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The charity making life better by water

National consultations

From time to time we have to make major decisions about how we look after our canals and rivers.

Although we are not bound by them, whenever we do publish formal national consultations we will often try to follow the Government's Consultation Principles.

Sometimes we want your feedback on a more local and informal level. You can check if there are any consultations happening in your area by visiting our regional pages.

Boat licence review

Following a consultation with boaters we are introducing changes to boat licence pricing from April 2024. Alongside growth in income from other commercial and fundraising activity, the changes will help support the long-term future of the 2,000 miles of waterways that we manage across England & Wales. 

Boat licence fees will need to rise above the baseline inflation rate for each of the next five years. In addition, we are introducing a surcharge for boats that continuously cruise and increasing the surcharges for wide beam boats to reflect the greater utility they receive.

The increases for all boat licence holders, and the new surcharges, will take effect from April 2024. Details will be announced in November using the latest inflation forecasts.

Table: Annual increase for boats without a home mooring and for wide beam boats between 1 April 2024 and 1 April 2028:

Licence Fees for 2024 to 2028

Separately from the main options, we also considered whether the various licence discounts currently offered are sustainable. From April 2024, there will be a reduction in the discounts for prompt payment and for paying online as this has become the standard method used by the vast majority of boaters. The electric boat, historic boat and charity boat discounts will be retained.

  • Read the video transcript

    Our canals are facing some daunting challenges, and if we don’t act now the future could look bleak. The recent government decision to half public for the canals in real terms over the next 14 years risks turning the clock back on one of the nation’s greatest regeneration success stories in which boaters have played such a central part. To help meet the costs of keeping our 250-year-old canal network safe and available, we must secure more funds from all available sources.

    Boaters won’t be asked to carry the burden alone. We’re redoubling our efforts to raise essential funds from across all our activities, from all our users and supporters and commercial partnerships, from fundraising so we can deliver the investment the network needs, but this must also include boat licence fees. And next year, all boat licence fees will be rising by more than inflation.

    Earlier this year, we asked all boat licence holders for their opinions on the most equitable and effective way to apply these increases. We recognise that these changes will not be popular with everyone, but the income we receive from boat licences, which makes up 11% of our annual income, is more critical than ever.

    Boat users have changed over the years, with rising numbers of people choosing to continuously cruise or to choose wider boats. Most boaters without home moorings will spend more time on the waterway network typically, and make more use of facilities than those with a home mooring. Wider boats take up more space on the water than their narrow beam counterparts. We believe that reflecting the utility boaters get from their use of the waterways network and the cost of supporting the different types of boat usage is the fairest way to decide licence pricing, and this was reflected in the overall consultation response. This means that, from April 2024, wider boats and boats that continuously cruise will each see a surcharge applied to their licences. We’ve also considered whether the various licence discounts currently offered are sustainable, and we’ve decided to reduce the discounts for prompt payment and for paying online, as most boaters now pay this way, and we can no longer justify incentivising a switch to online payments.

    At the Trust, we’re committed to controlling our costs where we can, focusing our resources on those priority works which are required to support safe navigation, as well as continuing to secure as much income as we can from other sources. This includes all our commercial income, including generating the maximum profit we can from our property portfolio and our investments and the revenue received from other funding sources, including local authorities, lotteries, donations, and partner organisations. And we are asking for more support from the public. That’s in the form of direct donations, more support in the form of volunteering, acting as our advocates, asking people to write to their local MPs as part of our #KeepCanalsAlive campaign, seeking to reverse the government’s funding decision to help us keep canals alive. We all have to acknowledge that the waterway’s main value to government and our greatest chance of improving our ongoing grant, as well as winning funding from other sources, is in the benefits they bring to the nation as a whole. It’s not either boating or towpath use by walkers, cyclists. It has to be both.

    The income we receive from boating, including these necessary changes to boat licence fees, is essential. But at 11% of our annual income, it isn’t enough alone to maintain our 2,000-mile network. As we saw in the dark days of the mid-twentieth century, when canals faced insufficient funding, they fell into disrepair and navigation on again be threatened. We are determined to keep the network alive for future generations with the contribution from boaters and increased income from all other possible sources.

    We all want the same things. To secure the funds to keep canals open and to safeguard the future of boating on the inland waterways.

Consultation on a minimum standard for provision of customer service facilities

We have begun a review of the customer service facilities with the aim of agreeing a minimum standard that boaters should expect.

Water point facility

Phase one

The first phase of the CSF consultation has now concluded, and the results were published in spring 2023. This phase consulted on,

  • What facilities should and should not be provided by the Trust
  • What the minimum cruising distance between facilities should be
  • What local factors should be taken into consideration in terms of where higher or lower demand would result in a variation from the minimum customer service facilities standard

Phase two - from 2024 ongoing

The second phase will look at existing location specific facilities against the new minimum standard. We will then consider:

  • Where there are gaps below the minimum cruising distance standard and how these can be filled
  • Where there may be over provision that is excess to customer need
  • Where there are exceptions to the standard (i.e. higher demand or very low demand) and how we address these
  • Facilities that fall outside the minimum standard

Last Edited: 09 May 2024

photo of a location on the canals
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