River ThamesE A Rivers won’t now become part of the Canal & River Trust in 2015 as was promised when the Trust was set up.

When CRT took over British Waterways’ (BW) network part of the proposals was that – with appropriate funding – the EA’s river navigations would become part of the Trust in 2015/16.

Defra says that it “must identify additional savings in 2015/16 to help deal with the deficit” and “that the transfer of EA navigations is unlikely to be affordable in the current climate”.  So “the transfer will be postponed until Defra’s finances improve.”

It goes on to say – “The Government, however, remains fully committed to transferring the EA navigations when the economic circumstances allow us to do so” and “will review the position after the next Spending Period and will make a further announcement at that time on the timing of the transfer”.

Tony Hales, chair of CRT responded to Defra’s statement – “This is disappointing news and a missed opportunity.  In less than a year, the transfer of BW waterways to the voluntary sector has begun to revolutionise the way that our canals and rivers are cared for, opening up improved engagement and new opportunities for volunteering and fundraising.  There is no reason that we could not have seen the same benefits on the EA’s navigations.

We have very much enjoyed working with the team at the EA and look forward to this continuing as we share best practice and knowledge in the future.  We remain ready to look at these plans when the Government is next able to proceed.”

The Inland Waterways Association expressed dissappointment at the announcement. Les Etheridge, national chairman of The Inland Waterways Association said:

“We are very disappointed that this element of government policy is to be delayed until the next Spending Review. An opportunity was missed a year ago when CRT was formed, and perhaps predictably the finances of Defra do not seem to have improved since then.  Indeed, the latest round of cuts from 2015 is a cause of concern. We understand that 65% of the income for the Agency’s navigations comes from government grant in aid, and this has already been substantially cut.  Worse still, there are clearly prospects for further cuts which could impose additional financial burdens on users of the EA navigations, and in particular boaters. Inclusion of EA’s navigations within CRT offers many benefits, but especially surety of income once a deal with government is achieved.”

Thanks to Harry Arnold and Waterway Images for this report and images.

All materials and images © Canal Junction Ltd. Dalton House, 35 Chester St, Wrexham LL13 8AH. No unauthorised reproduction.

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