THE BROMSGROVE Liberal Democrats say they are ‘flabbergasted’ their motion calling on the district council leader to write to The Canal and River Trust over funding cuts was blocked by Labour and Conservative councillors.
Coun Dr David Nicholl’s proposal was in relation to planned cuts in Government support from 2027 to the trust.
“The Canal and River Trust is warning that a reduction in grant funding of over £300million in real terms from 2027 will threaten the future of the nation’s historic canals, leading to their decline and to the eventual closure of some parts of the network.”
He added it would halve the value of public funding for canals in real terms, compared with recent years.
And, summing up the motion, he said: “BDC calls on the leader to write to the Secretary of State for the Environment urging them to put in place a fairer funding settlement to help protect Bromsgrove’s many beautiful and historic canals.”
Opposition to the motion
Conservative Coun Simon Nock said the motion did not have sufficient evidence to enable the leader to write a well-informed letter to the Secretary of State.
He claimed the Canal and River Trust had assets of £1billion and made £225million – £52.6million of which – some 23 per cent – came from a Government grant.
He said from 2027 to 2037, when the reduction came in, £400million would still go to the trust, starting at £50million in 2027, decreasing annually to £31.5million in 2037.
He added the trust needed to have a ‘reduced reliance on Government funding’ and claimed, if the trust needed money it should ‘sweat its assets’.
Coun Kit Taylor, another Conservative, said he would not be backing the motion because he felt the Government cash could be better spent elsewhere, for example on the NHS.
Coun Rachael Bailes claimed the Canal and River Trust was a ‘private entity’ and she urged members to write to their MPs, rather than get the district council leader to write.
Her claim was rebuffed by councillors who raised a ‘point of order’ who said the trust was, in fact, a charity registered with the ‘Charity Commission’, rather than a private body.
The motion was lost when the vote took place.
‘Disappointed by response’
Speaking after the motion was defeated, Coun Dr Nicholl said: “It is sad that the Conservatives voted against this motion and Labour abstained when the campaign to Keep Canals Alive has had support from across the political spectrum in other councils such as Bedfordshire.
“Canals are not immune to the effects of climate change and a reduction in funding for the Canal and River Trust could threaten the future of our canals, such as the Tardebigge locks – the longest continuous flight of locks in the UK.”
Fellow Lib Dem, Coun Samuel Evans, who represents Slideslow ward added canals played a wide role, providing benefits to both physical and mental health and a green future with walking and cycling routes.
“The Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose cuts to the Canal and River Trust even if Labour and the Conservatives won’t.”