The current Government funding agreement for the Canal & River Trust ends in four year’s time. The current annual grant of £52.6 million a year represents about a quarter of the Trust’s income, the rest coming mainly from user licences, mooring charges, income from land holdings and charitable donations. As the grant is fixed and does not increase with inflation, it is already causing financial problems for the Trust and we are already seeing indications of spending restraints despite increases in volunteers taking on many roles.
On 10th July the Government announced the funding for the next ten year period commencing in 2027. Although they accept that the Canal & River Trust has provided value for money since its takeover from the nationalised British Waterways in 2012 the Government states that the Trust should not need Government support and should seek other forms of funding. They have, therefore, said that the grant will be reduced to £50 million in 2027 and be cut by 5% each year after that. At the end of the period in 2037 the annual grant will have reduced to £31.5 million. In total this means that the Canal & River Trust will lose £320m. This comes as maintenance costs for ageing canal infrastructure – 200-year-old plus locks, aqueducts, reservoirs, embankments – is increasing due to climate change with more periods of drought and extreme storm events. Such a drastic decrease in funds will inevitably result in a decline in the overall condition of our waterway network, and, alarmingly, the possibility of canal closures. It puts at risk invaluable natural habitats, historic infrastructure and cherished public spaces.
The Trust believes that the substantial reduction in support will mean that maintenance will have to be cut back and there are likely to be canal closures. The Northern canals and navigations with their low number of boats and high maintenance costs are most at risk. As it stands we are facing an existential threat to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
Please write to your local MP telling them how much you care about the canals and why they need to be funded properly. Urge the Government to reconsider their decision and protect our waterways for the future.
And how can you do it?
The best way is for you to email or mail your MP with your own thoughts. Personal representations are always best. Alternatively you can go to the Canal & River Trust website and follow the links here: