A LEAKED Cabinet Office document published by the Daily Telegraph has revealed that British Waterways is indeed on the list of public bodies, known as quangos, that will be abolished by the new government.
The complete list comprises of some 177 quangos, with British Waterways' name appearing under the heading 'Bodies to be abolished', that also includes that of the Inland Waterways Advisory Council that we had already revealed.
Environment Agency could be safe
A surprise is that the Environment Agency comes under the heading of 'Bodies still under review', and therefore could be saved, but there are no waterways bodies under 'Bodies to be retained'.
The government has promised it would smash the 'gravy train' of the many quangos introduced by the previous government, with their colossal waste of public money on many useless bodies, and their highly paid officials, though in actual fact neither British Waterways nor the Environment Agency are technically quangos, being left over from nationalisation.
Very much is now being made of the 'third way', by the use of volunteers to take the jobs of British Waterways' staff, but this appears to many, and especially to narrowboatworld contributors to be a retrograde step, leaving the welfare of a 200 years old system in the hands of untrained amateurs.
British Waterways Chief Executive Robin Evans has been quick to attempt to quell his staff's concerns:
"You may have heard news reports this morning that British Waterways is one of the public bodies facing the axe as part of next month's government spending review. This is part of the inevitable speculation that happens before such reviews.
‘I know this is unsettling and so I want to share with you what I believe will happen—based on close discussion with ministers and officials.
‘The Westminster government is very close to making a firm decision to go ahead with our proposal to move BW's waterways into a charity. We expect an announcement about that in more detail next month. This would be a tremendous result for us as it adopts the strategy we have argued for during the last 18 months.
"Clearly there are still a great many areas to look at before a major move like this can take place: The new trust will need governance structures put into place and the level of future government funding through a contract will need to be agreed. Defra is looking at the possible inclusion of EA navigations and the Scottish government will want to consider the inclusion of Scottish waterways."
However the Environment Agency refused to drawn, offering no comment.