British Waterways is to become a charitable trust, following today's Budget announcement

British Waterways (BW) is one step closer to becoming a third-sector organisation following Alistair Darling’s announcement in today’s Budget that it is to become a ‘mutual’ organisation.

This ‘mutual’ organisation set-up is expected to work similarly to that of a charitable trust and aims to give greater control to local communities in the running of the 200-year-old canal network in England and Wales.

One of the provisos of the restructure is that BW’s property portfolio will be ‘charity-locked’ to help secure long-term funding for the network. It will also allow BW to borrow against its assets, creating more of a business model.

BW, together with other organisations, such as the Inland Waterways Association, has been calling for third-sector status since last year in a bid to safeguard the future of the nation’s waterways.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Tony Hales, BW chairman, said, “This is a significant moment in the history of our inland waterways. A mutualised canal network will give the communities that have grown up around the waterways since the 18th century an increasingly important role in the way they are run in the future. 

“This is a tremendously innovative model for reinvigorating the waterways, it will ensure their continued revival and safeguard against a return to the decline and dereliction which they faced in the last century.”

BW will now work with the Government to help ensure the transition into mutual status is as smooth as possible before the new model undergoes a detailed consultation period with waterway stakeholders.

Although the current proposals only affect the waterways in England and Wales, British Waterways is now in discussion with the Scottish Government to see how Scottish waterways can benefit from any changes.

Photo caption: BW will now be able to borrow against assets such as Camden’s Interchange Building