What is a charity?

Published: Thursday, 02 March 2023

I DARE bet if you asked most folk what is their idea of a typical charity they would quote something like an animal wildlife sanctuary, a stray dogs home, a food bank, etc. writes Andrew Claxby.

I myself tend to think of those types of entities, typically run on a shoestring, with the majority of funds going to fulfil their primary aim. The few permanent staff employed are highly focussed and never have perks such as executive cars. Their type of charity is more likely to own a van for purely practical reasons. I have worked as a volunteer for a greyhound re-homing centre so I have first hand experience of working in an environment where every penny counts and people believe passionately in what they are trying to achieve.

Does CaRT fit the template?

Does an organisation (sic) like CaRT conjure up the same sort of focussed dedication to its primary role, in their case the wellbeing of the UK canal system I ask?

I would suggest not. Maintaining the canals has never been it's first priority, it's polishing its 'image' that is all important. Maintenance staff with extensive canal related knowledge gained through years of experience have been sacked, only to be replaced by 'desk jockeys' whose primary role is to convince the gullible media that they are doing a great job.

After all, writing about maintaining the canals and posing for 'photo opportunities' is so much easier than actually doing it!

A non starter

I think it was Robin Evans that started the idea that the waterways could become self financing. Oh really? Who in their right mind would think that an infrastructure, over 200 years old could be maintained in good condition on a shoestring budget?

It is  just not going to happen. How ironic then that it turns out that the management of that era proved conclusively they couldn't even run a pub chain, (or a collection of marinas for that matter) they had purchased as an 'investment'. More money, time and effort down the drain. Still, trying to run a pub chain is much more fun than trying to maintain a canal isn't it? End of an era

A Business Plan

Before CaRT was formed it would have been sensible to come up with a costed business plan, from people in the private sector, to check the viability of CaRT standing on it's own as a viable enterprise. How many of those involved in the formation of CaRT had experience of running a business on a sound budget I wonder? Instead, CaRT subsequently threw away it's most precious asset, the knowledge held by it's workforce, and possibly thought it could somehow become just a (bloated) PR outfit.

CaRT, over the years has become a high overhead bureaucracy staffed by highly paid managers with incomprehensible job titles, the majority of which contribute nothing to the state of the canals themselves. Where your money goes Boaters have been paying ever increasing fees, for less and less maintenance. Nice. In civilian life there are words for the sort outfit that charges fees, but delivers little. I leave it up to you, dear reader, to fill in the blank, my version is not printable!

Now the chickens are coming home to roost as a decade of neglect has left boaters with a canal system that is arguably not fit for purpose. How can this situation be fixed, with not enough money and very little expertise? Posting articles on social media isn't going to fix it that's for sure, so we are stuffed!


So there we have it. It turns out CaRT is not a charity in the strict sense of the word, which cannot maintain the canal system without external funding from the government. Surprise, surprise. Could it do it if it had the funding? I doubt it, but we would probably have another new logo and another change of signs, just no replacement lock gear, gates and dredging.
CaRT is clearly not fit for purpose, so it's time to start again from scratch I suggest with a lean and mean structure, which employs people with knowledge, passion and common sense. You know, the sort of people that work for genuine charities.

What are the chances of that I wonder?