Parliamentary Waterways Group tells Minister ‘more money needed for NWC’

Issue date: 18 July 2011

The All-Party Parliamentary Waterways Group has published its own report on the governance and finance of the New Waterways Charity.

Following the general election of 2010, the Group re-registered as an All Party Parliamentary Group in April 2011. The chairman is Rt Hon Alun Michael MP and Tony Baldry MP is a vice-Chairman.  Both are former Waterways ministers.

The Group is run by and for Members of Parliament. It does not seek to represent specific
waterways interests, but sees its role as to listen to all those with a legitimate interest pertaining to the inland waterways, and others with relevant expertise, so that following debate it can make constructive suggestions on issues affecting the future of this important element of our natural and built heritage.

In producing the report the Group concluded that:

Governance

We accept the practicality that the New Waterways Charity should begin life with fair representation of stakeholders but we believe that a membership model of democratic stakeholder representation to Council should be developed, with representatives elected by their organisations rather than appointed by the New Waterways Charity.  We believe that membership has so much to offer the new organisation in terms of engaging the public and developing a sense of ownership that there should be a clear timetable for moving to a full membership model.

We recommend that the Charity should begin life with a Council that comprises members that are elected by the relevant organisations where that is possible, and with representatives of other interest groups provided for through nomination in the first instance; and that the process and timetable for achieving a fully elected Council, and moving the Charity to a full membership organisation, should be incorporated into the articles for the New Waterways Charity and be a required milestone in the Government contract with the Charity.

Financing

The level of funding proposed by Government is insufficient to meet the needs of the New Waterways Charity. Estimates of the funding gap range from £15m to £45m.  British Waterways itself estimates a funding gap of £39 million in 2010/11 compared to what the company needs to achieve ‘steady state’ for the network and this estimate is supported by other independent witnesses.

The British Waterways' estimated gap of £39 million is based on receipt of the current £47 million in government grant in 2010/11, compared to the £39 million proposed by Government for the contract it will have with the New Waterways Charity.

We recommend that Government consider the options which would enable the New Waterways Charity to be viable. We have identified three options to advise this outcome.  They are:

  • indexation of the government contract;
  • retention of existing pension liabilities by central government; and
  • additional funding of the charity by government in the form of a transitional grant from central government to cover the substantial start up costs of marketing and fund raising in the first five years of the charity.

We recommend that Government seeks an independent professional evaluation of British Waterways' financial projections and methodology to verify the financial requirements. “

Alun Michael and Tony Baldry met with the Minister for a private meeting on Thursday 14th July to discuss their conclusions and views surrounding the NWC. The report is being sent to all interested Waterway MPs .

In addition to providing secretarial support to the Group through its campaigns team, IWA was also called to give evidence to the Group on funding through its national chairman Clive Henderson.

IWA supporters are now requested to write to their MP  in support of the conclusions,  especially concerning the need for additional funding , and to ask their MP to let the Minister know of the concern.

Read Memorandum from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Waterways: The Future of The Waterways