In my role as a past chairman of the Tyne Lifeboat Society, a 329-year-old organisation that paid for and operated the world’s very first purpose designed and built lifeboat, right here in South Shields, on the River Tyne in north-east England, I was asking what the society was doing these days.
One project that they wanted to do was to put up posts holding lifebelts along a stretch of River Walkway that was used quite a lot and was not, in their opinion adequately covered by such potentially life-saving devices.
TLS approached the local council for advice and hopefully some cooperation with making the idea a reality and it was acknowledged as a good idea. However, the council representatives explained that if the lifebelts were vandalised or if they were actually used to try and save a life but failed in some way, there could be some significant repercussions if someone felt aggrieved and sought legal advice. That meant both the council and the TLS would have to have adequate insurance to cover any potential claims. No prizes for guessing the outcome of the very commendable idea from the Tyne Lifeboat Society members.
I must state categorically that I am not denigrating the members of the TLS or South Tyneside Council, both of which are organisations that have to operate underfunded and abide by inordinate amounts of legislation that is becoming ridiculous. So much so that very often the best option for them is to do nothing, to avoid possible litigation if they do something which someone abuses and by default, the organisation becomes responsible for.