The trust is facing dual pressures on income and expenditure

Published: Saturday, 18 February 2023

AS PREVIOUSLY stated the Canal & River Trust generates much of its income through a combination of a government grants 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, and tells:

From boat licences

'In 2021/22, the trust’s income was £214.6 million from all sources, with £24 million coming from boat licences and a further £20.5 million from moorings and other boating income. Currently, the trust receives £52.6 million each year in the form of a government grant. The value of this grant is fixed until 2027, meaning that, with inflation, each year its value is eroding—it is set to reduce in real terms by around 29% by 2027. The trust awaits a decision by the government over the future value of the grant.

Since the trust was formed, it has grown other sources of income to keep the network running. The trust’s annual income from investments has increased from £41.9 million in 2013/14 to £51.4 million in 2021/22 (higher growth than the market average), and its income from services to electricity, IT, and other utility companies and water development has grown from £24.7 million in 2013/14 to £37.7 million in 2021/22. Fundraising income is forecasted to grow by 10% each year and commercial income to grow at least in line with inflation.

Expenditure risen by 50%

Since the trust was formed, its expenditure on maintaining the waterway network has risen by 50% from £94.2 million in 2013/14 to £141 million in 2021/22.

The trust is seeing large increases in its expenditure on vital reservoir safety works, which are mandatory under the UK Reservoirs Act. Reservoirs are currently the largest component in the trust’s infrastructure spend, and this will continue until all its high-risk reservoirs (the oldest in the country) have been brought up to modern standards. This ongoing investment will minimise any threat to public safety and safeguard the vital canal water supply that the reservoirs provide.

Increased costs, uncertainty over the future of the government grant, the need for sustained investment in high-risk assets, and day-to-day maintenance all amount to an underlying gap between future income and rising future expenses. The trust must start to fill this gap to safeguard the future of the waterways.

The trust supports boaters who may be struggling to pay their licence fees on a case-by-case basis. This may include arranging flexible payment plans and signposting to relevant services, for example the Waterways Chaplaincy, local authorities and Citizens Advice'.

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