This story has been taken from www.narrowboatoworld.com
and should be read by everyone interested in the future of British waterways.
|Monday, 10 August 2009 14:24|
A stunned silence from user groups has greeted British Waterways 2008/9 Annual Report and Accounts with the realisation that reserves are being used to prop up its failing property businesses, writes Allan Richards.
Last year British Waterways lost £33.3 million on its joint ventures (companies in which British Waterways owns a share) to add to its more modest losses of £2.4m the previous year.
The big question
Of course the big question is 'If British Waterways can find over £30m to prop up its commercial activities when it is making a loss, why hasn't it been able to find £30m in all the years it has been in profit to plug the funding gap?' British Waterways needs to spend about £125m each year to maintain steady state—to stop the backlog of maintenance work growing. It has claimed, year on year, that it only has sufficient funds to invest £95m in maintenance, calling the shortfall of £30m the 'funding gap'.
The answer to the big question is that government, taxpayers, boaters and user groups have been subjected to a massive con. Information released under the Freedom of Information act clearly shows that British Waterways has invested profits approaching a quarter of billion pounds in recent years in its business interests—mainly property and joint ventures—to the detriment of waterway maintenance. British Waterways has a statutory duty to maintain our canal system, but has been gambling with a quarter of the money needed for that maintenance. Sadly, it will probably continue to do so in an effort to avoid having to admit its failure.