Broads boaters ‘feel betrayed’, meeting told

In a landmark agreement, the Broads Authority's navigation committee yesterday voted to support the principle of boaters funding a fair share of the Authority's general overheads through their toll money.

But in backing a new system of apportioning costs that has caused uproar among boating organisations, members sent a clear message to next month's budget-setting meeting of the full Broads Authority that the issue was causing serious concern among toll payers and the wider public.

Their resolution called on the Authority to mitigate the impact of the change - which will see an extra �200,000 from the navigation budget spent on overheads in the coming financial year - through an adjustment mechanism that will see national park grant money continuing to support navigation activities such as dredging.

The committee also sent out a warning that it felt that without making further economies the Authority would be unable to balance the budget in future years without increasing still further the amount of toll money used on overheads.

During heated debate, committee member Phil Ollier said while it was not unreasonable to use some toll money for overheads it should not amount to a blank cheque to cover whatever overheads were deemed appropriate.

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He said boaters felt betrayed and strongly believed that the agreed principle that navigation and conservation money should be kept separate was being abandoned.

Committee chairman Martin Broom said while the figures seemed unclear, and it was not easy to see exactly how much toll money would go on overheads in future years, it was apparent that 'in the worst case scenario toll payers would be very aggrieved'.

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He also raised the concern that practical work on the waterways might suffer, and highlighted the fact a lot of work on improving moorings would be needed.

Anthony Trafford said while the Authority was already committed to cutting its staff from 168 to 136 over the next four years, it should look even harder at staffing costs as all organisations across the country were having to do.

Broads Authority chief executive John Packman said a fair apportionment of costs was the only way forward in light of the massive government cuts.

And he said up to now, the system had always favoured toll payers, with navigation work even being supported by �1.4m of national park grant over the past six years.

He said the budget still allowed for �1.3m to be spent on practical waterways maintenance in the coming financial year - slightly more than last year - and the Authority was committed to maintaining a similar level of activity in future years.

Dr Packman highlighted the fact that other inland navigation authorities had been hit much harder and were having to cut back on their practical work by 50pc.

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