Operating a statutory body in a commercial environment
A Port of London Authority case study

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Page 3: Funding operations

Port Of London Authority 4 Image 7The financing of a business organisation is not a precise science where income and expenditure can always be matched. Financing the requirements of a business needs careful planning and it is important that an organisation has a reliable cash flow. A company will raise money from shareholders who put funds into a company in return for shares.

The PLA, however, is a public trust - it does not receive funding from the Government and cannot raise money from shareholders. All of its operations must therefore be financed from the money it can raise from river users. The cost of the PLA’s statutory responsibilities is currently more than £28m a year alone. Funding comes from:

a) The commercial river
The bulk of the UK’s largest sea port is situated between the sea and the Thames Barrier, although there are working wharves as far upstream as Wandsworth. The PLA collects revenues from conservancy charges on ships and cargo (i.e. a fee used for the upkeep of the river - similar to road tax which is paid to maintain the state of   the roads) and on providing pilots to sea-going commercial shipping.

b) The visual river
This stretches from the Thames Barrier to Putney. This is the part of the Thames that governs people’s views of the river. They can see it from their homes, the bus, the office or the House of Commons. There is some commercial traffic on these stretches of the river. The PLA gets money from the numerous passenger boats that operate in the area and use its piers. It caters for some 3 million visitors a year. The PLA also charges for commercial filming and any advertising on barges.

c) The tranquil river
This stretches from Putney to Teddington. In these upper reaches, the boats are mostly for recreational and leisure purposes. Revenue comes mainly from river works licences which cover, for example, houseboat moorings and boat club launch slipways.

The PLA has an enormous number of stakeholders. It recognises the importance of meeting their needs, regarding them as members of a community and trying to ensure that everyone is satisfied. The lifeblood of the port is, however, commercial shipping which provides the funding which sustains everything.

Port of London Authority | Operating a statutory body in a commercial environment