when the Trust began to £750m today
- 225 Local adoptions are now operating
Richard Parry (CEO) / Stuart Mills (Chief Investment Officer)
- The Defra Grant represents 25% of income - assured for nearly 10 years
- Investment income now generates £50m
- The trust has been following a strategy to diversify investment away from its property bias.
- Investment income has increased 40% in 6 years - beating market averages
- Non property investment values were adversely impacted by exchange rates last year
- Bond issue for £150m concluded, releasing an extra £100m for investment and locking into a low 3% interest rate for 30 years.
- Additional investment will generate a net £2m to £3m income pa.
- BWML sale nearly complete.
- Inclusion in Peoples Postcode Lottery as a preferred beneficiary has seen grant income increase from £3m to £6m.
- There are now 27,000 active friends
- Boat numbers are up 2%
John Horsfall (Head of Boating)
- License review included 11,000 responses
- London Boating strategy included 2,000 responses
- Business licensing was automated
- Evasion down to 3.1% - the lowest yet. Attributed to a focus to help people stay on the water rather than harder tactics.
- 70% of boaters satisfied - below 72% target and slightly down from last year.
- The licensing changes were explained
- Caveat to look at high usage areas was flagged up, given the rapid growth of boat numbers in some locations.
- Key aim is to broaden the appeal of inland waterways
- 250 miles have been awarded Green Flag status (K&A, Lancaster and Chesterfield)
- Plans is to move this achievement to the urban areas where the benefits are greatest
- CRT spends £150m pa on the network
- Stoppage update: Middlewich should open in December 18 and Marple in March 19.
- Progress being made on the historic boat collection in Ellesmere
Julie Sharman (Chief Operating Officer)
- Health and Safety has high priority with incidents monitored daily
- Among staff there is typically one reportable incident per month which results in a 7 day absence.
- 313 public incidents (not all are brought to CRT attention)
- 9% relate to CRT asset deficiencies.
- Fatalities are, sadly, fairly common but have declined from an average of 60 ish pa to 40 pa today.
- Common reasons for public deaths are misadventure, alcohol and substance abuse.
Adam Comerford (National Hydrology Manager)
- Illustrated the impacts of the recent low rainfall and the high temperatures
- 10% of network impacted by closures or restrictions
- 2018 will probably set a new benchmark for water shortages
Nicky Wakefield (Marketing)
- Rebranding undertaken to reposition the Trust as a Waterways and Well being charity
- New brand works better on digital platforms
- Total cost was 0.1% of total income or about £200,000
- £60k on logo, £50k on digital templates, £20k on signage, £30k on uniforms and £50k on launch events.
- Initial results after 3 months - Awareness of CRT for those within 1km of waterway increased 47% to 55%, recall of message from signage up from 6% to 9%, website visits up by over 10%, propensity to pledge tangible support up from 2.1m to 2.8m.
- These are very positive outcomes and will continue to be monitored closely.
Questions and Answers
These came thick and fast and the best I can do is summarise the key questions as I understood them, to give you a flavour of the subject matters:
- Future funding plans / sources
- Protection for vulnerable boat dwellers
- Best practice sharing among regional boards
- Cyclists and pace issues
- Wide Boat licensing fee increases (including a petition)
- Opportunities for CRT to influence beyond the canal corridor
- Need to safeguard the built canalside heritage
- Facility issues including refuse collections
- Leaving space for fishermen between moored boats
- Pressures on shared water space re non boaters (eg rowing)
- Limitations in growth of residential moorings
- Anticipated inclusions / exclusions in review of high usage areas
- Tone of solicitor correspondence to vulnerable boaters
- CRT involvement in Icknield Port Loop development (Birmingham)
I think that's about all I can remember - any errors or omissions are entirely my fault and can be attributed to advancing age and very bad handwriting.....