IWA Position on Minister's Statement 21 June

Issue date: 23 June 2010

IWA has been lobbying hard for a form of waterways conservancy , initially arising from an amalgamation of the two main government funded navigation authorities, British Waterways (BW) and the Environment Agency (EA) navigations as one body, with the possibility of other navigations voluntarily joining at a later date.

IWA is therefore pleased to receive news of the Waterway Minister’s statement on the 21 June concerning Government’s views and intentions to consider the implications of integration of the EA navigations as part of a move by BW to the third sector. IWA is also pleased that the Minister has signalled his intention for Defra to undertake to engage with stakeholders on this work ahead of the Spending Review in the Autumn.

Key to progressing the issue of any move into the third sector; IWA believes that more work is still needed on understanding the funding of the third sector organisation, and the extent to which government will have to continue to support it as recognition of the public benefit that it provides, and how funding is to be managed and developed over time.

In addition to the currently unanswered funding issue; IWA also has concerns over the ongoing discussions on governance, which IWA believes needs to more fully engage the wider waterway stakeholder community.

In principle , what IWA doesn’t want to end up with is  a ‘rebranding’ of BW in a third sector guise, IWA sees the third sector as an opportunity to radically address the way in which our waterways are managed and to seek to improve their husbandry. Together with its colleagues and partners in the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, who are currently piloting a local partnership model, IWA wants to see more consultation, so that the new organisation incorporates the best of waterways expertise and experience, with sound local structures and good local volunteer support in turn supporting a slim-line and efficient head office. This means a joint, working partnership arrangement of the stakeholders, to work up a new model of governance in the light of Government’s ‘Big Society Agenda’ which both IWA and K&ACT believes has relevance in putting the  waterways at the heart of communities in the future. IWA has suggested that a stakeholders meeting and workshop might be a way of achieving full and transparent participation in the development process, similar to that which was carried out by Defra during the Waterways for Everyone process.

IWA will continue to press BW and Defra on the matter of both funding and governance – and whilst supporting the third sector proposals as part of a wider conservancy idea, intends to raise these matters at the forthcoming Defra sponsored waterways stakeholder meeting of national waterway user groups with the Waterways Minister on the 30th June.

IWA understands that a Stakeholders workshop is being organised in July by Defra on the subject of the third sector and IWA will be attending.