Waterway to start online activism!

Anyone who knows me will testify to me being something of a political bore on times. But whilst I’ve been interested in politics for several years I’ve never been really active, apart from a flitting courtship with New Labour and time served as a community councillor during the late 90’s and early noughties.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Sunday 15 November to be exact, I was watching BBC Politics Show as usual when they reported on Government proposals to sell off the property portfolio owned by British Waterways. The piece was quite informative and commented on how this property portfolio was a major source of income for British Waterways. It suggested that the loss of this revenue stream would mean that BW would have to cut back on its maintenance and renewal programme allowing the country’s waterways to become overgrown and return to state of decay.

Now I’m not a canal enthusiast but I was outraged. I don’t work in any canal related industry. I just like canals – they’re peaceful places where industrial heritage meets nature in perfect harmony (I think) plus I grew up close to a part private and part council owned canal – the Neath and Tennant Canal.

I thought I’ll sign a petition to try and persuade Gordon Brown and company to change their minds. On visiting the Number 10 website I realised there wasn’t a petition to which I could add my name. So I started one – Protect our Canals, thinking it’ll only attract a few signatories. I had a message from Number 10 on the 19th to tell me my petition had been approved and was now live. A day or two later and only 35 signatures I forgot about it.

Last Friday, 27 November, I had a call in work from Andrew Denny (aka Granny Buttons) who was following the petition and supporting its aims, if not the petition itself. I must admit I was a little freaked out – how did Andrew track me down? A little digging I’ve realised just how connected the web is – eventually he pinned me down via LinkedIn – what a relief!

Well, it turns out that my well-intentioned petition had caused a storm among the waterways community, with the IWA encouraging its members to sign, and even (reportedly) BW emailing its staff to get them to add their names.

Last Friday the count was around 8000 last count we’re up to just under 13000 signatories and it’s in the top 20 petitions (out of 47000) – PHENEOMENAL!

Anyway, British Waterways received a total of £45.2m in property rental income during 2008/09 compared to a Government grant of £74.3m. The Governmet plans to cut its grant to BW by 5% in the year ahead making other revenue streams all the more crucial continued maintenance and development of our waterways.

Like I said earlier I’m not a canal enthusiast, but after a quick look at the number of different advertisers in Canal Boat magazine (I had to go out and buy a copy to gen up) I had a pretty good idea of the number of businesses and people who rely on the nation’s waterways for their living – loads!

If what I’ve said above strikes a chord with you then please sign the petition and encourage others to do likewise.

I for one am now taking up oars in an effort to safeguard our national, living, heritage – drop by from time to time to see how I’m doing.

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