Another consultation from Canal & River Trust

Published: Friday, 17 February 2023

THE Canal & River Trust has announced yet another consultation.

This time it tells it is carrying out a consultation with boaters to gather feedback on boat licence pricing over the next ten years to help support the long-term future of the waterways, and states:

Faced with the growing pressures of maintaining ageing waterways and the increased threat of climate change, the Trust raises money for vital maintenance from a number of sources to help protect and preserve the network. This includes income from boat licences, government funding, investments, donations, and other income streams.

Will need to rise

To help meet the costs of caring for its canals, rivers, and reservoirs, the trust needs to secure more funds. Income from boat licence fees currently makes up 11% of the trust’s annual income and will need to rise by more than the rate of inflation to continue to fund essential work to the network. The trust is consulting on the most effective and equitable way possible to apply these increases.

The trust is asking boaters for their views on whether increases should apply evenly to all boaters using the current boat licence fee structure, or whether it is fairer to apply higher increases to certain boaters in a way that reflects how they use the waterways and the higher costs of meeting their needs.

The consultation is being sent out to all boat licence holders in February by email, text message, or post, depending on what contact information they have given the trust, and will run until 6th April 2023.

Independent firm

The consultation is being run by the independent firm DJS Research, who will be sending out the questionnaire, collating the responses and preparing a report on the consultation findings. Responses will be anonymised.

Richard Parry, Chief Executive at Canal & River Trust, explained:

“These are challenging times for our ageing waterways. Faced with soaring costs and the highest levels of inflation in over 40 years, we must address the budget shortfall to safeguard navigation. Our network is old and vulnerable, especially to the extreme weather events that are becoming more common, and the income from licences is an important contribution to ensure the ongoing maintenance and repair of the historic canals and river navigations in our care.

“We continue to secure as much income as we can through our commercial and charitable activities, control costs where possible, and focus our resources on those priority works which are required to support navigation. Nevertheless, with our government grant frozen and therefore declining in real terms since 2021, and currently undecided after 2027, the income we receive from boat licences is more critical than ever.

“While we do not underestimate the impact on boaters of any licence fee increase, unless we can increase income from all sources at a level above inflation, it will not be possible to secure a sustainable future for our waterways. We are calling on boaters to help decide how we can increase their contribution in the most effective and equitable way possible.”

Facing dual pressures

The Trust is facing dual pressures on income and expenditure:

The Trust generates much of its income through a combination of a government grant and investments. Over the past year the Trust has seen an increase in pressure on its finances with rapid inflation and external, global factors affecting supply chains and increasing costs and availability of materials.