Union says BW Charity Plan Spells Disaster

Thursday 14 October 2010

Louise Nousratpour of LifeStyle reports that:

A government decision to turn British Waterways into a charity could threaten the future of the country’s network of canals and its vital work in flood prevention, unions warned today.

Under wider plans to cull nearly 200 quangos, the government decided to move the body which looks after Britain’s 2,200 miles of rivers and canals into the charity sector by 2012, creating a “National Trust for waterways.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said this was a “missed opportunity” to turn British Waterways into Britain’s first truly national park, linking England, Scotland and Wales to create a leisure and nature resource.

The union made the proposals earlier this year.

Mr Prentis also raised fears that the country’s waterways would fall into disrepair as bodies across the third sector were reporting a funding crisis.

“The flood prevention work that British Waterways carry out is too important to leave to chance,” he said.

“The public could also lose the right to use the waterways free of charge as charities are forced to introduce charges to make ends meet.”

Unite national officer for docks and waterways Julia Long warned that vital maintenance work could be left to volunteers if enough money was not found to pay qualified engineers, raising the risk of flooding along the banks of the network.

She demanded government guarantees that “there will not be a wholesale cull of the workforce and that there will be sufficient employed, skilled staff to prevent the potential devastation which would be caused if, for example, just one of the banks gave way.”

via LIFESTYLE- BRITISH ISLES WATERWAYS ABANDONED TO CHARITY.

1 comment to Union says BW Charity Plan Spells Disaster

  • If we are to believe official statements from Defra and BW – and personally, I am inclined to do just that – many of the assumptions made in this article are based more on conjecture than official statements.

    Unite expresses concern that the 'move could threaten the future of the country’s network of canals and its vital work in flood prevention'. This, of course, could be a risk if funding isn't adequate but I don't think we can predict that will be the case until we see the details of the final deal. As far as I am aware, I think it is unlikely that the existing BW Board will accept any deal from government that isn't at least as secure as the current arrangement. When the proposed details are announced there will be a period of public and parliamentary consultation where we all have an opportunity to raise any issues of risk. The fact that the waterways pass through nearly 250 constituencies should make sure that all concerns will be fully aired.

    Julia Long, Unite national officer for docks and waterways warned that vital maintenance work could be left to volunteers but in reality there are no plans to replace any ground staff and if volunteers are used to fill gaps then I am sure they will be fully qualified and supervised.

    I also don't share her concerns of an increased risk of flooding. Why would Government, BW's Board, the Trustees that will replace them or the new Member's Council that will scrutinise operations not be as diligent about such risks? The risk of flooding is foremost in the minds of any body that is involved in the waterways I don't see a charity changing that.

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