The Waterways Ombudsman and the Waterways Ombudsman Committee issue Annual Reports for 2022/23.
This is the forth annual report of the current Ombudsman, Sarah Daniel.
She reports: This year I opened five Investigations and closed eight. There were four investigations open at the start of the year, one of which was completed in April, one in May and two
in June 2022. One complaint remained open at the end of April 2023 which was closed in May 2023. Although the numbers do fluctuate, this is lowest number of opened
investigations in a year. I think this may be maybe due to the number of complaints referred back to the Trust, which they took ownership of and resolved to the complainant’s satisfaction.
For immediate release
Date: 11 July 2023
Fund Britain’s Waterways warns against the Government’s latest Canal & River Trust funding offer
After months of waiting for DEFRA to announce its decision on future grant funding for the Canal & River Trust (CRT), and less than a fortnight after the launch of Fund Britain’s Waterways (FBW), the Secretary of State has now confirmed that the Government plans at least to continue providing grant funding to CRT beyond March 2027 when the current grant comes to an end. Whilst this is welcomed, FBW members including the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) are deeply concerned that the Secretary of State has only gone as far to offer “over £400m” for the ten-year period from April 2027 which marks a further dramatic cut1. According to CRT it will equate to at least a 40% reduction of funding in real terms compared to recent levels2. The current funding, which has been fixed at £52.6m per annum since 2021, is already failing to keep up with inflation and the physical toll that more frequent severe weather is having on the waterways’ infrastructure.
DEFRA’s offer is simply not enough to avert the decline of CRT’s network, particularly given the charity already faces a deficit of £12 -15m. The grant it receives from DEFRA makes up almost a quarter of its income and is critical in helping it lever in other sources of income and fund its essential maintenance programme. As Richard Parry, Chief Executive of CRT, has said3 the proposed funding cuts from 2027/2028 will have a potentially “devastating impact”.
Date: 27 June 2023
Fund Britain’s Waterways calls on Government to stop inland waterways falling into disrepair
Britain’s unique and well-loved network of canals and navigable rivers is deteriorating because of inadequate funding. At a time of unprecedented challenges caused by the climate emergency and high inflation, government is failing to respond. Fund Britain’s Waterways (FBW), a coalition of organisations representing hundreds of thousands of users and supporters of inland waterways, is campaigning for national and local government to act now and protect the public benefit and natural capital of our waterways.
Management of Britain’s 5,000 miles of navigable inland waterways is fragmented. The Canal & River Trust (CRT) has the greatest responsibility covering 2,000 miles. It is already in a difficult financial situation with a fixed government grant of £52.6m per year until 2027. Defra was expected to confirm funding for 2028 onwards in July 2022 but has not yet made an announcement. Other waterways face similar problems: the Environment Agency is operating with £22m per year, one third of its identified requirement, and Scottish Canals has over £70m of maintenance work outstanding.
The consequences of failing to maintain waterway infrastructure were clearly shown by the evacuation of 1,500 local residents in case the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir collapsed in 2019. This event has shown the need for increased spend on CRT reservoirs of up to £25m per year, but it is as if the lessons have not yet been learnt.
The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the value of Britain’s inland waterways as people sought blue and green spaces to help recover. This was acknowledged in Defra’s own Environmental Improvement Plan, providing levelling up, economic, environmental, health and wellbeing benefits for us all.
The combined annual economic and social value of CRT waterways alone has been quantified as £6.1bn, including cost savings of £1.1bn for the NHS from active use of the waterways and towpaths.
Despite this greater understanding of their value, and the deteriorating state of the infrastructure today, the Government appears intent on significantly reducing its funding for the waterways, says Les Etheridge, Chair of the FBW steering group and National Chair of the Inland Waterways Association.
He said: “Government needs to recognise that saying they value the inland waterways is not enough to prevent their decline. Whilst we in FBW understand the financial pressures that everyone faces, the financial cuts are too deep, and adequate public funding needs to be allocated to maintain these national assets. FBW will be taking action starting with a campaign cruise in Birmingham over the weekend of 12-13 August 2023.”
For further information, please contact the IWA Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Niblock.