Canal & River Trust Delay

Issue date: 18th January 2012

There is increasing speculation over whether the Canal & River Trust will come into being in April this year.

The timetable for establishing the CRT always looked like a tall order and in the early days of consultation by government IWA commented that the fast-track timetable looked difficult to achieve. It is starting to look as if the IWA was right to sound a note of caution over the timetable.

The Public Bodies Bill took longer than programmed to be enacted, not receiving Royal Assent until 14th December. This of course is the enabling legislation for government to pursue the Transfer Order that will ensure that the British Waterways rights and obligations are passed to the CRT.

The Transfer Order was intended to be laid before Parliament before Christmas. That Order has still to be laid. When it is laid it will be subject to an examination by Parliament under what is known as the Enhanced Affirmative Procedure. It will be the first time this procedure has been used and it will almost certainly lead to consideration by Parliament for a 60 day period, including a debate, and approval will be required by both Houses of Parliament. The Order is also wrapped up with the ongoing negotiations between the CRT Transition Trustees and government on the government finance for the project – those negotiations were also expected to be concluded before Christmas.

IWA has always said that the £39m per annum was not enough. We argued that this had to be improved.  In our representations to government we have said that elements that it could consider for incorporation into a sustainable funding package fro CRT, included, to:

  • Meet the past service pension liabilities of BW so that the charity starts with a clean sheet on pension liability.
  • Provide a transition fund both to cover the increased costs needed for a successful launch of the charity and the costs of promoting broad based local ownership of our waterways, including finance to pump prime locally determined projects. 
  • Index the indicative funding.
  • Provide certainty of funding beyond 10 years.
  • Find funding for the cost of bridge repairs which have risen exponentially for BW given the nature and axle weight of today’s commercial traffic, including the option of transferring responsibility for maintenance of road bridges to the relevant local highway authorities.

IWA added substance to these arguments by liaising with MPs who are waterways supporters to ensure that liabilities with cost implications – such as the British Waterways pension liability, bridge repair and maintenance, dredging – were all explored publicly in Parliament.

We make no apology if our interventions play some part in a delay for the inception of the CRT. We would hope that these interventions will lead to a better deal for the CRT. If that means that it takes longer for the CRT to come into being, it will have been a worthwhile campaign to ensure that the CRT starts life with a better chance of survival than offered by the deal on the table last year.