There’s an interesting item in Third Sector Online today about the ‘mutualisation’ of British Waterways as a new charity, the Canal & River Trust. I think this rather than quasi-privatised hospitals is probably what most of us had in mind when first the government began to talk excitedly about ‘mutuals’.
In fact, some three years or so back I remember talking to some managers at a British Waterways depot in the Black Country and they were enthusiastic regarding the prospects for Britain’s canal network should BW become a charitable, third sector body.
Well, I must be honest — I didn’t think it would happen. Or perhaps more accurately, I didn’t think it would happen in a way that remained true to mutual, not-for-personal-profit values — I didn’t expect to see it emerge as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, but that’s what it is.
I have no idea what this will mean for government investment in Britain’s waterways, and I hope of course that that won’t suffer, but I’ll stick my neck out and say that this feels like one of those instances where a charitable/mutual structure would have been the better choice from the outset. I think the new charity will resonate strongly with those wishing to support or be involved in Britain’s waterways.
I hope that opportunities — both for funding and generating income, and for working more closely with other bodies, communities and organisations — come flooding in (no pun intended) for the CRT.