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Another round of DEFRA cuts?

Over the past few weeks, British Waterways and the IWA have been making encouraging noises about DEFRA's new waterways minister, Jonathan Shaw. After the hapless Barry Gardiner was unceremoniously shuffled off to the back benches, here, they thought, is someone we can work with once again.

Then Saturday's Guardian broke the story of another £300m in cuts to DEFRA's spending, and the truce was over.

WW understands that DEFRA, still reeling from the floods of last summer, is struggling to pay for the outbreaks of bird flu and foot-and-mouth. With no prospect of additional funds from the Treasury, it will be cutting the money it gives to its own agencies - and British Waterways is consistently cited at the top of the list, though thus far this appears to be press speculation rather than any concrete information.

The IWA is once again urging waterway users to write to their MPs, pointing out that BW is already struggling to cope with the flooding and the recent breach on the Mon & Brec (now expected to be closed for up to a year). What is becoming abundantly clear is that the waterways cannot go on like this. Is now the time for BW to extract itself from the dead hand of DEFRA?

Tuesday 20 November  | Richard Fairhurst  | 9.18am, Tuesday 20 November 2007

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