Plans to ‘mutualise’ British Waterways put on hold

One of the exciting possibilities being discussed by Labour in the later stages of the previous government was the potential to mutualise British Waterways and turn it into a ‘national trust’ for canals. Ministers said that the guardian of Britain’s canals and waterways — and the architectural and historic heritage that goes along with them — would have a natural home in the third sector.

Natural environment minister Richard Benyon has just announced that any decision on this must be deferred until after the Comprehensive Spending Review in October. Some MPs believe that plans to make BW the 13th biggest charity in the country are being shelved while the Treasury looks at the advantages of flogging off its assets…

Given the Con-Dems’ much vaunted commitment to the creation of mutuals, charities and social enterprises — commitments which still feature in the Cabinet Office’s current structural reform plans — it seems that British Waterways could be the canary down the mine, offering us all an indication of just how ‘alive’ these plans to support the mutual sector really are.

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