Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011 Streak Day 287 (Monday Oct 17th): The Canal

2011 Streak Day 287 (Monday Oct 17th): Walk 2 miles time 40min Weather there was a wintery bite to the air

Swans always look as if they own the canal. On the water they are serene on the bank they look fierce. Although I have never heard of a specific case where someone has had their arm broken by a blow from a swans wing, I still remember, as a child,being told it could happen. Such stories stay with you and I give them a wide birth. 
But there is another reason for swans to think canals belong to them: this new logo shows it must be the case.
In April British Waterways will cease to be. The canals will no longer be a government responsibility and will instead be run by a charitable trust: The Canal and River Trust (people have already made a lot of fun of the use of the singular - which canal and which river will they look after).
 I don't know how I feel about the change.
The only thing I care about is that canals are maintained and developed. All across the country they are a fantastic resource for walkers, runners, and cyclists, as well as boat owners. They provide a  ribbon of tranquility and beauty linking towns across the country. Fantastic places that also tell you about the history of the country and the pattern of the industrial revolution. 
You can tell how important they are to me by the number of times I walk or run there. They have to flourish.
If the new Trust can do better than the old Board, then fair enough. But if they struggle for money and maintenance is cut back and fees go up then I will worry. The competition for charity money and volunteers is fierce, especially as more of them are now expected to move into more areas that were once the responsibility of the state. And with most of the population now facing an economic squeeze, who knows how it will work out?
One immediate consequence will be reduced transparency. As a charity there will be less requirement to make information public as the Freedom of information Act will no longer apply. The problem with privatising or hiving off services is that it will be more difficult to find out what is happening and challenge decisions.

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