The online meeting of TNUF in October was, rather like the recent NNUF meeting, yet another example of how not to use the available technology – in this case a voice-only system was used, with most users being muted until being asked if they had any queries, following the EA presentations. Those who said they did were then noted and given time to comment, but there was really no opportunity for any proper debate, and most queries answered by: “We will take that up after the meeting”. In truth, most of the material presented was a rerun of the NNUF materials with, of course, more reference to the Thames situation. I must say, though, that this time the EA presenters did try not to just read through their previously provided material, but to give what proved to be good summaries. The overview of Thames work being undertaken now and in the near future was particularly impressive and it is clear that the additional funding provided is being well used.
Of special interest to me was the presentation by the Managing Director of District Enforcement (DE), the car-parking company that has been awarded (in somewhat odd and non-user consulted circumstances), the contract to monitor and then enforce short-term moorings on the majority of EA’s Thames sites. The give-away for me was in one of his written statements, that an aim and objective of the contract was to ‘increase the number of enforcement actions, particularly the service of mooring charge notices’. Of course, this does reflect the nature of the contract, in that DE makes its income from this work primarily through user ‘fines’ for overstaying. When I queried this as a ‘prime objective’ of the contract, I was told by the Chair that the EA feels that it is quite appropriate to operate a car-parking approach to their moorings, and if users chose to overstay, then the proposed charges were fully acceptable. To my surprise, I appeared to be one of few user representatives who were concerned about this matter and I can only conclude that most Thames users are happy with this approach.