All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group Discuss Financing of the NWC

news_generic150pxIssue date: 8 June 2011

The All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group met again on the 8 June at the House of Commons.

Former Cabinet Member and ex-Waterways Minister, The Rt Hon Alun Michael MP, chaired the meeting which was in the form of a formal inquiry into the financial arrangements of the proposed new waterways charity.

The following witnesses were called and gave evidence:

  • Robin Evans, CEO of British Waterways,  who was accompanied by Margaret Bennet , of Think Consultants  who are advisors to British Waterways on charity funding issues.
  • John Edmonds, chairman of IWAC, the independent statutory consultative body set up to advise government on the inland waterways.
  • Clive Henderson, chairman of the Inland Waterways Association.

Giving evidence to the inquiry on behalf of IWA, Clive Henderson briefed the assembled MPs on the history of the funding gap and built the case based on information in the public domain, that the amount of funding currently on the table amounted at best to a £15 million shortfall and possibly as much as £45 million. He then went on to detail that these figures didn’t seem to include an un-quantified dredging deficit amounting to 291kms of waterway, that might according to a freedom of information request  lodged by IWA, with British Waterways, amount to anything between £23 million to £245 million.

The conclusion was, according to IWA,  that whilst continuing to support a move into the third sector, the matter of accurately determining how much was needed to fund the effective operation of the waterways had not been undertaken and only figures based on maintaining principal assets were being used - not the actual cost of maintaining the ‘track’ and even within the estimates for principal assets, the costings were based on accepting a decline in standards to a level at which 26% would be in ‘poor condition’ over the period of the funding settlement from Government.

Clive ended by pointing out that to put the gap in funding in context, it was worth somewhere between 180-550 metres of the Government’s new HS2 project.

The Rt Hon Alun Michael MP is to consider all of the evidence presented and is minded to prepare a   report which may be submitted to the Waterways Minister. 

IWA is assisting the Parliamentary Waterways Group by providing ongoing secretarial support.

Read Clive Henderson's full report