Issue date: 8 October 2010
The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has launched its briefing for Members of Parliament and local government politicians for the party conference season.
The document is entitled ‘THE INLAND WATERWAYS: How a Conservancy Would Get the Best For Your Community’. It outlines how important the inland waterways can be for local people and communities and argues that the best way for these to be secured is for the government now to merge the two main publicly funded navigation authorities in the form of a charitable trust with a long term rolling funding package. The right decisions by the coalition Government under the Comprehensive Spending Review can secure the waterways for the future.
Clive Henderson, IWA National Chairman, said:
‘After a period early this century when funding was increasing, the pressure on the public finances has again led to British Waterways and the Environment Agency being starved of funds so that they are both operating their waterways with an annual funding deficit and considerable maintenance backlogs.
These unpredictable fluctuations in the finance available suit no-one’s purpose. You won’t find a voice anywhere in government or elsewhere who doesn’t believe the inland waterways are a national asset and must be preserved for the nation. It is a question of how.’
He went on to say:
‘Richard Benyon, the Waterways Minister, clearly believes that a third sector model is the right way forward with management of the waterways by civil society. We also believe that this is the best approach. We are in no doubt that the first building block for the third sector model should be the merger of British Waterways and the Environment Agency, with the economies of scale that would deliver and the benefits to users of a unified management structure for their waterways. However, our support is not unconditional. A third sector model will not suddenly become a body that does not require public funding. I am sure that this requirement will reduce over time as economies come on stream and as the public begins to recognise and support a national third sector body for the waterways. But it will need a launch pad of the British Waterways property portfolio and a long-term central government service contract to reflect the public benefits for which there are not, and there can never be, income streams.’
‘The key decisions are being made under the Comprehensive Spending Review. I hope that Government will take the longer term view. If it gets these decisions right the inland waterways can serve as a great example of how the Government’s aspirations for greater management of organisations and institutions formerly thought only capable of operation in the public sector can flourish in the third sector.’