Money, Money, Money

Editor John Sadler on funding

For anyone who read last month’s editorial it seems I might have put too much trust in the veracity of information published. A letter by Iain Street correcting some of the misconceptions is published in the letters section. It’s no surprise as I’m writing, accompanied by the gentle patter of rain, that the records for temperature and rainfall have been re-written this winter. Science and statistics confirm that this is a pattern which it’s likely will be repeated and worsen as climate change continues.
This will affect CRT and the amount of funding it needs to keep canals open. Our politicians are giving flood issues more attention as is to be expected in an election year. Beyond the election we need to get some sensible plans in place that pull together local government, the navigation authorities and central government, to provide infrastructure guidance and funding.
The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has stated that the Real Household Disposable Income (RHDI) fell by 4.3% in 2022-3 followed by a further drop of 2.8 % in 2023-4. We
are expected to replace our heating systems and engines with more expensive green alternatives, which cost more to run, and pay more for our licence and moorings when RHDI has suffered the
biggest drop since records began in 1956-7. Those people unfortunate enough to have a house as well as a boat have double the expense and above inflation increases in council tax to fund. The net effect is most likely to be an increase in the number of boat dwellers (ie those not continuous cruising) and the very well off weekend cruisers. Middle income boating families will become more likely to hire in season and not own a boat at all.
The response to Covid can be highlighted as a significant reason for the decline in available funding; £37 billion spent on two years of track and trace, £13.1 bn procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), self-employed income support £122 bn and furlough schemes £70 bn. This month, the OBR estimated that the total cost of “pandemic-related support measures” would total £311bn. That, at least, is a significant decline on its estimate a year ago of £346 bn. The fiscal year 2020-21 was the first one in which government spending in the UK surpassed a trillion pounds, reaching £1096 bn.
Whilst the Government bean counters may not realise what we’ve got till it’s gone, it does go some way to explain why there is a lack of funding for the canal network.
However it does make it even more important to spend the limited funding wisely. The only way we can witness suitable expenditure is to have more transparency and understanding. We shouldn’t have to raise Freedom of Information questions for key statistics, it wastes time, when a disclosure could have avoided any cries of obfuscation and mistrust.
Spring is on its way, hopefully the rain will stop and the summer will make us all feel happier.