Boat licence fees to rise by 9 per cent

The Canal & River Trust has announced a rise of nine per cent in boat licence fees from 1 April 2023 for both private boat owners and boating businesses. When combined with the interim increase introduced from 1 October 2022, this will mean an overall year-on-year increase of 13 per cent for those renewing an annual boat licence in the period from 1 April until 30 September 2023.

The trust says it is facing significant increases in a range of its costs, notably the prices of energy, fuel, materials and other construction costs, which are rising by more than the headline consumer price index – which today stands at over 11 per cent – leading to a projected shortfall in the trust’s finances in 2023 and beyond. Additionally, the government grant payment, which goes towards the cost of maintaining the waterways, is frozen this year (and hence declining in real terms) and until 2027, with no certainty of what grant will be made available from 2027.

“We are all facing the highest levels of inflation in over 40 years and, as the trust’s costs soar, we must address the budget shortfall to safeguard navigation and the safe upkeep of the waterways,” says Richard Parry, chief executive at Canal & River Trust. “We recognise that our boating customers – both private boaters and waterway businesses – will also be feeling the effect of inflation across their personal finances, but we hope there is an understanding that this is an essential step to ensure the ongoing maintenance and repair of the historic canals and river navigations in our care.

“We continue to secure as much income as we can through our commercial and charitable activities and focus our resources on those priority works which are required to support navigation, and on controlling our costs where possible. Our network is old and vulnerable, especially to the extreme weather events that are becoming more common, and this winter we will deliver one of our largest programmes of repairs and maintenance to date, with large increases in our expenditure on vital reservoir safety works (which are mandatory under the UK Reservoirs Act) in particular.”

The trust proposes to carry out a consultation in 2023 to gather feedback on how boat licence pricing might look over the next ten years to support the long-term future of the waterway network.

“Boat licences account for around an eighth (12 per cent) of the trust’s annual income and help fund some of the vast amount of work necessary to keep the waterways safe and navigable; as we set out in our annual Boater Report, our core network expenditure is around four times what we raise from boating,” says Parry. “Nevertheless, with our government grant frozen since 2021, and currently undecided after 2027, this income is more critical than ever. We are doing all we can to generate more income from other sources where possible, albeit with the difficult economic environment also affecting investment returns.”

The trust will continue to support boaters who may be struggling to pay their licence fees on a case-by-case basis.

Recently the trust announced that it would be upgrading Dead Dog Bridge in Camden.

Main image courtesy of Canal and River Trust via Facebook.

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