Times of austerity. What ideas have we as canal users and supporters?

What does the foreseeable future hold for the inland waterways of the UK, now that the new government is installed and looking for cuts and increased income to the treasury?….

There could well be a 5% cut in government funding in line with other peripheral services.

The Regional Development Agencies are being scrapped and these have supplied matching funding for a number of Heritage Lottery Fund grants for canal restoration.

Councils are being squeezed for cuts and the waterway support could well suffer, when priorities need to be set, ie essential housing and community services  versus the waterways.

And the tale of woe goes on, and on……

So how do I think we should spend the reduced income?

Firstly, in the short term, we must ensure that existing navigations are maintained, kept open, and stoppages repaired ASAP.

Secondly, we must preserve the real estate owned by BW and the EA to avoid loss of asset capital, which would reduce income by lost rentals on non-operational property.

Thirdly, restorations – they’ll pick up the few crumbs left so, volunteer work will be needed to halt any deterioration in the status obtained in existing restoration projects.
Then any leftover effort (if any!) can be channelled to new restoration projects.

It is clear to me that we need to increase voluntary work considerably and this is in line with the third sector aspirations.  Voluntary work needs encouragement and management help BW and the EA. It needs to be made easier to visit a site anywhere with facilities provided plus expert design and management of the work.

What else can be done?

Well, it’s time senior executive’s remuneration and pension entitlements were looked at very seriously as with other government and private organisations.

First and foremost the waterways organisation’s function is of maintenance and operational control. There is not a share value/dividend incentive to make bigger and bigger profits. Hence, I believe, senior executives are essentially administrators and not entrepreneurs and should be remunerated accordingly.

Can everyone with experience of the waterways bring this to bear on the above and tell us what they see the problems are and how we should move forward in this era of cut back?

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