David: Consultations to be watched

Published: Wednesday, 19 April 2017

TWO new 'consultations' are currently being conducted, both of which could have a significant impact on the cost of boating, writes David Hymers.

The first is from CaRT and concerns the whole structure of the annual licence fee. It says that it has not been reviewed for a long time, which is quite true, though I suspect that the main reason is the continuing discussions about the takeover of the EA navigations, where licences are charged on a different basis. It would obviously make sense to have a single system, albeit with variations to allow for size of boat, access and so on. I hope it will also use the opportunity to take account of the vastly increased number of residential boaters, preferably with the aim of discouraging them. I feel sorry for CaRT really, since whatever changes they make to the licence system is going to upset one group or another—it just can’t win.

The other consultation has been flagged up by the IWA, who do such a useful job of monitoring government announcements. Buried in the small print of the recent budget was the information that there is going to be a consultation on the use of red diesel. Apparently this is not aimed particularly at boaters, who are proportionally small consumers of the stuff, but at the more general question of whether the concession is needed any more for anyone. With our exit from the EU the government will once again have the power to change taxes as it wishes, rather than follow the dictates of Brussels, who were responsible for the present system of charging boaters. This will certainly need watching, especially in the light of the current demonisation of diesel as a pollutant, which would make it easier for the government to make the stuff more expensive. I wonder how much pollution all those continuous moorers in London are responsible for, running their engines or generators on a daily basis?

Condition of the system

In two weeks cruising so far I can report that everything is in good order where we have been, into Birmingham via Fazeley, up Perry Bar and Ryders Green, then down to Worcester and Droitwich and up to Kidderminster. In that time we have seen one defective paddle and one empty pound, which I reckon is pretty good; we only had a couple of visits down the weed hatch. One worrying observation was that the reservoirs on the Worcs & Birmingham did not look to be anything like full and indeed a large number of CaRT suits were prowling round Tardebigge looking concerned. Given how little rain there has been recently, I wonder if we are in for a summer of water shortages.

One new development is the appearance at either end of the Droitwich and at the Severn locks of some splendid new electronic displays giving warning of the river conditions. Whilst, if reliable, they are an improvement on the usually unreadable depth gauges, they do seem to be very elaborate (and expensive) and I wonder how they will stand up to the attentions of the local vandals; they are crying out for some graffiti.

Talking of graffiti, it seems to be getting even worse, appearing even in country locations; in Birmingham I think half the structures are held up by the layers of paint. The government is always quick to stigmatise fly tipping and litter, so why are no measures taken against graffiti? It would be quite easy—all that is needed is a complete ban on the sale, import and manufacture of spray paint. There are few legitimate uses of the stuff and hobbyists can always use airbrushes.

More silly notices

Passing through Birmingham, England’s graffiti capital I noticed that the CaRT Department of Silly Notices has not been idle over the winter. The 'roundabout' at Old Turn Junction now sports a series of slogans, from which I can deduce no meaning whatsoever. I wonder who is meant to be impressed by this sort of thing? I can only hope it was paid for by the Arts Council or some such, rather than our licence fees.