Issue Date: 4 March 2011
The Government made a decision on the future of the largest state owned waterways on the 28th February 2011.
It announced that its preference was for a phased transfer of state-owned waterways in England and Wales into the planned new waterway charity. British Waterways’ canals and rivers will move in 2012 and the Environment Agency (EA) navigations in 2015, subject to a review of the charity's performance in 2014 and the then government view on affordability. This decision was intended to ensure that sufficient funding can be found to enable the charity to take on the liabilities associated with the EA navigations from the start of the next Government Spending Review.
IWA welcomed the statement, as a further step towards realising its own long term vision for the waterways, that includes both British Waterways’ and the Environment Agency navigations eventually merging.
IWA is a little disappointed that the Environment Agency navigations will not be included in the charity from the outset, having advocated the considerable advantage in that approach. But IWA recognises that the argument for the merger in principle is now won within government, and must move on and help to make the changes work.
IWA believes that following this statement of intent by government to proceed in a phased manner, it is vitally important that the preparation begins now. There must be ongoing co-ordination between the Government, EA, British Waterways and the new charity thereafter to keep momentum going on this initiative to ensure a smooth seamless handover of the EA waterways with the necessary funding in place. With a process of proper preparation and implementation planning in place, the 2014 review and the next Spending Review should be no more than confirmation that delivery of that vision is on track.
IWA remains committed to ensuring that in addition to the eventual merger of EA navigations going ahead, the new waterways charity should suitably endowed with the full BW property portfolio, and given suitable long term grant funding to make it sustainable. IWA also is comitted to ensuring that governance structures are both simple and cost effective, but will allow proper stake holder engagement .