The future of British Waterways

Published: Monday, 20 September 2010

THE Inland Waterways Advisory Council (IWAC) is concerned that the serious difficulties that face government and BW in managing the transformation to a 'third sector' have not been fully addressed.

Whereas the potential advantages of creating a third sector body have been well publicised, the problems have not yet been resolved, and for this reason the  IWAC (an independent statutory body created  by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities to advise Government, navigation authorities and other interested persons on matters relevant to Britain's inland waterways)  has published a Position Paper as advice to government and BW and as a contribution to the developing debate.

We publish it in full:

British Waterways: the proposed move into the third sector

The proposals

British Waterways (BW) launched its statement 'Twenty/Twenty Vision' in April 2009 and opened the debate on the possibility of a move into the third sector. From that time IWAC has been closely involved in the debate and the various consultations. Following a presentation by Robin Evans, Chief Executive of BW, to IWAC in September 2009 and a detailed debate with senior management of BW, IWAC wrote to BW in October 2009 offering advice to BW about the suggested move. Since then BW has consulted widely, refined its proposals and has now sought Government support for its plan.

The Government's position

On 21 June 2010 Richard Benyon, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, made a statement to the House of Commons giving the Government's position:

"The Government considers civil society has a very valuable role to play in delivering public services as part of our commitment to creating a Big Society. We will therefore be continuing to look in detail at whether a third sector model would be appropriate for British Waterways, including the possible inclusion of the Environment Agency's navigations as the other navigation authority grant aided by Government. My department will be engaging a wide range of stakeholders in this work (and liaising with the Scottish Government). However I must make clear that, given the Government's overriding objective of reducing the financial deficit, no decisions on such a change will be taken until after the forthcoming Spending Review."