31st May 2011 – The Cost of Using the River

Following on from the previous post about the ‘bulk discount’ on registration charges arranged by British Rowing, we wonder why any discounts should be available to any specific types of user.

We all want to use the river and the EA, at least for the time being, is charged with the stewardship of the waterway. This includes raising income within the legal framework it operates in which largely constrains it to charging for navigation related activity plus a few other areas such as water extraction. I do not pretend to know what these all are or what the detailed constraints are but it does appear that income opportunity is pretty limited.
Over and above this income the EA is entirely dependent on government and departmental grants and this year I understand the capital grant has been reduced by something like 60%. Fortunately, the EA has carried out a pretty extensive capital improvement programme over the last few years so a severe slow down in capital projects can probably be tolerated for a while, at least.

This governments mantra appears to favour an approach that ‘those who use the services should pay for the services’
The EA do have a standard charging regime for the registration of powered and unpowered vessels and accommodations which seems to recognise some level of equitability in relation to degree and type of use.
Having established the charging regime, we believe it should be incumbent on the EA to exercise that charging regime, without fear or favour, to ensure that the maximum possible income is raised for the purpose of managing the river for the benefit of all users.
We see no reason why ANY sector should enjoy a discount on these charges.

The real problem we face is that everything has now come down to massaging the status quo to try and maintain some semblance of an ‘acceptable’ level of service within the existing financial constraints.

In practice this means “where can we get a little bit more money ?” and “how can we try and prevent even more cuts in government aid ?” – and the net result will continue to be that we pay a bit more every year for which we receive a bit less.
What chance a ground up review of the way the river is financed recognising what the users actually want and value, followed by a radical approach to seeing how the resulting financial requirement might be achieved?

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