Following an item on The Politics Show on Sunday 15th November, speculating that the government could be about to sell off British Waterways' property asset portfolio, BW has played down the story.
BW points out that the government decided earlier in the year, following a Treasury-led review, that British Waterways' 1,400 canalside properties should not be sold. (See earlier story.)
BW chairman, Tony Hales, said: "We were comforted by the Government's report in April. We generate almost half of our annual maintenance budget through property-related activities which have been fundamental to the renaissance of our 200-year old waterways over the last decade. Without it the public cost of caring for the waterways would increase significantly. With the reduction in grant funding in recent years the income we have generated from property and other sources has been crucial to the funding and revival of the 2,200-mile network."
"Earlier this year we proposed setting up a "national trust" for the waterways to safeguard their future and lessen the call on the public purse. The proposal, which has received widespread support, would only be possible with the income we generate from our property and with long-term government funding agreements."
It seems possible that the programme was running with the story from earlier in the year as there is not thought to have been any new decision about BW, although BW acknowledges that the government keeps all assets under review in the light of the current financial situation.
It would be a very short-sighted decision if the government were to sell off BW's property portfolio. Not only would the amount raised not be great in a recession, but it would deprive BW of a vital source of income, meaning that the government would have to pump additional money into BW in the future just to maintain the system at a basic level.
This might be a good time to contact your MP to make sure they are aware of this and to encourage them to use what influence they may have to help ensure that BW's assets are not flogged off in a pointless fire sale.