So the new Trustees have been appointed for the new waterways charity - see Defra here. So what to think about it? British Waterways is to go. The briefing below is by Chris Borg at the National Association of Local Councils and is a useful introduction if not familiar with the issues. There are huge liabilities and huge costs....
Here is one RBAG member comment: "On the one hand it’s a similar argument to the forests, but entrusting the property as an endowment is significant and setting management of the waterways free of state control could open up new possibilities. I see the work of charities like the National Trust being comparable. They are for the people without the trappings of government. I know some in the charity sector are worried about the increased competition for charitable donations if this new body comes into being – that is a concern but shows also that this has potential to be a strong proposition for philanthropists and grant giving trusts. After a very brief read through I’m broadly in favour."
Another RBAG comment: "I have real concerns about long term funding.....will this mean the new body will be forced to sell off large parts in order to keep running? I believe the state has an important role to play not least financially - the EA is already not powerful enough."
See The Waterways Project response to the consultation here. Vote here for a name for the new charity. Current polling shows:
- National Waterways Trust (39%)
- British Waterways (37%)
- British Waterways Trust (33%)
- Waterways Trust (26%)
- Waterways of Britain (20%)
Two centuries ago private enterprise funded the expansion of thousands of miles of public waterways and canals to service the world’s first Industrial Revolution. In the twentieth century the Government stepped in to help transform what had by then become industrial relics into bustling and busy waterways which we know and love today. The Government wants to ensure that millions more people continue to experience and use these waterways and it believes that a new ownership model is needed to unlock the future full potential of these waterways. To do this the Government is proposing to place in trust for the nation those can ways which are still owned by the Government through the creation of a new civil society organization, called the New Waterways Charity.
Currently the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is reponsible for the ownership of over 4, 000 kilometres of the inland waterway network in England and Wales. The two biggest public bodies currently managing these waterways on behalf of the Secretary of State are British Waterways and the Environment Agency. Government plans for the transition of British Waterways into a civil society body are already well developed. The Government therefore
proposes a two-phased transfer into the New Waterways Charity with British Waterways moving first, and the Environment Agency’s river navigations moving after the next Spending Review, subject to affordability and the agreement of the Charity’s Trustees. Whilst the Government does believe that this move to civil society for the waterways will secure their long-term financial future, it also plans to transfer all of British Waterways’ property assets to the charity as an endowment, committing to a long-term funding contract. The Charity will also have many opportunities to grow its income from charitable donations, new commercial opportunities, efficiency savings and growing its volunteer base.
In order to gauge the views of relevant stakeholders and those communities connected with the 4, 000 kilometres of waterways owned by the Secretary of State on its proposals the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has recently opened a public consultation on this important matter. The consultation’s formal documents can be obtained at http://www.defra.gov.uk/consult/2011/03/30/waterways-1103/ . The consultation closes on 30 June 2011.