Developing initiatives to improve financial stability
A British Waterways case study

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Page 2: Mission and objectives

British Waterways, like all business organisations, whether in the public or private sector, serves the needs of various groups of people known as stakeholders. A mission statement shows stakeholders what an organisation is trying to achieve. British Waterways’ mission statement:

‘Our business is to manage the inland waterway system efficiently for the increasing benefit of the United Kingdom. We aim to provide a safe and high quality environment for our customers, staff and local communities. We take a commercial approach and strive for excellence in every aspect of our work. The heritage and environment of our waterways will be conserved, improved and made to work well for future generations.’

British Waterways aims to maximise net income so that it can re-invest that money in protecting, conserving and enhancing the waterway infrastructure. Objectives are more precise statements that follow on from the mission statement. British Waterways’ objectives are to:

  • continue the successful growth of waterways for leisure use
  • improve the waterways’ environmental and heritage value
  • create an adequate and secure financial base
  • promote profitable use of the waterways and maximise third party investment from private, public and voluntary sectors
  • eliminate the backlog of maintenance
  • increase productivity.

Funding the waterways

British Waterways 4 Image 3The decline in the fortunes of the canal system was a steady process. Over the years, the waterways were used less and less for freight transport. By the early 1960s, it had become increasingly difficult to meet rising costs of operation through increased charges to customers. Maintenance work to the waterways was also urgently needed across the country. The Transport Act 1962 made the British Waterways Board responsible for maintaining 2,000 miles of Britain’s 200 year old canal and river transport system. Grant aid was awarded by the Government to support this process.

The grant from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) recognises the value of the waterways to the nation. As everyone who pays taxes helps to maintain canals, rivers and their towing paths, British Waterways wants to maximise their use - whether for pleasure, business or carrying goods.

In 1998 British Waterways faced renewed funding problems. Traditionally British Waterways has depended on the Government as the cornerstone of its finances, but the situation is changing. The extract from the 1997/8 Annual Report and Accounts shows that the grant from the Department of Environment has remained static, and in real terms has fallen, while, in direct contrast, income generated by British Waterways is rising. (See table below).

British Waterways 4 Diagram 1i.e. Although the grant from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has remained around £51 million, income from other activities has increased from £34.5 million to more than £50 million, an increase of more than £15 million (i.e. 31% increase).

British Waterways | Developing initiatives to improve financial stability