CaRT puts future funding in jeopardy

Published: Wednesday, 05 May 2021

FOLLOWING a tip-off from a CART employee, Allan Richards has discovered that the Trust has deliberately misled both public and government by altering the Annual Report approved by its Trustees on 24th September 2020.

This was subsequently posted to its website and filed at Companies House. Its actions put current and future funding at risk.

Acting on advice from the Charity Commission, here is the complaint he has submitted to CaRT with copies to both its Chairman, Allan Leighton and its Chief Executive, Richard Parry.


Dear Canal & River Trust

I am writing to complain that the latest Trustee Annual Report (TAR) filed with The Charity Commission on 22 December 2020 and currently posted on your website differs from that approved by your board on 24 September 2020. The approved TAR was previously posted on your website and filed at Companies House on 12 October 2020.

Publication Data relating to heritage (as required under the Defra Grant Agreement) has been altered to hide a substantial drop in condition from previous years.

Bearing in mind—

*  the communication between your Chair and the Secretary of State relating to this matter.

*  the notes of the Grant Review meeting on 9 December 2020 attended by your Chief Executive and three other executives (including the executive tasked by the board for filing the TAR with Companies House and the Charity Commission).

*  the replacement on your website of of the board approved TAR with an unapproved TAR.
the absence of board notification or approval.

—your actions can only be seen as a wilful and intentional act to provide the public and Defra with misleading and inaccurate information.

Due to the current Defra Review into your performance, your actions put not only current but also future funding of the waterways into jeopardy due to a section 11.1.5 breach of the Grant Agreement.

Equally, if not more important, is the reputational damage that you do to yourselves and charities in general by this action. By altering your TAR, you wish to convince that you are maintaining public benefit against your charitable object 2.2.

However, according to the National Association of Boat Owners, you have refused to provide details of listed buildings you have sold over the last eight years.

As you are aware, your current attempt to sell the Grade II listed Braunston Stop House has not gone unnoticed! What possible public benefit is derived from selling off buildings you should be protecting and conserving?

Retrospectively changing information about how you are providing public benefit leads to public loss of confidence. If a charity does that, how can the public have confidence that any information contained in a TAR or otherwise provided is accurate?

Within the next five working days please provide the following—

Details of any other changes made to your board approved TAR.

Details of how you intent to investigate this complaint bearing in mind the seniority of those involved in altering the TAR.

An explanation

Government funding of CaRT is administered by Defra on a 15 years contract known as the 'Grant Agreement'. As part of that contract, DEFRA is carrying out a review of CaRT's historical performance which will determine if government financial support will continue after 2027.

As with any contract, requirements are placed on both parties and various penalties may be invoked in the event of default.

CaRT is required as part of the Grant Agreement to publish certain information (known as 'Publication Data') about its performance each year. This information is included in its Annual Report which is posted to its website. By law it must also file copies at Companies House and with The Charity Commission.

CaRT's Trustees approved the Annual Report and it was posted to its website and filed at Companies House. It included all the Publication Data.

Perhaps concerned about its performance review and Defra latching on to heritage asset data which showed a substantial fall in condition from previous years, CaRT then proceeded to mislead Defra by claiming that part of the Publication Data (already published!) was not available.

Four CaRT executives were at a meeting with Defra on 9 December 2020 . Late on in the meeting, the trust asked for assistance with a letter that its absent chair was to write to the Secretary of State explaining why part of the Publication Data was not available, a requirement of the grant agreement. From the notes of the meeting:

8. Any Other Business

CaRT sought Defra’s views on a draft letter to the Secretary of State explaining the
absence of Heritage asset data in the required Publication Data in the Annual
Report, which was due to Covid-19 disruption to surveys usually conducted to
collect the data. Defra agreed to respond with any comments in due course.

Action: Defra to provide CaRT with comments on the draft Heritage.

Having misled Defra as to the existence of the information, CaRT then altered the Annual Report posting it on its website to replace the approved report and filing it with the Charity Commission.

CaRT's actions were a clear breach of of the Grant Agreement section 11.1.5.

CRT wilfully or intentionally provides Defra with any misleading or inaccurate information.

The breach could lead to Defra to delay, reduce, withhold or suspend payment of grant or even terminate the agreement immediately.