With the Election now in full swing, below is the message AWCC National Chairman, David Pearce gave at the recent National AGM. This article is in the latest Newsletter AWARE available from the Newsletter tab at the top of the page.
Why you should read their manifestos ?
I made the comment in my report to the AWCC AGM that I believe that the waterways’ movement is facing a major crossroad, maybe the first really major one since the 50s and 60s.The consultant’?s report, ‘Setting a Course’ put forward the options to BW. The option of becoming a full-blown charity to run the inland waterways has been chosen, so it is now a distinct possibility. If it is sympathetically implemented, it could be of great advantage to the many thousands of people who appreciate the inland waterways. It will allow us, the users to have a positive say in the way the waterways are run, via a Board of Trustees.
Will it become a reality? I have met with the politicians and all three major parties appear to be signed up. In the run up to an election many things are said and promises made. After the big day, reality then strikes home with those that have won. I can well imagine that matters of inland waterways will not be at the top of the political agenda – it never is, but there is every reason why we must try, and try hard, to ratchet it upwards.
The party manifestos are all in draft and will be published as soon the election date is confirmed. My advice to all members is to make sure you read what they say about waterways and then quiz them when they come knocking on your door. If enough people do this, they might just get the message that it is important to a lot of people who may just vote for them.
What are the main political issues? Funding remains the matter of key importance and a change to charity status does not rectify that overnight. However, charity status does create a more liberal tax regime and with a greater emphasis on volunteering, improvements can be expected.
What is essential is that the Government of the day continues to provide their grant, as this is effectively the contribution from the non-boaters who can only pay for the waterways via their tax contributions.
Of equal importance is that the new charity must have a substantial endowment. This has to be the current BW property portfolio. All national user group chairmen have fought hard on this one. You may recall that I got a personal assurance from Gerry Grimstone on the matter a year ago, but a new government with other financial problems may be persuaded by a recalcitrant Treasury to take it away. This would be extremely short sighted.
I am asking you the membership to get out there and lobby:
Read their manifestos,
Talk to them on the door step and in the meeting place,
Send them letters and emails.
Get the assurance that they will, when they get to Westminster:
Support the charity proposal,
Not cut the Grant in Aid,
Give the new charity the property portfolio as an endowment.
You know it makes sense!