Are the Canal and River Trust spending our money wisely?

If you read through the 2016/2017 CRT financial review, it paints a glowing picture; a charitable trust and a thriving business, with everything ‘moving forward’ and ‘profitable’. In fact, £180.5 million in the 2014/2015 report to £202.9 million in 2016/2017 report, a NET rise of £22.4 million. Nice work CRT, did everyone get their performance bonus?

Donations are up. Grants are up. Income through licensing is up. It stands to reason that maintenance and facilities should be up as well then. Sadly, this is not the case. Instead, it would seem that people who live on the canal and river system continue to get less for their money. So where is the money going?

There are several areas that are not featured in the glossy financial report, where CRT lost money and failed to make profit. The first is the amount of money that CRT spend on court cases and lawyers. Following a Freedom of Information request, it was discovered that the sums paid to Shoosmiths for legal cases during 2014/15 was £434,341.37, but these legal fees are not included in their financial report. Fighting unbeatable cases due to unlawful enforcement practices, is a waste of money and a free lunch for big law firms.

CRT efforts to recruit ‘CRT friends’ and regular donations have also failed. For every £7.20 of CRT investment, there was a return of £5.00, which is an actual loss of just over 30%. In actual monetary terms, £1.1m was wasted on recruiting friends in 2015/2016.

Another area is the Investment portfolio, some of which has been sold off to invest in non-property. This £120 million fund that is run by the Board of Trustees investment committee, under-performed against predicted figures by nearly 10%. The Board’s chair is Manish Chande, whose property business went bust in 2009, owing £60 million to RBS. This money was never recovered. Other sources suggest that some of CRT non-property has turned up in Mr Chande’s latest property company, Clearbell, or perhaps it was just resting in his account?
When asked for the figures on these investments, DEFRA, the government body who work alongside CRT stated ‘There is strong public interest in withholding the information’…from the public?
Sounds fishy to me.

Then there is the pay structure at the top. For the top 72 executives, their pay has gone up from £1.4m to £1.6 2015/2016. The organisation has 15 executives on or between £100,000 and £210,000 with the highest earner raking in a staggering £207,887.
Strangely, this was not Richard Parry the chief executive, but the ‘property director’ Stuart Mills, who nailed a performance related bonus of £24,491. Nice work if you can get it. Richard Parry came in second with a paltry £194,405. The executive pension
scheme rose from £28,000 in 2015 to £93,000 2016 which goes to ‘key management personnel’; so nice and vague there too.

It is difficult to understand then why the boating community is getting less for its money, while profits and executive wages go up. As a ‘charitable trust’ are CRT either charitable or trustworthy? As an executive employee, it seems that CRT are very good value for money. If you are a member of the community that lives on the water, it would seem to be the opposite.