Boaters biggest contributors

Published: Monday, 27 September 2010

IN DIRECT contradiction to what British Waterways claim, it has been revealed that boaters are the biggest contributors to the waterways.

British Waterways tell boaters that licence and mooring fees pay a 'small but significant' part in funding the maintenance of our waterways, but it has been revealed that boaters are the waterways biggest contributors, writes Allan Richards.

13p in the pound was the figure quoted just six months ago, by British Waterways also claiming that its property portfolio contributes £45m a year towards our canals. Indeed, the IWA asked the public to sign an e-petition on this very basis to prevent a government sell-off.

New figures

New figures recently provided to the Board paint an entirely different picture. The figures were provided in a 2010/11 cost analysis to BW's Board in  preparation for an expected grant cut next month. The importance of these figures is that for the first time we are able to determine contribution, net of payroll and other costs, of BW's three revenue streams, leisure, utilities and property.

Property and utilities

If you are still one of the few that believe BW and IWA claims of £45m per annum contribution from property you are in for a shock. BW's own figures tell that property will only contribute £16.1m next year. We also need to bear in mind that the true figure might be lower as this figure could include unrealised contribution (in other words it might include a theoretical rise in the value of property which makes no contribution unless the property is later sold).

Even if the property figure is actual contribution, utilities, such as water supply, contribute more to maintenance than property does. BW estimate utility contribution to be £21m.


The Leisure revenue stream comprises mainly boaters licence and mooring fees but also includes other minor sources of income such as fishing. Despite hefty staff and other overheads its estimated contribution is higher than both property and utilities at £23.4m .

Put another way, excluding grants, boaters will contribute over 38% of BW's net income this year based on BW's own estimates. Boaters will contribute 24% of the money that BW intends to spend maintaining the canals, and even taking into account BW's total spend (maintenance plus overheads) boaters contribution is some 20%.

BW told us boaters were only contributing 13%. 13p in the pound! How could it  get it so wrong?