Who are the licence dodgers?

November 2017 - How often have you seen boaters with a mooring complaining about continuous cruisers 'not paying their way' and implying that far too many are licence evaders? Now a Freedom of Information request has produced results that will surprise many – as well as questions about C&RT data on licence evasion, as Peter Underwood reports.

It began when Alan Baxter, a continuous cruiser who sits on the National Bargee Travellers Association National Committee representing Leicestershire & Warwickshire, decided to ask who were the real licence evaders.

His Freedom of Information request asked Canal & River Trust to break down those boats found not to be licensed by whether of not they had a home mooring.

Eventually C&RT came back with a breakdown of 828 unlicensed boats:

545 on 'Home Moorings' (65.8%)
232 'Continuous Cruisers' (28%)
31 'unknown' (3.7%)
13 'Other Nav. Authorities' (1.6%)
7 'out of water' (0.8%) (Probably trailboats)

- So a massive two thirds of unlicensed boats are owned by boaters in marinas or on other types of mooring with another five per cent or more visiting from other waterways or simply unidentifiable – something that will lead many CCers to ask who are the real scroungers?

Alan Baxter says: “It appears C&RT enforcers would be better deployed spending their time checking boats in marinas and chasing them for their license fees rather than tramping and traipsing along countless miles of towpath looking for license evaders.

“Time and time again I've read accusations from boaters with home moorings that boats with no home mooring, so called Continuous Cruisers, are not paying their way and are basically responsible for the majority of license evasion.

“It appears home mooring boaters need to inspect their own home moorings a little closer to see where the bulk of the license evasion problem actually lies.

“Hopefully the release of these statistics will help demonstrate that Continuous Cruisers are indeed 'paying-their-way' and shift C&RT's enforcement focus more onto the true source of license evasion - fair-weather boaters in marinas and moorings.”

However, Canal and River Trust consistently claims there are currently 'over 35,000' boats on its system and after the 2017 annual boat count it pout licence evasion at 3.7 per cent, boasting that it had been below five per cent for several years.

Now 3.7 per cent of 35,000 boats works out at 1,295 licence evaders whilst Alan Baxter's FoI request led to C&RT claiming it had figures for just 828 boats. Where have the other 467 licence evaders gone?

Were some missed by the people responding to the FoI request or did they pick a different period from those compiling the annual boat survey? Is the real figure of evasion 3.7 per cent or less than 2.5 per cent?

Will C&RT ever learn to count?

You can find Alan's FoI request and C&RT's response here: FOI request and response.

Photos: (1st) Moorers on a BWML marina, (2nd) , (3rd) some stats from CRT showing boats on home moorings as the biggest licence dodgers.

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