Thursday, 10 December 2009

Canals: a third way

It was not absolutely clear from DEFRA questions in the House of Commons this morning, but it appears that the British Waterways property portfolio is not to be included in the government's "fire sale" after all. Indeed, DEFRA under-secretary Huw Irranca-Davies accepted the point put by the Conservative Michael Jack that the contribution from property was essential to keep the canals in good order.

Instead, the government, prompted by Alun Michael, is looking at that entity beloved of New Labour, a "third way". The idea is a kind of National Trust for inland waterways. NT, as I understand it, relies on donations from the public as well as entrance fees and sales from its shops. Is the government planning on replacing the taxpayer contribution with charitable donations? Surely there has to be a "dowry" from the government, if only to cover the bedding-in period before other funding reaches the required level. Presumably this is a matter being considered in the current negotiations referred to by Messrs. Michael and Irranca-Davies.

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