British Waterways will move headquarters to Milton Keynes

Transfer from Watford will save £1m for the organisation, which is due to become a charity next year

A bridge in Braunston
A bridge in Braunston

British Waterways, which is due to become a charity in England and Wales next year, is moving its headquarters from Watford to Milton Keynes in a bid to reduce its annual running costs by £1m.

It also plans to close a regional office in Paddington, west London, with some staff being moved to other British Waterways sites in the capital. About 80 staff will be affected by the changes.

British Waterways already has a site in Milton Keynes that employs 40 workers, but a separate location is being sought in the Buckinghamshire town for the new headquarters.

A spokesman said there would be no enforced job losses because of the moves. "The simple truth is that it's cheaper to rent office space in Milton Keynes than it is in Watford," he said.

British Waterways' annual report, published this week, says the moves would save about £1m a year.

The organisation, which lost its non-departmental public body status in February, was hit by a 16 per cent cut in government grants, from £70.2m in 2009/10 to £58.9m in 2010/11.

It has already closed its defined-benefit pension scheme to new employees, imposed freezes on recruitment and pay for 2011/12 and announced 60 redundancies earlier this year.

The body, which maintains 2,200 miles of canals and rivers throughout Great Britain, will become a charity in 2012, when it will also merge with the Waterways Trust, which aims to increase public use of inland waterways.

A spokeswoman for the public service trade union Unison said a national officer was holding talks with British Waterways over the relocation of staff to Milton Keynes.

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