Enforcement policy

geoff mayers made this Freedom of Information request to British Waterways Board

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

The request was partially successful.

Dear British Waterways Board,

As a follow-up to my previous information request I would like to request the following information.

In the spring of 2007 there were staff meetings within BW relating to a change in attitude to people living on boats. Patrol officers became Enforcement officers and the pursuance of, so-called, 'overstaying' was given a higher priority and equated with licence evasion. One senior manager of BW commented to me 'That's the end of the friendly face of BW'. I have been in dispute with BW ever since over their harassment and intimidation of people living on boats who are causing no problem and acting in accordance with the 1995 Waterways Act.

What were the changes implemented at those meetings? I would like a statement of the change in policy. Is the role of 'enforcement' entirely related to pursuing people on boats and not concerned with 'safety and security' on the towpath/canals? I have it on good authority that that is the case. People, mistakenly, believe that BW are concerned with antisocial behaviour and criminality on the waterways. I know from experience, and have been told by BW management, that they are not.

At this time, 2007, the solicitors Shoosmiths were called in in some capacity. Are they BW's legal representatives or do they have an advisory or other role in the enforcement programme? They do have a reputation for 'confusing' and 'distressing' those they are pursuing and also for attempting to mislead the courts. They have been doing just that on behalf of BW. This includes giving insufficient notice of impending court action and even proceeding to court without informing the 'defendant' at all. I submit that they have been retained, and allowed free rein with regard to enforcement/legal action, as this is exactly the level of harassment and intimidation BW require. Is this the case? Is this behaviour in accordance with BW 'enforcement' policy? Is it condemned or condoned?

In response to my previous information request it is stated (paragraph 4):-

'We do not believe or accept that there is a change in attitude towards people living on boats and I can assure you that nothing has changed in our approach. It is important that I point out that part of our Enforcement Officer's role is to resolve unlicensed boating issues and to pursue those customers who do not comply with our requirements. We believe that we are acting in a consistent and fair manner. We therefore need to take the appropriate action against those customers who do not pay or comply with our requirements since the money we collect from licence and mooring fees is used for the maintenance of the waterways. We also do not believe that our staff behave in an over-zealous way.'

There has been a change in attitude as referred to above.
'Unlicensed boating issues' are not resolved by unreasonably and unlawfully revoking a licence for wrongly being accused of, so-called, 'overstaying' for instance when movement is not only unnecessary but impossible.
You are not acting in a consistent and fair manner. I know. I live on a boat on the towpath. You don't know. With respect you are a dweller in the cosy, carpeted corridors of your corporate cocoon. Your language is corporate PR speak as required by your paymasters. Mine is 'free' speech based on experience and observation and a genuine concern for the rights of decent individuals to be free from abuse by others, particularly systematised abuse by agents of the state i.e. public authorities.
'The money we collect from licence and mooring fees is used for the maintenance of the waterways.' People are being forced into BWML marinas. These 'mooring fees' do not go toward the maintenance of the waterways. The enforcement activity is directed at forcing boats, with or without their occupants (preferably without), into these marinas at considerable cost.
And I can assure you that some of your staff do behave in an over zealous way to the extent that they, maliciously, pursue individuals who challenge their unreasonable and unlawful behaviour.

If enforcement staff are found to have unreasonably taken court action against an individual with the intention of taking possession of that person's boat,which is also their home, thereby making that person homeless, can you assure me that those employees involved in that action will all be dismissed from their employment?

Regards
Geoff Mayers

Information Request,

Dear Mr Mayers,

Thank you for your e-mail which I received last Monday and I apologise for the delay acknowledging your correspondence.

We will look into the matters you raise and respond to you shortly.

Kind regards,

Sarina Young
Customer Service Co-Ordinator
British Waterways  |  The Kiln  |  Mather Road  |  Newark  |  NG24 1FB  | Tel:  01636 675740 | Mob:  07785 295 274 | Fax:  01636 705584 |
Follow the BW Customer Service team on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BWCustServ 

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Information Request,

Dear Mr Mayers,

I write further to your correspondence of 12th June and I set out below the questions raised by you along with our responses to each:-

"What were the changes implemented at those meetings? I would like a
statement of the change in policy. Is the role of 'enforcement'
entirely related to pursuing people on boats and not concerned with
'safety and security' on the towpath/canals?"

I confirm that British Waterways does not hold the information you have requested.

"At this time, 2007, the solicitors Shoosmiths were called in in
some capacity. Are they BW's legal representatives or do they have
an advisory or other role in the enforcement programme?"

Shoosmiths are one of British Waterways' external solicitors and they are instructed by British Waterways.

"I submit that
they have been retained, and allowed free rein with regard to
enforcement/legal action, as this is exactly the level of
harassment and intimidation BW require. Is this the case? Is this
behaviour in accordance with BW 'enforcement' policy? Is it
condemned or condoned?"

Although this correspondence is headed Freedom of Information Act, your request is not a request for “information” for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

"If enforcement staff are found to have unreasonably taken court
action against an individual with the intention of taking
possession of that person's boat,which is also their home, thereby
making that person homeless, can you assure me that those employees
involved in that action will all be dismissed from their
employment?"

Although this correspondence is headed Freedom of Information Act, your request is not a request for “information” for the purpose of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

If we haven’t reasonably met your expectations in relation to a request for information or you believe we may not have acted in accordance with the above legislation you should write in the first instance to Kelly Radley Head of Customer Relations, 64 Clarendon Road, Watford, Herts WD17 1DA outlining your concerns and asking for a review to be undertaken. Your correspondence will be acknowledged and a review of your case will be undertaken by one of British Waterways’ directors.

Should you remain unsatisfied by the response you receive you are able to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF www.ico.gov.uk/Global/contact_us.aspx.

Yours sincerely,

Sarina Young
Customer Service Co-Ordinator
British Waterways  |  The Kiln  |  Mather Road  |  Newark  |  NG24 1FB  | Tel:  01636 675740 | Mob:  07785 295 274 | Fax:  01636 705584 |
Follow the BW Customer Service team on Twitter at http://twitter.com/BWCustServ 

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Dear Information Request,

Pass this request for information/answers to someone who will answer it. Refusing to answer for pedantic reasons or claiming not to have the information is not good enough although perfectly normal for British Waterways.
Please acknowledge and indicate who you have passed it to. They can then give me an answer within 20 days.
Yours sincerely,

geoff mayers