27 June 2023

Today IWA and its partners formally announced the formation of the Fund Britain’s Waterways Action Group (FBW) in a press release which can be viewed here. We had intended to launch the group in response to Defra’s announcement of the outcome of the review of government funding for the Canal & River Trust from 2028 onwards. However, despite being due in July 2022, the announcement has been repeatedly delayed. It is now clear that the situation is too urgent for us to wait any longer.

CRT’s government grant is fixed at its current level of £52.6m per annum until 2027. This already puts CRT in a difficult financial situation because of high inflation, the increasing impact of extreme weather resulting from climate change, and the substantial additional funding needed for reservoir maintenance in the wake of the near-collapse of the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir in 2019.

A decision by government to further reduce CRT funding would threaten real cuts in maintenance, potentially leading to decline and even closure of some waterways. It was the likelihood of this outcome that triggered the coming together of the waterways family to form FBW. Although it was CRT’s funding which provided the impetus, we are only too well aware that inadequate funding is by no means confined to CRT and is risking the whole waterway network. FBW will therefore be campaigning for all navigation authorities to receive appropriate funding.

IWA is giving its full support to FBW and is providing the secretariat and administrative functions. Our National Chair Les Etheridge is chairing the steering group, which comprises representatives of the Association of Waterways Cruising Clubs, British Marine, IWA, NABO and the Royal Yachting Association. FBW already represents hundreds of thousands of users and supporters of inland waterways, and membership will be broadened to include any organisation or individual with an interest in using or supporting inland waterways whether canal, river, tidal river or estuary. Plans are being made for high-profile campaign cruises and other activities, starting with a campaign cruise in Birmingham over the weekend of 12th – 13th August 2023.

Our CEO Sarah Niblock said:

Regrettably the government appears not to appreciate the case for maintaining our waterways properly, and it is the job of FBW to make sure that case is clearly heard and acted upon. It is heartening to see the waterways family coming together in their desire to take concerted action.

Our waterways need as many voices as possible to make the case for funding at a level to ensure that all the benefits documented in our Waterways for Today report can continue. Visit the Fund Britain’s Waterways page to see how you can get involved, and please also like, retweet and share our posts on social media.