C&RT boasts of maintenance spend – but it's down £7 million this winter

October 2017 - The Canal & River Trust press release boasted in capital letters 'CHARITY SPENDS £38MILLION TO KEEP YOUR MUCH-LOVED WATERWAYS FLOWING'. Just in case you hadn't got the point it goes on, in part: “This November will see the start of a five-month-long programme of repairs to England and Wales’ waterways, as the charity, Canal & River Trust, spends £38million to restore some of the nation’s best loved sites.” Anyone unaware of the context of C&RT's always decreasing maintenance spend would think the Trust wonderfully successful, but Allan Richards has been investigating C&RT's decreasing winter works budget.

In September, The Floater revealed that C&RT spent less on maintenance in 2016/17 than in its previous financial year (C&RT spent less on maintenance last year). Unfortunately, it would appear that the Trust will decrease spend again in 2017/18, despite loudly proclaiming it's £38m spend.

The programme is,of course, better known to boaters as 'Winter Works' which entails a series of planned stoppages. There is nothing new in this type of press release and it seems aimed more at impressing the general public - who are invariably invited to inspect drained lock chambers - with the amount of money C&RT spends on maintaining its waterways. Indeed, similar press releases, both local and national, are made each year, always quoting the amount spent over the five month winter works period

Yet it is these press releases that reveal a savage cut to spend over the winter period.
In 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16, C&RT's press releases stated a £45m spend. Last winter (2016/17) showed spend had reduced to £43m (although a few press releases still claimed £45m). Screenshots of some of these press releases form part of this article. A google search will reveal many others.

​The fact is that, every year, the Trust have increased licence fees. Very recently it announced its latest increase of three per cent and the National Association of Boat Owners Alison Tuck estimates that the changes C&RT wants in licensing will cost at least another five per cent.

Despite this, C&RT has not increased its spend over the five month winter works period. Instead it has cut spending from £45m to £38m - a decrease of £7m.

Over the last four years -

- Total income has risen by 25%
- Government grant has risen by 28%
- Boater income has risen by 15%

Over the same timeframe C&RT's (mainly property) investments have increased in value by 55% from £507.1m to £787.4m. C&RT can hardly claim poverty as a reason not to maintain its waterways.

Photos: (1st) C&RT press release 2013/14, (2nd) C&RT press release 2014/15, (3rd) C&RT press release 2015/16, (4th) C&RT press release 2016/17.

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