British Waterways floats charitable trust proposal

Organisation announces plans to move away from state control

British Waterways could become a charitable trust, under plans announced yesterday.

The organisation, which manages Britain's network of canals and rivers and is completely funded by the Government, said it wants to move away from state control and towards community ownership and greater third sector involvement.

Under the proposals, which form part of British Waterways' new 10-year strategy, the organisation would be funded partly by government contracts and partly by donations.

It received a total of just under £68m funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Scottish Government in 2007/08.

A spokesman said the organisation has an annual funding shortfall of £30m, which it hopes to overcome by operating with a model similar to that of the National Trust.

"At the moment we are seen as a government quango, so there is less willingness to volunteer with us than there is with the National Trust," he said.

The Government had given "outline approval" to the proposal, he said.

Tony Hales, chair of British Waterways, said: "We need a new model that provides greater certainty and flexibility over funding and gives communities a greater role in the running of their local canal or river.

"We strongly believe that a voluntary sector model is the logical next step. It would allow the passion among the voluntary sector to make a much greater contribution to the management and financing of the nation's historic waterways."

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