IWA Disappointed at Missed Opportunity to Transfer Environment Agency Navigations

Issue date: 17th July 2013

IWA has expressed disappointment at the Waterways Minister’s announcement on 3rd July of a postponement of the proposed transfer of the Environment Agency’s river navigations to Canal & River Trust (CRT). There is some consolation, however, in that Government policy to make the transfer as soon as it is affordable is unchanged.

In a written ministerial statement, Richard Benyon MP, Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, said that cuts to his Department’s budget in the Government Spending Review announced last week had led to economies having to be made which resulted in the transfer being unaffordable in 2015/16, as had originally been planned.

IWA believes the Minister’s announcement is short-sighted and just defers the opportunity to raise additional funds and voluntary sector support that the transfer to the charitable sector would provide.  In the meantime, budgets will continue under pressure and IWA fears boaters and other users can expect a deteriorating service and standards on those river navigations.  IWA believes it would be better for all parties if the necessary funding could be provided now, as it simply has to be found sooner or later, and delaying can only make matters worse.  In short, no one wins.

Les Etheridge, IWA National Chairman said: “We are very disappointed that this element of government policy is to be delayed until the next Spending Review. An opportunity was missed a year ago when CRT was formed, and perhaps predictably the finances of Defra do not seem to have improved since then. Indeed, the latest round of cuts from 2015 is a cause of concern. We understand that 65% of the income for the Agency’s navigations comes from government grant in aid, and this has already been substantially cut. Worse still, there are clearly prospects for further cuts which could impose additional financial burdens on users of the EA navigations, and in particular boaters. Inclusion of EA’s navigations within CRT offers many benefits, but especially surety of income once a deal with government is achieved.”

“Whilst this is just a delay, rather than a change in policy, and the transfer remains government policy, IWA will now redouble its efforts to support and lobby for the earliest implementation of this policy.”