Monday, 26 December 2011

British Waterways ends the year as it started

It's that Boxing Day vibe. Not too much rushing about and a bit of reflection. Looking back through these pages I see that I started 2011 with a personal dig at BW Chairman Tony Hales. A year later on I stand by those words, because I see no change of attitude, especially when I look at British Waterways' track record through the year.

In that post I commented on the huge frustration I felt as a NABO Council member over BW's prevarication over responding to our legal complaint, the core of which was concern about some of the seemingly draconian and potentially unlawful proposals BW was attempting to impose on boaters through their unilateral and un-consulted changes to Licence conditions during 2008. Where are we at a year later?

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Is the Canal and Rivers Trust going to mortgage the waterways?

My recent post alluding to the point of view that in fact the waterways are about to be privatised was somewhat tongue in cheek. However like most jokes, there is an element of worrying truth in there somewhere.

One of the key points that is being touted in favour of the proposed transition of British Waterways to the Canals and River Trust is that the new body will have more scope to raise funds. However everyone seems to be conveniently overlooking a potentially very sinister change in BW's powers that hides behind that proposed liberalisation of BW's financial powers. In Hansard's written replies last week Richard Benyon, the Waterways Minister, said

22 Nov 2011 : Column 304W
The transfer of British Waterways to the charitable sector creates new opportunities for growing income from private and commercial sources, making efficiencies and forming supportive partnerships. The charity will also be able to borrow against its assets and so expand income in the longer term.


Given the current managments' mixed record on making successful investments, do we really trust these people with the power to mortgage the waterways in order to make more speculative investments?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

How much do boat owners contribute to British Waterways' property income?

I don't know the answer to this question though I have wondered from some time. When I had my NABO hat on in the last few days the question of how much boaters already contribute financially to the waterways was in my mind. So now I have asked.

What I do notice is that when asked questions about how much boaters contribute financially to BW, the figures referred to are usually based only on the direct income that boaters contribute to BW as per the Annual Report and accounts.
  • Boat licence income - 17.4M
  • BW moorings - 6.3 M
  • BWML total income - 6.6M
(Source Page 31 in BW 2010/11 Accounts)

So direct income from boaters last year was £30.3 million or 17.2% of BW's gross income. These are direct payments from boaters but what about the indirect payments that boaters make to those waterside businesses that in turn BW get a cut from?

It will be interesting to see the numbers and understand better how much of BW's commercial income from property is in fact derived indirectly from boaters pockets.

(Old rant about where my mooring fees do and don't go) 

Addendum - 22 January 2012 - As anyone who has used the link to my FOI on this will see, BW has answered and say that an additional £4.7M of their annual income comes from businesses whose primary customers are boaters. Add this to the the figures above and we have confirmation that Boaters provide at least 20% of BW's annual income worth around £35 million pa at last year's rates.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

More Boaters voice concerns about the Canal and River Trust

Life has been a bit hectic (but all positive) hence nothing new here for a few days. Like a lot of other boaters I have an ongoing feeling that CRT is a done deal and that what boaters have to say on the subject is not getting the airtime it should do, not least when one considers the financial contributions we make to the waterways. I am still left feeling that I am being asked to feed the hand that bites me and that we boaters continue to be seen by some in BW as a problem rather than an ally.

One thing that reassured me that I am not completely out on a limb in my thinking  was the appearance of the Boaters' Manifesto.