UK. IWA opposition to Environment Agency boat registration fee increase continues Print E-mail
Monday, 09 October 2006
Waterways news:

The Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has expressed its disappointment at the Environment Agency's board decision to increase the cost of boat registration significantly.

At its September meeting, the board of the Environment Agency agreed to implement an 'across the board' increase of 12% per annum to all boat registration fees (effective on 1st January) for each of the next three years - a cumulative rise of nearly 40% on the current rates over the three-year period.

Neil Edwards, IWA chief executive, commented, "IWA recognises that the increase is lower than the rise of 14% per annum originally recommended by its senior officers, which IWA and others had been contesting. Nevertheless, the increase is still far too high. Whilst 12% is less, it is still an excessively large increase in any year, let alone for three consecutive years."

Neil Edwards added, "IWA is aware that the Agency intends to keep the price increase proposals under review and that efforts are to be made to introduce easier ways for boaters to pay the Agency's fees. IWA welcomes these moves, and will continue to lobby the Agency to reconsider the fee increases. IWA is also strongly committed to persuade government of the folly of its funding reductions for both the Agency and British Waterways, especially given the multiple economic benefits of a vibrant inland waterways economy. The combination of proposed Agency fee increases and government funding cuts threatens much of the excellent regeneration work and joint initiatives with the voluntary sector achieved in recent years."

Roger Squires, chairman of IWA's Navigation Committee, said, "The incentive to accept such a large increase was that it was to be matched by funding from central government for capital repairs over the next few years. Waterway user groups had, however, been sceptical of this as proceeds of substantial increases levied on the Thames about 15 years ago for lock enlargement were not applied for their intended purposes owing to budget cuts at the time. IWA is therefore concerned that the same could now happen again following the recent funding cuts within the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs."

Roger Squires added, "The Agency said that it was under pressure from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to obtain a 'fair and reasonable contribution' from waterway users. However, the Department also stated that the precise amount is the Agency's decision, and IWA still maintains that such large increases in charges for boaters are not 'fair and reasonable'. Continued public investment in inland waterways is justified. Millions of visits are made to the inland waterways every year, of which only a small percentage (mostly boat owners and hirers) make a direct or indirect contribution. Waterways offer economic, leisure, recreation and health benefits for the nation. Living and working in an attractive waterside environment is highly desirable. Navigation is vital for a waterway to reach its full potential in providing economic benefit to the community."

Roger Squires concluded, "IWA warns that, although slightly lower than originally proposed, the compounded effects of these increases are still likely to lead to boaters leaving the Thames, and loss of hire craft, with poorer people excluded from boating in this area. There is likely to be a consequential loss of income for the Agency and waterside businesses, as well as an adverse effect on tourism, the local economy and jobs."
Last Updated ( Monday, 09 October 2006 )
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