Support for decision to axe British Waterways

The British Marine Federation (BMF) has responded to yesterday’s government spending review.

As part of its £81bn cuts, the coalition government decided to axe British Waterways and replace it with a new waterways charity.

It also guaranteed investment to small businesses and commited to supporting exports, trade and investment.

The BMF welcomed the small business guarantees and commitments to the export market, but has warned that the government must safeguard the future of waterways for users.

Rob Stevens, chief executive of the BMF, said: ‘The BMF supports the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s decision to turn British Waterways into a new waterways charity in England and Wales.

‘But this must take into account the needs of all who use waterways across the UK, in particular those companies who are wholly dependent on the navigation bodies to maintain the required environment in which their businesses operate.

‘We already have a close and constructive working relationship with British Waterways and we will continue to work together going forward to ensure that the prime objective of this new waterways management organisation is to maintain the existing network of canals and rivers in a navigable condition.’

Mr Stevens also insisted that it should not be left to boaters and anglers to fund the waterways as many others benefit from them without picking up the same costs.

About the new measures for small businesses, Mr Stevens said: ‘The BMF welcomes the government’s commitment to provide £150 million to leverage significant equity investment and guaranteed lending to small businesses.

‘However, this is only a small fraction of what is required to support small businesses and manufacturing across the UK.

‘Growth and increased global market share is critical to the success of the industry and it remains vital that the government continues to encourage high street banks to lend.

‘Over the next few days we will be looking in detail at the measures announced in the spending review to assess what affect they will have on our members, but any measure which helps to provide access to financial support and grow our members’ businesses is very welcome.’

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