Boat registration charges proposals from 1 January 2022

Closed 16 Sep 2021

Opened 22 Jun 2021

Overview

We are consulting on a number of things in relation to boat registration:

  • a proposed new charging framework to ensure a consistent charge scheme across all our waterways
  • proposed annual increases in the charges for a 3 year period from 1 January 2022
  • proposed changes to the requirements for registration of business boats

In addition, we would like your views on some future proposals that include:

  • online boat registration
  • boat naming and identification
  • charging on the River Wye
  • introduction of a rolling year to our boat registration charges

 

More Information

For each of our waterways, we currently receive less income from boat registration charges than we spend on the services those charges should pay for. These charges contribute to our overall aim of keeping our waterways open and safe for use by both recreational boaters and those who rely on them for their business.

At the moment, across all our waterways, boat registration charges contribute approximately 52% of the total amount we spend on delivering our navigation service. This level of overall contribution has risen due to increases in charges in recent years.

Our waterways also receive income from other sources, including government grant-in-aid (GiA), funding from commercial activities, and contributions from other beneficiaries. However, for a number of years our funding has not met our investment needs. This has affected our standards of service and the condition of our navigation infrastructure and facilities.

To address this, we have developed a longer-term plan to make our navigation business more financially sustainable. The Navigation business plan describes our ambition and provides the framework for national and area delivery.

The strategic objectives are to deliver:

  • a financially sustainable navigation business where those who benefit contribute towards the benefits they gain
  • a navigation business that are resilient to climate change, reduce CO2 and maximise benefits to society
  • effective and efficient ways of working between staff, customers and partners

The plan sets out the national strategic and the local actions we will take to deliver these ambitions. It also explains how, by working with partners, we will seek to maximise income and outcomes for our waterway environment. It will help us to be as financially resilient as possible now, and into the future.

Securing the right level of funding through our charges is a priority within the plan.  Our key action is to transform boat registration and our management processes to deliver a more transparent service for our boating customers and maximise the recovery of costs.

Our review of charges applies to boat registration charges which contribute to the service those customers benefit from. Through the Navigation business plan, we aim to achieve further improvements in service levels by delivering efficiencies and securing funding from other beneficiaries.  

  

More Information

Table 1 shows how our waterway areas are funded. This is based on projected revenue income for 2020, excluding the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Table 1: Current funding for our waterways (2020)

Funding Thames Anglian Medway Other Totals

Boat registration charges (£k)

£4,847

£2,743

£269

Not applicable

£7,859

Commercial income (£k)

£1,704

£224

£389

 Not applicable

£2,317

Navigation Grant in Aid  (£k)

£68

£262

£439

£831 £1,600

Water Resources charges (£k)

£890

£100

£20

 Not applicable

£1,010

Flood Risk Management Grant in Aid (£k)

£1,350

£520

£85

 Not applicable

£1,955

 

This gives a projected total budget for navigation in 2020 of £14.7 million (m)

More Information

Current income from boat registration charges is £7.86m.

We have used our 2019 customer base to project income from boat charges. This includes income from Gold licences, British Rowing (BR) and British Canoeing (BC). 

For 2020, before the impacts of COVID-19, we anticipated an income of £7.86m.

By 2024 we project an annual income of £8.65m when we apply the proposed charges we set out in this consultation. This income will match the forecast expenditure to deliver our navigation service and allow us to move to a more financially sustainable position.

Over the 3 years this means an additional £2.1m will be available to fund our increased costs and contribute to the delivery of the navigation service. This is summarised in table 2.

Table 2: Summary of navigation charges income 2022 to 2024

  2020 (base year) 2022 2023 2024

Increase in overall charges

Not applicable

6%

4%

0%

Income projected

£7,845k

£8,316

£8,648k

£8.648k

Increase compared to previous year

Not applicable

£471k

£333k

£0k

Increase compared to base year

Not applicable

£471k

£803k

£803k

 

We have reviewed the operational activities that make up the navigation service. We have divided them into 2 categories. Those activities that should be funded from boat charges because those customers benefit directly from them, and those which should be funded by other sources. These are shown in table 3.

Table 3: Breakdown of the navigation service into activities that should be funded by boat charges and those which should be funded from other sources

Navigation service activity In scope (boat registration) Out of scope (Non-boat registration)

Asset management

33%

67%

Boat registration

100%

0%

Channel maintenance

95%

5%

Compliance

100%

0%

Enforcement

0%

100%

External customer communication and engagement

95%

5%

Facilities: Drinking water and refuse

100%

0%

Facilities: Sewage disposal

0%

100%

Navigation specific incident management

100%

0%

Non navigation specific incident management

0%

100%

Internal communications

95%

5%

Commercial activities (annual moorings, estates income, keys, car parks and campsites)

0%

100%

Lock, sluice and weir keeping – assisted passage

100%

0%

Lock, sluice and weir keeping – water level management

33%

67%

Strong stream advice/river conditions

100%

0%

Policy, strategy and business

95%

5%

Safety management of events – statutory duty

100%

0%

Safety management of events – over and above statutory duties

0%

100%

Visitor moorings

100%

0%

Volunteer management

100%

0%

 

The percentages show where we have allocated proportions of the activities between the 2 options.

Boat registration charges income is currently 52% of our overall navigation budget, which is forecast to be approximately £14.9m in 2021. A review of activities concluded that boat charges should be contributing 58%. These proposals mean that the boat charges contribution will increase to approximately 55% by 2024 charge year.

We have considered the wider affordability of increases and the COVID-19 pandemic when assessing the need to increase charges to fund our work over the next 3 years. Our assessment of these impacts is set out in 'Overview of the impact of these proposals on boatng customers'.

We paused the review of our charges last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and held our charges at current levels. Our costs, however, are increasing and will continue to do so over the next 3 years.

Our future, optimum ‘steady state’ requirement for annual revenue funding needs to be approximately £20m. This will give us the level of funding we need to provide a sustainable navigation service. Through our Navigation business plan we are looking at opportunities to raise other income to help get us to this amount. For example, we are looking at how we can use our asset base better to maximise commercial income and at how we can secure more funding from other non-boating beneficiaries.

 

More Information

These proposals are based on our best understanding of the relationship between the cost of the service and the benefits boaters receive. The increases are the minimum necessary to sustain a safe and efficient navigation service whilst we deliver the actions within the Navigation Business Plan.

We will take the opportunity to review our financial position as the business plan actions are implemented over the next 3 years.

The charging framework

We are proposing a new charging framework that provides a fair, consistent and more transparent method of charging across our waterways. This will provide a simple and clear set of charges for the different types of boat using our waterways. In developing the framework, our aim has been to continue to recover the same relative portion of income for each of the main categories of boat. We have developed this framework using feedback from previous consultations. We also reviewed other navigation authorities’ charge schemes. We tested early principles at workshops with customer representatives and they broadly supported them.

The main proposals are for:

  • a standard approach for annual and short period registrations based on size of boat (area) for all powered and unpowered enclosed boats
  • fixed charges for all unpowered open boats and workboats which have less variation in size
  • an additional ‘top up’ charge for business boats (based on the type of boat)
  • common fixed charges across the waterways where it makes sense to do so
  • waterway specific charges to reflect the costs of the local service
  • a consistent approach for concessions and exemptions 
  • a revised pro-rata approach for refunds and part year charges

These are explained in more detail in section entitled Proposals for a consistent framework for charging across our waterways.

More Information

We have not increased charges for 2021 to 2022. We are proposing to set charges for 3 years from January 2022 for the River Thames and April 2022 for Anglian Waterways and the Upper Medway.

We propose to move to the new charges framework as described in Proposals for a consistent framework for charging in year 1. To enable us to better recover our costs we are also proposing an overall increase in charges of 6% in year 1 (2022), with a further 4% in year 2 (2023) and then 0% in year 3 (2024). This equates to a 10.2% increase over the 3 years.

This additional income will contribute towards delivering a sustainable service to boaters based on the benefits they receive. It will cover projected additional costs for staff and external contracts to deliver this service. The increase also covers a contribution to capital financing costs.

We expect our staff costs to increase over this period. The costs are based on a public sector pay freeze in 2021, and pay rises from 2022 onwards. For our external contracts, we expect costs to rise in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the 3 years (based on CPI of around 1.7% per year).

Government require us to recover a contribution to the financing of capital expenditure through our regulatory regimes. Our navigation charges have not previously included this contribution. For the first time our proposals for charges include an annual contribution to financing navigation assets.

More Information

These proposals will affect customers’ charges. The impacts will come firstly from the changes to the revised framework. Then charge levels will increase to recover appropriate costs. But some customers will see overall reductions.

A major part of the proposed framework is the new approach to charging for powered boats. We will no longer have:

  • charge banding by length of boats
  • caps on charges for boats over a certain size
  • significant discounts for engine sizes or types of boat

The proposal means that all powered boat users will pay for the whole size of their boat. Customers who will no longer receive discounts will see the largest increases to their charges.

For our largest customer group (annual private powered boat owners), table 4 shows how the revised framework and charge increase will affect them, through to the end of 2024. It shows the number of boats in each category.

Table 4: Impacts for annual private powered boats of the new charges framework and   proposed increases to 2024

Waterway/boat type Reduced charge Increase less than £50 Increase of £50 to £150 Increase of £150 to £300 Increase of £300 to £600 Increase over £600

Thames/powered

237

4,631

2,488

7

0

0

Medway/powered

242

271

138

23

13

2

Anglian/powered

1,129

501

1,226

842

101

3

Anglian/sailing boats with engines

0

0

9

29

17

1

Anglian/4 horsepower or less

0

6

42

142

19

2

 

Table 4 shows that we anticipate over 7,000 of these boats will see either a reduction, or an increase of less than £50 over the 3 year charging period.

A further 3,900 boats will see increases of less than £150.

This means that 90% of this category of boats will have an increase of less than £150. 

The remaining 10% is largely made up of boats that currently benefit from charge caps, and discounts for types of boat or engine size, and will no longer do so.

Business boats previously had higher charges, largely depending on their size, with some business customers paying more than £1,000 per boat extra (compared to an equivalent private boat).

Our proposed framework recognises that the extra charges needed to cover business activities do not relate to size, but more to the type of business boat. 

So we propose that businesses will pay the same boat charge as private customers, but with an additional fixed business charge.  The result is that the majority of businesses will see a reduction in their charges.

We have continued to apply fixed charges wherever possible. Annual registrations for unpowered open boats will generally see increases of around £4.52 over the 3 year charging period.

Why your views matter

We are consulting our boating customers (and other interested and affected parties) about:

  • proposals for a revised boat registration charging framework
  • a 3 year charging plan for 2022 to 2024

We are also seeking views on potential future changes that may affect these customers.

The proposals relate to the River Thames, Anglian Waterways and Upper Medway. We are the navigation authority for these waterways and set the charges for using or keeping boats on them.

We want to give our customers the opportunity to understand the proposals and the impact they will have. We’d like customers to give us their views before we implement the charges on 1 January 2022.

Responding to the consultation

Please click on the 'online survey' link below to answer the consultation questions. Please note, you can choose to complete the sections of the consultation you wish to respond to as most questions are optional.

Supporting information for the consultation includes the following:

Consultation document - Boat registration charges proposals from 1 January 2022

DRAFT Navigation Boat Charging Scheme 2022

We have identified a few minor corrections to the consultation document and the consultation.  These are shown in consultation corrections version 2

To submit your response by email please send your completed  response form with the subject header of Navigation charge proposals 2022 to 2024 to enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk before 11:59pm 16 September 2021.

We encourage you to contact us through the online portal or by email. However, if you would prefer you can submit your response by post by downloading the  response form  and sending it to:

Environment Agency
Boat registration charges proposals from 1 January 2022

National Customer Contact Centre
PO Box 544
Bow Bridge Close
Bradmarsh Business Park
Templeborough
Rotherham
S60 1BY

To request a hard copy of the consultation document or the response form, please contact us on 03708 506 506 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm). 

What happens next

Thank you for completing our consultation on 'Consultation - proposals for navigation boat registration charges from 1 January 2022’.

We will analyse the responses to help us finalise our

  • boat registration charges framework
  • the final charge scheme for each of our waterways
  • business boat registration requirements
  • future development of navigation

Our response to the consultation will be published within three months of the closing date and will be available on this web page and on GOV.UK.  If you have given us your email address we will email you to let you know when this has been published.

Thank you

National Navigation team, Future Funding

Audiences

  • Recreational and commercial river users
  • Fishing clubs and representative associations
  • Members of the public with an interest in the river, the species and conservation
  • Businesses
  • Charities

Interests

  • Fishing and boating