Higher costs for wide boats but no CCer penalty - yet

March 2018 - After claiming it wanted to simplify the licensing system the Canal & River Trust has now announced it is about to make it more complicated and expensive for some. It also seems to have quietly abandoned it's earlier claims that changes would be revenue neutral, as Peter Underwood reports.

It now seems the purpose of the consultation was 'to ensure the financial contribution made by boaters towards the cost of looking after the waterways is spread fairly across the boating community' according to C&RT.

It intends to achieve that by an additional charge, of up to 20 per cent, on wider boats, to be phased in over the five years, with three pricing bands for boat width, in addition to the existing bands for boat length, which remain unchanged.

It is also slashing the prompt payment discount and making dark threats about 'undertaking further work to develop a fair means of reflecting the benefits experienced by boaters without home moorings who remain in the most popular places like London'.

Despite that C&RT has backed off any attempt to charge boats without a home mooring more than those with – but not before splitting the boater community down the middle. ​

Interestingly, C&RT's proposals for how to take mooring status into consideration with regard to licensing – re-introduced into the consultation after they were rejected utterly in the first two stages and after the Trust swapped to different consultants – didn't simply represent a proportional split between CCers and moorers, which would have meant Ccers outnumbered nine to one.

Many boats with a mooring didn't want to see a distinction with just 53 per cent favouring the Inland Waterways Association's desire to penalise CCers and 40 per cent declaring it was unfair.

Boaters who currently receive a prompt payment discount will see that slashed from 10 per cent to five per cent and to a tiny 2.5 percent for those who can't access a computer to make payments electronically.

Jon Horsfall, interim head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, said: “Ultimately, we’ve aimed to make sure the financial contribution made by boaters is spread as fairly as possible across the boating community.

“We are going to phase the full scope of the changes over a five-year period so that there is no sudden impact on any group of boaters.

“Also, to offset the reduction in the prompt payment discount, the Trust is intending to freeze underlying licence fees for 2019, which will be confirmed later in the year when prevailing price inflation can be taken into account.”

A summary of the changes as C&RT sees them:

- Changes will be phased over five years, with no changes before April 2019.
- Current length bands remain the same, and three width bands will be introduced: Band 1 being 2.16m (7ft 1”) and below; Band 2 being over 2.16 to 3.24m (7ft 1” to 10ft 7¾”); Band 3 being over 3.24m width (10ft 7¾”). The two wider bands will attract surcharges rising to 10% and 20% respectively, phased in over four years from April 2020.
- The prompt payment discount will be reduced to 5% in April 2019. From April 2020 the structure of the discount will be changed so that a 2.5% discount will be offered for prompt payment in full, and a 2.5% discount for those using automated payment methods (including monthly direct debits).
- All other current discounts remain unchanged, with a planned review of the criteria for the electric boat discount.
- One-day licences will be withdrawn while all other short-term licences will be retained.
- No link between mooring status and licence fees, but a further review is planned to establish how the significant growth in some popular locations can be addressed.

More information, and the consultation reports, can be found here:
Consultation documents

Photos: (1st) The C&RT decision document, (2nd) Interim Head of Boating Jon Horsfall.

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