Gordon’s watery sell-off

You have seen or heard the recent media speculation that the Government intends to include the British Waterways’ property portfolio as a component of the £16bn asset sale. The Government has made no announcements and is steadfastly refusing to be drawn on the subject.

However, the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) has good reason to believe that Government is seriously considering taking British Waterways’ assets and selling them in a Treasury ‘fire sale’ to raise cash – a decision will be taken in the next few days.

Selling off its assets would mean that British Waterways would be £85 million short of the £120 million it needs to run the canals and waterways of this country.

That will mean inevitable decay and disrepair and will undoubtedly lead to closure as the organisation contracts to preserve a core network – this impact may include the locks and tow path on a canal or river near to you. More than half the population of this country lives within five miles of an inland waterway.

IWA has been using this period of silence from Government as a window of opportunity to lobby Ministers. We have been orchestrating a political lobby in both the Commons and latterly the Lords to pressurise Government, and have briefed radio and national TV, using an array of reasons to support the argument that a sale would be in no-one’s interest.

We stand the best chance of preventing this sale if the Government can be persuaded not to do so, during this period of Ministerial silence. Whilst no announcements have been made, it is easier for Government to back away as it involves no public reversal of policy.

However, an e-petition has appeared on the 10 Downing Street website.

This sale will affect all of us, so I am therefore urging you to sign up to this petition, and ask that you encourage everyone that you know, to also sign up.

Waterways are for all

The waterways are a national treasure. A thriving 4,000 mile linear national park; a nature reserve accessible to all that is an amenity and part of the local scenery for property owners who gain a premium for having properties overlooking our canals and rivers. They can be walked and cycled along for leisure by millions – it belongs to everyone – we need all of the UK to know about this and to respond on line.

The future of the waterways could depend on your actions today – Please act in any way that you are able, to give support, and pass this message on.

Jo Gilbertson is the campaigns officer for the Inland Waterways Association. He has worked with various waterways agencies and user groups on waterway policy and funding issues, and is contributing editor to Waterways magazine and IWA Bulletin.

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