News from the Environment Agency:
Following final discussions, our Board agreed on 17 July 2014 to consult on increasing navigation charges for 2015/16 by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). We propose applying the July 2014 CPI figure. The June figure shows CPI as 1.9%. We propose applying CPI to current charges for all our navigation registration schemes, including private, commercial, unpowered boats and our block registration agreements.
The year 2014/15 was the last of our three year charging plan which saw charge increases of CPI plus 2% each year. We took this approach to both keep track of increasing costs, and to increase the contribution made by boating customers to the costs of delivering navigation services which in 2013/14, were 60% funded by Grant in Aid (GiA) from Government, which continues to be under significant pressure. Income from boat registrations contributed 30% towards our overall navigation costs.
We need to increase charges to reduce reliance on GiA to provide a sustainable future for our navigations going forward. This is part of a wider package as our waterways teams reduce their operating costs; prioritise funding to protect capital investment; and, deliver a sustainable service that meets the needs of our different customers as best we can. We are also engaging the support of local people and communities to jointly operate, maintain and develop their navigations.
Although our priority is delivering statutory activities, we are also investing resources where we can to increase commercial income from existing and new activities and attract more external funding.
We are monitoring the trends in boat registration for evidence of any link between our charges and the number of registered boats, and discussing this with customer representatives. We focus mainly on annual powered boats as visitor numbers, although increasing in general, tend to fluctuate with local events and the weather. Although there is a churn of boats each year (i.e customers leave and customers arrive), the overall registrations are relatively static. Looking at the last ten years, in 2003, we registered 13,771 annual powered boats and in 2013, we registered 14,027.
Enforcement activity is an important part of the overall service we provide, to ensure that everyone who keeps or uses a boat on our waterways pays their fair share, and to protect the income we are due. We will continue to fund enforcement and balance it with our other priorities. Our enforcement teams employ an intelligence-led, risk based approach to ensure they direct their resources where they will have the biggest impact. They carry out targeted campaigns alongside continuous ongoing checks throughout the year, taking action against the owners of unregistered boats. Most pay within the notice period they are given and we prosecute those that don’t.
We are consulting customers on our charging proposal from this week and for the next six weeks to the 30 August. We will then review customer feedback and consider the final recommendation before we make a recommendation to the Board in early October. The consultation timing runs differently to other EA charging regimes as the Thames registration year starts on the 1 January, so we need to finalise our approach in time to send registration renewals in November.
We will be inviting customer representatives to work with us over the autumn/winter to develop a three year charging plan to run from 2016 – 2018. These proposals will then be considered within the Environment Agency and a consultation position recommended to the Board for wider consultation from July 2015.
Please send any feedback on the charges consultation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Environment & Business Manager for Navigation