Funding cuts and job losses could lead to the closure of some of the UK’s waterways, the agency which runs the 2,200-mile network has claimed.
British Waterways blames the cuts on a £7m drop in its funding from the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The cost-cutting follows a £200m overspend at Defra, which the government blames partly on bird flu fears and new farm subsidies.
A merger of regional branches at British Waterways will account for a third of the job losses. About 60 jobs are set to go from the organisation’s central office, with a similar number being cut from its other units. The restructure will save £5m a year, the organisation has estimated.
Robin Evans, chief executive of British Waterways, said: “I accept that this is difficult news, but we cannot be complacent in our management of the waterways network. We must constantly adapt and change to the circumstances around us, remaining committed to our vision of an expanded, vibrant, largely self-sufficient network enjoyed by an ever increasing numbers of visitors”.
Unison, which represents many of the agency’s workers, said: “We will fight these job cuts with every means at our disposal and we have arranged an emergency meeting of stewards to draw up plans.”
The union called on British Waterways to “sit down with us to work through alternative options before making a rushed decision to make workers redundant”.