Is Canal & River Trust ashamed?

Published: Monday, 25 July 2022

ALLAN Richards asks if Canal & River Trust is ashamed of the Regional Director?

On 24 July 2022, Victor asked if Canal & River Trust is ashamed of boats. This followed the banning of boats from mooring along the route when the Queen's Baton Relay is carried through central Birmingham.

Responsible for that decision

Allan Richards now asks if Canal & River Trust is ashamed of the Regional Director responsible for that decision?

Just a few short days before the Commonwealth Games 2022 open in Birmingham, Adnan Saif, Director for West Midlands, has suddenly left office. No announcement, no explanation, no thanks for four years service—just gone the day after a board meeting held on 21st July.

It should be stressed that the official games website suggests that only part of the central Birmingham route involves its canals. The canal route will use both adjacent land (i.e. towpath) and a 'bell boat'. 'Bell boat' has several watery definitions but, in this case, it is thought to refer to a type of craft that looks like two canoes lashed together in a stable catamaran structure. These hold eight to twelve paddlers depending on boat and paddler size.

It is, of course, nothing new for the Queen's Baton to be carried by water. Part of its recent perambulation was by dragon boat on the River Severn.

Security concerns

It should also be noted that, as part of a major event, there will be security concerns that have to be addressed. No doubt some readers will have had the dubious pleasure of being escorted past the International Conference Center in Birmingham during political party conferences and had mooring restrictions imposed.

Whilst restrictions may be necessary, it is absolutely unforgivable for West Midlands Region that these should be imposed without consultation or explanation.

CRT might argue that boaters have already had a parade to celebrate the Games. So they did but it was more than a month ago. It was typical of such events (like herding cats!) being great fun for those taking part and spectators. However it was a month too early to provide a connection between CRT's waterways and the Commonwealth Games.

Arguably, West Midlands would have done better to combine the two events.

AdnanSaifAdnan Saif

On 21st July, CRT held a meeting of its Board of Trustees. Following that meeting, on 22nd July, it published a revised organisational structure chart.

Adnan Saif no longer appeared as Director West Midlands. He had been replaced by Head of Customer Service Support, John Horsfall, on an interim basis .

Saif was recruited four years ago to head up a massively expanded West Midlands region following a major reorganisation which saw a reduction in regions from 12 to six and a cull of regional managers. Alongside this, CRT replaced many regional partnership chairs who had failed to generate income to support local programs. These were replaced by regional advisory board chairs who had no requirement to raise funds

Over the years, West Midlands has had "boater aware" management. Both Dean Davis and successor, Ian Lane, came from a waterways maintenance background and showed an appreciation of CRT's duties as a navigation authority. One always had the feeling that they would do the best they could for boaters within the budgetary constrains imposed.

As for Saif, he has just ignored boaters since his appointment. This is not really surprising when you hear what CRT says about him:

"Adnan has worked in local government, regeneration and economic development for over 20 years. Until March 2012, Adnan was chief executive of Urban Living—which was one of ten national Housing Market Pathfinders. Adnan has also founded and led many non-governmental and voluntary organisations at local, European and international levels. In April 2012, he started a social enterprise initiative that seeks to improve leadership and service delivery in local government and civil society. In addition to this, and before joining the Trust, Adnan was chief executive of the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester."

Absolutely no connection with waterways ...

How Saif has now fallen foul of the board less than a week before the Commonwealth Games start is not known. With no announcement from the Trust or acknowledgement of his four years of service are we to assume that the Trust is now ashamed of this Regional Director?

Phil MulliganAnother to go

Whilst Adnan Saif has already departed, another of CRT's six Regional Directors has yet to go. East Midlands Director, Phil Mulligan will leave in September to join the Peak National Park Authority as Chief Executive. As with Saif, no announcement from the trust or thanks for his years of service.

At board level, chair Allan Leighton is to stand down in September, a year early. A source within CRT has claimed that his deputy, Dame Jenny Abramsky will also go at the same time on the insistence of DEFRA. Both chair and deputy were named by the board alongside Chief Executive, Richard Parry in regard to altering a board approved annual report without permission.