British Waterways Licence Fee Petition

The purpose of this petition is to challenge British Waterways (BW) recently increased 6 month & 3 month river licence fees to circa 80% of the annual fee & request they return to the pro rata charging basis on the grounds the increases are both excessive, discriminatory & undemocratic because existing licence holders were not consulted despite a BW mission statement to the contrary when they could have been as BW hold existing customer contact details.

A Rivers Only licence case study illustrates that a River Cruiser of 8.23 meters in length paid £175.87 (£158.28 net of prompt payment) for a 6-month licence from 1 April to 30 September 2010. Under the new licence structure that increases to £270.08 (£243.07 net of prompt payment) for the same period representing a staggering 53.7% increase! This level of increase is unprecedented across any UK business & is excessive, unfair and unacceptable & is likely to drive many boaters off the waterways.

The increased licence fees severely discriminate between those boaters who choose to licence for 12 months & those who for various reasons including personal choice and practicality of using a boat for a 12 months, to name but two, choose or need to licence for a shorter period. For instance many boat owners only require a summer licence, use their boats for short periods of time, may take them out of the water over the winter period. Why should there be a difference between 1 x 12 month licence, 2 x 6 month licences & 4 x 3 month licences providing the full fee for the period required is paid? BW Have seemingly made a mistake, which they now wish to correct by heavily penalising those boaters who genuinely want a short-term licence to cover the financial shortfall in revenue from boaters they cannot collect the correct fees from because their systems are out of date & they don't have the resources to enforce licence evasion.

Further more no account appears to have been taken for lengthy stoppages including the Olympics where severe movement restrictions will be imposed on the River Lee next year together with incidents of bad weather where boaters were prevented by nature from leaving frozen moorings.

Further discrimination is evidenced in the Boat Licence Changes 2011 document under the section entitled 3 and 6 month licences where clearly responsible paid up licence holders are subsidising licence evasion as a result of BW’s inability to deal with some boaters buying multiple short term licences to avoid credit checking. The DVLA know if your car is licensed or not & prosecute unlicensed drivers so why don’t BW do the same? You can licence your car for 6 months so why not your boat? 

BW have also behaved in an undemocratic manner towards their customers evidenced by a breach of the commitment quoted on their web site under the page entitled “Listening to You” where they pledge the following,

“We have millions of customers who use our waterways for many different reasons: walking the dog, cycling to work, having a pub lunch, or simply catching a breath of fresh air and watching the boats go by. We also have approximately 35,000 customers who keep a boat on our waterways, as well as many anglers who fish on them.

We work closely with organisations representing all our customer groups to explore and discuss their particular needs and we use a variety of methods to keep people and organisations informed.

These pages are designed to be informative and to continue our commitment to being open, transparent and willing to listen.

We believe that the views of our many stakeholders who use the waterways and the people in local communities through which waterways pass are important. We are committed to listening and responding to these views when they are made to us.

Getting the process of accountability absolutely right will result in the right decisions being made for the benefit of the historic waterways network. In turn this benefits customers, users of the waterways and other stakeholders”.

BW say there was a consultation on this subject although seemingly neither explorative, open or transparent resulting in some 35,000 licensed boat owners being both ill informed & not consulted before the release of the document entitled Boat Licence Changes 2011.

Ever mindful of the DEFRA budget cuts the customer cannot absorb all the financial shortfall so we the undersigned call upon BW to manage their business in a more cost effective manner and return immediately to the pro rata basis of charging for short-term licences. We also call upon BW to address licence evasion in a more pro-active manner rather than adopting a “one size fits all” approach, which not only risks loosing customers but unjustly penalises their existing customer base of short term licence holders.