EA staff have told us that capital investment of £4.25m per annum would see a slow deterioration of overall asset condition. EA budget for capital expenditure on navigation had slumped from £10.7 million in 2012/13 to just £3.5 million in 2014/15, with further cuts expected.
Things are only going to get much worse if these navigations continue to be funded through the Environment Agency.
Evidence from boaters in the Anglian region is that things are starting to deteriorate due to the budget reductions over recent years, and things will only get worse after the current round of cuts. Conditions are starting to deteriorate on the Thames too, with boats concerned about lack of dredging and vegetation clearance in various locations.
EA waterways would benefit from improved maintenance through long term asset management plans, third party funding opportunities and the economies of scale to be gained from being part of a larger navigation authority.
The uncertainty of funding whilst the navigations remain under government control means none of this is possible.
Quite a lot actually. Canal & River Trust (and formerly British Waterways) has long held navigational responsibility for over 300 miles of river navigations, including the Trent, Soar, Yorkshire Ouse and the Severn, as well as managing flood control on its canals. CRT has a good track record of managing water levels on its rivers, with a control system (SCADA) in place offering potential to help further, and a good working relationship with the EA over flood management.
Add to that the impressive progress CRT has made in reshaping itself and the way it works with customers, partners and employees to deliver a sustainable inland waterway network, notwithstanding its age and original condition. Of course, this doesn’t mean IWA can’t recognise when the trust makes mistakes (our recent campaign to halt changes to paddle pawl design, that would prevent paddles being wound down with two hands, is a case in point). Yet while there remains more to do, CRT customers are already enjoying significant improvements from the government’s decision to cede responsibility to a charitable trust.
There are issues on CRT waterways, due to the years before 2012 when British Waterways’ Grant In Aid was cut year upon year, but they are now in a position to do something about the backlog.
Imagine how much worse CRT waterways would be without the secure funding they have.
In addition to third party funding opportunities and economies of scale, IWA is campaigning for the transfer of EA navigations, only on the basis of an appropriate funding package from Government.
Canal & River Trust is receiving funding from Government, as part of a 15 year contract (lobbied for by IWA), so they know exactly how much they are getting each year.
IWA is lobbying for funding for the EA waterways, that’s exactly what this campaign is about.
Photo: River Nene shallows marked by yellow buoys downstream of Denford Lock (Alison Smedley August 2015)