Victor: Flogging the 'wellbeing'

Published: Sunday, 16 December 2018

THERE is little doubt that the word has gone out to flog the 'wellbeing/happy & healthy' of being beside the canals.

Notwithstanding that Canal & River Trust admits there is no proof that being beside a canal does any such thing, it is being pushed at every opportunity.

Even at its Annual Public Meeting in January we are told that exhibition stands are available should you want to 'showcase your organisation and the impact you have on the wellbeing of communities through the waterways'.

How you do that however is not told.

The reason

It seems the reason for the gardens, sculptures and what-have-you now being erected along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is also for the wellbeing of its visitors.

We are told that thousands of people enjoy spending time on or by the canal there each year—wait for it—'as it helps them feel happier and healthier'! 

Were you happier?

However, I should imagine that with the Leeds & Liverpool Canal being closed for a great deal of the boating season this year, and all of the major August holiday, the many disillusioned boaters  prevented from so using the waterway owing to its lack of water were not at all happy.

I think we can safely say they were very unhappy!

And they would certainly be able to suggest better use for the money—such as repairing the many leaks that were certainly paramount in causing the water shortage and thus closing the canal in the first place.

What Cart tells us

In its 120 odd page bumf of how Cart devises its various outcomes together with its wellbeing, it tells us:

Cross-cutting approach to wellbeing & measurement
The Trust is adopting a cross-cutting approach to outcome measurement due to the breadth of the potential impacts and outcomes are being generated by waterways and the strong synergy with wider economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing.

I hope you can understand that, for I certainly can't. And my friends there is more, a great deal more in fact, so here's a sample of its flogging of its wellbeing and happiness:

Wellbeing Valuation Study (mental health & wellbeing; community engagement)
As part of our work on OMF indicators on mental health, wellbeing and happiness and community engagement, we have incorporated the four ONS measures of subjective wellbeing into all the Trust’s survey tools, wherever appropriate. The data that has been collected to-date indicates that towpath users, boaters and volunteers have marginally higher than average wellbeing scores than non-waterway users in the same locality.

Good eh?

Knocked into touch

But then Cart rather knocks it all into touch by telling:

However, the Trust acknowledges that it would be inadvisable to use these results to conclude that towpath use, boating or volunteering associated with our waterways improves personal wellbeing, as it is probable that the increase in wellbeing is also driven by other factors.

Inadvisable or not, it is certainly pushing wellbeing to its limit in virtually every utterance.

Which is not really very honest, and to put it rather bluntly, is nothing more that a load of you know what...

And still they come

Allowing the locks and waterways to dry out during the summer and thus their walls to fail is proving  very expensive neglect, as even more waterways are being closed though the movement of their walls.

Once again it is the Huddersfield Narrow that is again closed as now Lock 17W is closed through movement around a tail gate area that has caused holes to appear.

And the wall failure on the Kennet & Avon at Lock 16, our Keith also tells us, doesn’t look like being repaired until sometime next month.

Perhaps if we get more dry weather next year, Cart will have the sense to make sure the locks and pounds keep their water to preserve their infrastructure—or perhaps that is asking too much.

Victor Swift