Easter Regatta in Little Venice

Published: Wednesday, 06 March 2024

THERE is to be an Easter Regatta celebrating the National Bargee Travellers Association.

This Grand Union Canal event it claims is to celebrate boaters and fight unfair licence fee increases, taking place on Saturday 30th March from 12pm, where it tells boaters from around the country will be gathering  to celebrate our community and stand against the Canal & River Trust’s (CRT) plan to increase licence fees above inflation and introduce differential pricing based on mooring status on the country’s inland waterways.

Paddington StationBargeesMarch

It states that all are invited to join us from midday at the canal side exit of Paddington Station, near the bookable moorings (W2 1HB) where we will be holding a unity march to the CRT offices, hearing speeches from boater activists, running craft stalls, hosting boat traders, and running a raffle and live music.

Come by boat, bike, bus or on foot—every person in attendance sends a message to CRT that we demand proper management of the canals and refuse to be their [its] scapegoats under divisive and discriminatory licence hikes.

Little Venice is one of the most corporatised stretches of the network, and sits right alongside one of CRT’s London offices. On 30th March, we want to turn it into a celebration of our community and show that it’s boaters who are the real life-blood of the canal system. The event is open to all, whether you’re a boater, a supporter or just someone interested in finding out more about our community and our campaign.

BargeesMarch2Something for nothing

Have you ever had to pay extra for not having something? It asks?

Telling that for boaters without a home mooring that is exactly what CRT has in store from April 1st (yes really) 2024. CRT says it is in financial dire straits. It blames a number of factors for this: the reduction of the Government grant (which it was told from day one of its formation in 2012 would be cut completely), recent inflation, and climate change all get a mention. And now it is trying to blame boaters without a home mooring. The only place it refuses to lay the blame is at its own feet. But this is where the blame truly belongs.

The short history of CRT is littered with financial negligence, poor decision making, spending on vanity projects and hare-brained waterways management schemes; whether it is the millions of pounds wasted on attempting to raise income through the Friends scheme or the £250,000+ spent on its failed 'Safety Zones' in East London to name but two. CRT is an exercise in financial mismanagement and failure.

EventWaterPay a surcharge

From April 1st boaters will have to pay a surcharge on top of their licence if they do not have a home mooring. This will start at 5%, rising in 5% increments over five years to 25%. Funding raised by these measures is inconsequential to the trust’s bottom line, but could be life-changing for many travelling boaters, some of whom face being driven into hardship and poverty or priced off the waterways they call home.

CRT say that this is only fair because we get more 'utility' from our licences, a claim that it is unable to support with any data. The surcharge is not about raising money—the income generated even at the 25% rate wouldn’t cover the salaries of the organisation’s top 15 earners. Instead it is another attempt to blame our community for the parlous state of the waterways resulting from CRT’s mismanagement, and to marginalise us out of existence.

Aside from being discriminatory, impractical and unpopular, these licence fee increases are also unlawful. Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act of 1995 enshrines in law 'the right of all licence holders to use and live on a boat without a home mooring'. The licence comes first, not the circumstances in which you use it.

Canals are for everyone

We cannot allow this attempt by CRT to target our community to stand. Boaters are the lifeblood of the waterways, and this latest attack represents an existential threat to the continuation of this unique and important way of life. Please join us to support our community, to protest, to party and to tell CRT that the canals are for everyone!