British Waterways boat licence changes for 2011

British Waterways (BW) is due to make changes to boat licensing in 2011. Straightforward price changes will take effect from April 2011.

The timing of other changes, subject to consultation, will be implemented as soon as their IT systems can be amended, which will not be before April.

The standard, 12 month pleasure boat licence fee will increase by 5.1% from April 2011 (before VAT). This represents a 2% increase above the current value of the government’s consumer price index (CPI) and is expected to generate additional waterway maintenance budget of c. £0.85 million for 2011/12. The Gold Licence fee will increase by 2.5% (before VAT). This is the weighted average of the increases pending for normal licences on BW and EA waters.

Sally Ash, BW’s head of boating, explained: “While BW’s grant settlement for 2011 is still to be announced, we have certainty that it will be at a substantially reduced level – DEFRA’s reduction is c. 30% over four years and this would translate to an annual cut for BW (England & Wales) of more than £3 million for 2011/12 with further reductions in the following years.

“We are often asked by boat owners for some longer term indication of increases, however,  given current uncertainty about the economic situation, it is not easy to make firm predictions. However, I can say that our business plan for 2012 and 2013 projects licence price increases of 2% plus inflation in each year.

BW is also proposing other changes to licensing. There has been an increasing trend in recent years where some boaters are purchasing shorter period licences consecutively rather than buying 12 month licences. Three month licences are currently priced at 35% of the 12 month fee, and six month licences at 60%. It is now proposed to revert to the 60% and 85% ratios from April 2011 in order to reduce licence evasion and therefore the cost of enforcement.

The late payment charge has been very effective in reducing the number of customers leaving their licence renewal until more than a month after expiry, but one in eight of all renewals are still left until after the expiry date. It is now proposed to extend its application so that more customers renew on time. In making this change, the qualifying date for the prompt payment discount rate will also be brought forward and its description changed to ‘early payment’.

Finally, the price of a replacement index plate will also rise to £20 (incl. VAT) from April 2011 to reflect the true cost of this service, which has remained fixed for the past ten years.

All comments should be submitted to BW by 31 January 2011. The full consultation paper, including all the details of the licence fee increases, the proposed changes and how you can respond are available to download from

NABO Council has already responded to BW's pre-consultation request for comments and would appreciate members' views as soon as possible before we send in our consultation response.