The Canal & River Trust is today announcing that private and business boat licence fees will rise by 2.5% from 1 April 2017. Having capped licence fees to inflation for the past three years, the 2017 increase anticipates next year’s prevailing inflation rate which is widely forecast to rise between now and next summer.
The rise in licence fees will raise income to ensure that the Trust can continue to sustain the increased spend on waterway maintenance over recent years. This has seen an improvement in the structural condition of the waterways and a significant reduction in the amount of disruption experienced by boaters (with almost 300 days fewer of unplanned navigation closures compared with 2014/15).
Mike Grimes, head of boating at Canal & River Trust, said: “Boaters are the backbone of our waterways and we know what a vital role they play. We also know that as a community they are as passionate about the future of our canals and support the rising volume of work that the Trust is able to fund.
“Although the cost of a licence will be increasing slightly, I’m pleased to say that overall proportion of the Trust’s income coming directly from boaters is decreasing as we generate more income from other sources.”
Over the past three years the Trust has spent considerably more on caring for the waterways, with the amount spent on maintenance and repair in 2015/16 rising to £128 million, over 15% higher than was expended in 2013/14. In the same period the proportion of income from boaters has reduced from 19.9% to 18.3% of total income.
Mike continues: “The income from boat licences continues to make an important contribution to the work we do: looking after a 200-year old network is a never-ending task. I hope that boaters can see that we are investing in areas that make a difference to them. We’ve put extra cash into dredging and cutting back off-side trees over the past few years, as well as the massive and growing programme of major works we carry out every year to keep our canals and rivers safe and navigable.”
The Trust is also announcing that, following feedback from boating customers and the boating volunteers who sit on its Navigation Advisory Group (Licensing and Mooring), it will be carrying out a wide-ranging review of the structure of boat licensing fees to help guide potential changes to the structure of licence fees from April 2018. There will be an extended period of engagement and consultation with boating organisations, boat clubs and societies. Individual boaters will also be given the chance to be heard to ensure that any proposals are based on a full understanding of the range of views from across the Trust’s wide range of boating customers. The Trust will announce more information and timelines for the consultation process in due course.
Fran Read, national press officer, Canal & River Trust