NBTA and Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign

When, in the wake of DEFRA’s decision to reduce the grant to the Canal & River Trust (CRT), several boaters’ groups and other stakeholders set up the Fund Britain’s Waterways campaign, the NBTA politely declined the invitation to join the campaign.

So, don’t we think that the waterways should be properly funded? Of course we do. Our issue with the campaign is that its main thrust is to maintain and increase funding to CRT. For us that poses two problems.

Firstly, CRT has demonstrated since its formation that it is financially incompetent. In its attempts to raise money from the public it has lost millions more than it raised. It wastes money on corporate identity on the towpaths while the system decays around it, and on hare-brained schemes such as the River Lea’s Water Safety Zones, which have cost it over a quarter of a million pounds and are a total failure.

Secondly, CRT policies seek to marginalise boaters without a home mooring at every turn. Whether it is the heavy handed attempts at enforcement, the changes in mooring rules to push itinerant boaters away from town centres or the monetisation of the towpath, it is boaters without a home mooring who suffer at the hands of CRT time and again. And now CRT wants to charge us more for our boat licences while implicitly blaming us for its financial woes; financial woes it will do anything to deflect the blame for from its true source – itself.

Despite paying lip service to the vitality we bring to the waterways, the fact is that CRT wishes we didn’t exist; and is doing what it can to make that wish come true. So campaign for the government to prop up CRT if you want, Fund Britain’s Waterways, but we are not interested in campaigning for our own demise.