THE Government has served British Waterways with a massive cut of the available grant in aid of nearly £10 millions for next year, which can only further exacerbate the worsening state of the waterways.
The Inland Waterways Association is alarmed at the depth of the cuts proposed for inland waterways navigation authority budgets following the announcement of British Waterways grant in aid for next year (2010/11).
IWA relates that reports indicate that this year's available grant of £57.448m will be reduced to just £47.848m, representing an over 16.7% reduction. British Waterways £57.448m grant this year, fails to address an ongoing deficit of between £20-30 million each year just to maintain the system in a steady state of repair. The proposed cuts will exacerbate an already critical situation.
Similar cuts for Environment Agency
IWA is also concerned that similar cuts may be being planned within the Environment Agency, which also has navigation responsibilities on other inland waterways, and is also carrying a maintenance budget deficit.
Speaking on behalf of IWA, Clive Henderson, National Chairman, warned:
"This is a very worrying development however you do the maths. These are significant and deep cuts to an already deficient budget. Whilst we appreciate and accept that we are living in hard times, to use the analogy of a householder—in times of austerity, you may not buy new furniture and decoration but, when your house is in serious disrepair you do not skimp on repairing the roof."
"It is especially disappointing to learn of these cuts at a time when Government is recognising the holistic benefits to society at large of the waterways as a place not just for leisure, but for contributing to health and well being of communities and as an important source of urban and rural regeneration. It is perverse for Government to implement any reduction in budget. They should be looking at realistic budget increases, not a one off boost to fiscal stimulus , to ensure that these public benefits are enshrined for future generations, under secure and sustainable funding arrangements. "
"We will be looking very carefully at the implications of these cuts on British Waterways' operations and fear that major failures on structures may arise at under-maintained locations, even putting the safety of waterway users at risk. We don't want to return to campaigning on the scale that was required to deal with the 2006 Defra instigated Budget cuts—but if we have to—we will."