We are extremely disappointed with the proposed increase in licence fees announced recently by the Canal & River Trust (CRT).
This is already causing upset among the Continuous Cruisers (CCers), who feel that they are being unfairly targeted by the extra charges being levied. CCers are, as shown by the recently published CRT census, very much a minority group among boaters and therefore, surely, cannot represent a significant enough income source for CRT to warrant the increased levies. As we know, this is at a time when the Trust really needs increased ‘boater satisfaction’ levels. This announcement is certainly NOT going to achieve that upturn!
Many CCers, including disabled boaters, have chosen/been forced to adopt the Continuous Cruiser lifestyle simply because of their financial situations. This increase is only going to serve to rub salt into those wounds of poverty. It will surely lead to ever more licence evasion and, therefore, greater costs to the Trust in striving to recover those fees. It will also lead to more boaters having to abandon their boats because they simply cannot afford the extra fees. This will, inevitably, leave the Trust open to bad press about driving people into homelessness etc.
There is also unhappiness among the Roving Canal Traders community, because again, by their nature of the lifestyle, very many are CCers.
Many among these groups strongly refute the argument that CCers use the facilities more than others. Indeed, as a general trend, those that only cruise for limited spells will likely clock up far more miles and, therefore use far more locks, taps, Elsan points etc than will most who are moving around the system at the more sedate pace. Many will only move once a fortnight (to comply with licence terms) and only a relatively short distance. CCers are not hammering around the system trying to cover as much distance as possible within a couple of weeks. Rising numbers of CCers are swapping to composting toilet systems and are, therefore, not using the Elsan/pump-out facilities, and are all adept at being frugal with on-board water supplies too, and so won’t use the water taps as much as the short-time boaters.
In contrast, there are many boaters with a private home mooring who do regularly use the water, toilet, Elsan and rubbish facilities on a very regular basis because they are not provided on-site for them.
The Accessible Waterways Association feel that further discussion is needed on behalf of these groups, and a reconsideration should be made of the decision to ‘target’ the minority group of boaters who are CCers – whether by choice or by necessity. It seems a very unfair way of attempting to raise relatively insignificant extra sums. Surely it would be much fairer to raise the fees for everyone equally.
Although CRT have not announced what the fee rises will be, we can make some estimates based on CRT’s quoted boat numbers:
For them to raise say £10m, shared fairly across all boaters, it would average out at a mere £307.98 per boat. Place the entire burden on boats without a home mooring, this rises to a whopping £1,370.61! *
If split by increasing the licence fee to raise £5m, then this would raise it by an average of £153.99. If the other £5m was then raised by “surcharging” Continuous Cruisers, then their licence cost would increase by a total of £839.30 (including the licence fee increase). *
This is neither fair nor equitable, especially as we know that many in this minority group of boaters are classed as disabled or vulnerable and least able to afford a massive hike in their licence. As we would expect this increase to be levied as a percentage increase based on boat size, for some this would therefore be considerably more.
CRT have also not explained how this will affect boaters without a home mooring who take a winter mooring.
CRT are also targeting widebeam owners with an addition surcharge too. They base this on the EA model, where boat licences are charged by area. We think this is incredibly unfair. Wide boats on EA waters can navigate the same amount of their waterways as narrowboats. On CRT waters, they are limited to less than half the system, unless they pay extra for a low loader to move from one part to another. Even then, much of the system is not available to them. Note also that any widebeam boat owner who Continuously Cruises will appear to be hit twice under the current plans!
Boat licences and mooring status are two completely different things and must not be confused. A licence entitles any boat to cruise CRT waters at any time for as much or as little as they wish. This is much the same as road vehicle tax. You pay the same, regardless of whether you drive thousands of miles a week, or your car stays in your garage apart from a short trip to the shops once a week. If a boater chooses to have a home mooring, this then gives them benefits which those without home moorings do not enjoy. Things like having a postal address, security, somewhere they can leave their boat for longer than the maximum two weeks otherwise allowed. (Some of these benefits may not apply to those who choose a towpath mooring).
Would the Trust discount boaters who temporarily cruise other waterways (say the Thames for a month)? Would they offer a discount to boaters who live aboard their boat alone, as they would clearly use facilities less?
We sincerely hope that CRT will listen to our concerns and come to the right conclusion.
* Based on CRT’s quoted figures of a total of 32,470 boats licenced on CRT waters, of which 7,296 are without a home mooring. Our calculations do not take into account extra money which may be levied on widebeam boats and are for illustrative purposes only.
Click here to see the consultation document upon which this proposal is based. Contact the Canal & River Trust if you require an accessible version.