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News article created on 15 April 2016

My first National Council meeting

It’s been a while since I wrote about my efforts to get elected as the staff representative on the Trust’s National Council. 2015 certainly was a year of electoral surprises. The bookies, pollsters and even Paddy Ashdown all called the general election result wrong. It was said that Foinavon had more chance of winning the 1967 Grand National than Jeremy Corbyn had of leading the Labour Party.

Council by the River Mersey, Liverpool Council by the River Mersey, Liverpool

Comfortable victory but moments of doubt

I did wonder how it might feel if nobody at all voted for me. Googling heroic election failures, I discovered lieutenant commander Bill Boakes. Boakes stood in a prodigious number of bi-elections and general elections, finishing bottom of the poll on every occasion, never once saving his deposit. At the peak of his campaigning career, he settled on Public Safety Democratic Monarchist White Resident as his official party title. It didn’t do him a great deal of good though.

By gaining just five votes in 1982, Bill became the joint holder of the record for the fewest votes recorded for a candidate in a British by-election. After a long career campaigning for road safety, the ultimate irony for Bill was that he was sadly knocked down by a vehicle and subsequently died of his injuries.

I need not have worried about challenging Boakes in the failure stakes. To round off the year of the electoral shocks, I somehow managed to secure just over half the votes cast and was duly elected to serve from 1 March 2016 for a period of four years.

Long awaited return to Merseyside

My first meeting was held at the museum on the waterfront in Liverpool. I was a student of biology and freshwater fisheries at the university back in the early 1980s. After graduating, I joined the university staff and undertook research on eels and the feeding habits of grass carp. I couldn’t believe the positive changes to the old dock area that regeneration had brought since my student days.

The water space, including the Leeds & Liverpool Canal, has been the catalyst for this regeneration. Prior to the meeting we went on a guided tour of the whole area. I was asked some interesting fisheries questions by fellow council members, most notably on the impacts of salinity of freshwater fish. Most species can happily cope with up to 30% sea-water, if needs must, providing they are suitably acclimated.

An introduction to Allan Leighton

A secret admirer bought me Allan Leighton’s Book of Management as a surprise Christmas present. She chose well, for I have always been interested in what makes the difference between a success and failure in business and in life more generally. He made an inspirational speech at the trustees’ reception. It will be interesting to see how our culture evolves under Allan’s stewardship.

What was on the agenda?

The agenda had been designed partly with the new membership in mind. I was one of nine elected new kids on the block: four elected private boating representatives, two from the boating trade industry, volunteer representative Ian McCartney and the co-opted friends representative Nicola Benjamin, about whom I feel sure we will hear much more in the future.

Richard Parry opened proceedings with an overview of the Trust and an update on recent activities. Julie Sharman then gave an update on the impact of the winter floods on the Trust’s infrastructure. Sandra Kelly updated us on business planning and the recently appointed director of marketing communications & fund-raising, Sophie Castell, rounded off the day’s presentations.

Here are the full meeting notes.

The role of Council and future topics

To round off the meeting, council members were asked for feedback regarding the meeting format and to suggest topics for future occasions. Several topics were suggested including:

  • Issues regarding possible transfer of EA navigations to the Trust
  • The developing role and responsibilities of waterway managers and
  • How the Trust can best connect with the health and well-being agenda.

What’s in it for fisheries and angling?

Although I did mention the need for fisheries representation (as opposed to angling representation) on council in my manifesto, my primary role is to represent the views of Trust staff. Angling is represented on council by David Kent who is nominated by Angling Trust. David, who also chairs our National Angling Advisory Committee, has recently started his second term. Upon its expiry, it’s probable that the seat will become an elected, rather than a nominated appointment.

It’s a fact that almost everything the Trust is involved with has a fisheries or angling component. Taking the three topics above as illustrative examples, the issue of transfer of fishing rights and fish passage implications on navigation structures would come under the first topic.

Clarity on the roles and budgetary responsibility of waterway managers verses national technical specialist teams, such as the fisheries & angling team, is work in progress in the eyes of our club customers. Finally, angling is rapidly becoming recognised as being at the heart of the nation’s health and well-being agenda.

If, in four years’ time, more of our trustees, directors and partnership chairs have an appreciation of what fisheries and angling can bring to our waterways, then not only will our customers be seeing the benefits, my effort on council will have been well worth it.

About this blog

The fisheries & angling team

The team undertake a diverse range of work including looking after the Trust's £40 million worth of fish stocks, managing agreements with over 250 different angling clubs and helping more people, especially youngsters, take up angling on the canal. Follow this blog to keep updated with the thoughts and work of the team.

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