15 January 2021

Waterways Ombudsman Committee announce new Chair

The Waterways Ombudsman Committee is pleased to announce Karen McArthur as its new Chair. Karen’s term of office starts in January 2021 when Kevin Fitzgerald steps down at the end of his three year term.

Kevin has been a committee member for six years, the last three as Chair. During his term he helped to establish a strong governance structure, oversaw the revalidation by the Ombudsman Association and approval of the Scheme by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) as a Consumer ADR body under the Alternative Dispute Resolution for Consumer Disputes (Competent Authorities and Information) Regulations 2015. He was instrumental in the appointment and establishment of a new ombudsman and welcomed the Avon Navigation Trust as a Scheme member. In addition, Kevin created two new observer positions on the Committee to help promote an open and transparent service.

Commenting on his term of office Kevin said, “It has been a pleasure to work with the Trust, the Ombudsman and all the committee members over the years to ensure the Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides a professional service to all who need it. The work has been varied and interesting and the standard of complaint handling across the scheme members has improved throughout the years. I wish Karen and the committee every success in the future.”  

Karen has been a Committee member since March 2019. Her background is in corporate leadership and she has a wealth of experience in non-executive positions with a portfolio of roles balancing consumer protection and advocacy with a commercial outlook. Karen has a breadth of experience including across regulated sectors.

Commenting on her appointment Karen said, “I look forward to working with the Ombudsman and the Committee to increase the access to our dispute resolution service across more waterways. Our aim is to improve the customer experience for all waterway users and to drive up standards of customer service. The Committee and I will continue to work to ensure the service we offer is robust, open and transparent and accessible to all.

I would like to thank Kevin for all the work he has done to put together a strong governance structure and team that will help us to flourish.”

The Waterways Ombudsman scheme deals with complaints about the Canal & River Trust and the Avon Navigation Trust, which are referred to the Ombudsman after completion of each Trust’s own complaints process.

The Waterways Ombudsman Committee oversees the work of the scheme.


14 December 2020

Waterways Ombudsman Committee new members

Over the course of 2020 the committee, which oversees the work of the Scheme, has increased in size and welcomed new independent members. This will ensure the governance structure is robust, the committee should always be quorate and there is a continuity of experience as members who have served their term leave.

New members come from a variety of backgrounds which can support the service and their full biographies can be found on the About us page of the website, here.

In the spirit of openness and transparency the committee also welcomed two observers appointed by Scheme Bodies, full details can be found, here.

9 October 2020

Waterways Ombudsman Scheme Committee publish new Scheme Rules 

The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme Committee oversee the operation of the scheme and ensure the independence and accessibility of the Ombudsman.

The Committee has completed a review of the Scheme rules and made some changes to its own constitution and membership. These allow for more independent members and non-voting observers to improve transparency and openness. The rules now reflect the addition of Avon Navigation Trust to the Scheme and refer to Scheme Member Bodies rather than simply the Trust.  

The principal functions of the Ombudsman remain the same, any changes are to improve clarity and understanding, For example, the Jurisdiction of the Scheme has been clarified at Rule 29 to make it clear that wider policy decisions and legal claims are not within jurisdiction as they are not covered by the internal complaints policy.

The rules are effective for complaints received from 14 September 2020.

The Rules can be found here

6 July 2020

The Waterways Ombudsman and the Waterways Ombudsman Committee have issued their Annual Reports for 2019/20. 

This is the first annual report of the current Ombudsman, Sarah Daniel, who took up the post from 29 July 2019. 

During the year, the Ombudsman received 41 enquiries about the Trust, a similar number to the previous year, when there were 43. Seven new investigations were opened, which given the low numbers was significantly less than the previous year’s 15, and the number of complaints resolved was 10. 

  • Of the 10 complaints resolved, three were upheld in part, one was settled and six were not upheld. A goodwill award was proposed in one case which was partly upheld, which the complaint accepted.
  • As before there was a very diverse range of complaints, and again the majority were about boating issues. 

The Ombudsman’s report includes summaries of all completed investigations.

The Report includes details of other work completed by Sarah this year and sets out details of future work plans for the Committee and the Ombudsman for the coming year.  

Commenting on her first year in office Sarah said, 

“The range of subjects which I have had enquiries on is huge and the callers and complainants are deeply passionate about their own issue and the waterways in general. It is heart warming to know there are so many people who care about our waterways and who enjoy and wish to maintain the pleasure they bring to us all.” 

The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme continues to be approved by its Competent Authority, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, in line with the requirements set out in the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Regulations. 

The Waterways Ombudsman scheme deals with complaints about the Canal & River Trust and the Avon Navigation Trust, which are referred to the Ombudsman after completion of each Trust’s own complaints process. 

The Waterways Ombudsman Committee oversees the work of the scheme and remains satisfied with the operation and funding of the scheme. 

2 January 2020

Avon Navigation Trust appoints Waterways Ombudsman to handle complaints 

The Avon Navigation Trust (ANT) has joined The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme to give its river users an independent final third level for complaints. 

The Scheme will provide independent dispute resolution for customers, from 1 January 2020, on top of the Trust’s current in-house complaints procedure. The move replaces the previous arrangement where an Independent Trustee/Director was the final escalation point for complaints. 

Commenting on the news, Kevin Fitzgerald, Chair of the Waterways Ombudsman Committee, which oversees the independence and accessibility of the Ombudsman, said: “ANT is demonstrating its commitment to its customers with the appointment of the Waterways Ombudsman. Investing in complaints handling is a clear sign that they want to provide the level of service that their customers expect.”

ANT Chief Executive, Clive Matthews, commented: “We actively encourage feedback and make it as easy as possible for people to have their say. We get very few complaints but The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides a valued, independent system of adjudication if customers are not satisfied with the outcome of our own investigation.”

The Waterways Ombudsman Scheme provides an independent and impartial means of resolving disputes outside the courts at no cost to the complainant. It can investigate disputes between complainants and ANT that have been progressed through ANT’s internal complaint handling procedure, or those that have reached a deadlock stage. Complainants must contact ANT directly to seek a resolution to their complaint before they can escalate the complaint to the ombudsman.

Sarah Daniel, the Waterways Ombudsman, said: “I am delighted that ANT has joined the scheme. When I visited the office at Mill Wharf I was impressed with the commitment to providing a personal, effective and efficient service to customers.”

Pictured is Kevin Fitzgerald signing the agreement.

  Kevin Fitzgerald Chair of the Waterways Ombudsman Scheme, signs the new agreement with ANT.