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Rumours grow about delay in transfer to Trust status

In the absence of definite news, speculation is growing that the launch of the new Canal & River Trust might be delayed past its original launch date of 1st April. The transition trustees are continuing to negotiate with Defra, particularly over the issue of government funding for the next decade. It is said that trustees are arguing firmly that an annual grant of £39million is insufficient to give the Trust the ‘flying start’ it desperately needs. 

BW and Defra are refusing to comment publicly. However, sources close to negotiations believe that a final agreement is ‘very close’, likely before the end of January. Once agreed, the transfer needs to be approved by Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, but any delay in negotiations will put pressure on the parliamentary timetable. Conceivably this could delay approval for months, although both BW and Defra consider it unlikely. 

Rumours on some websites that ‘selected journalists’ were privately briefed on the delay seem wide of the mark. Indeed, the transition trustees released a public report on the negotiations last month. It pointed out: 

“While the Parliamentary process looks as if it will now take longer than we had previously been advised, putting pressure on an April launch date, all the building blocks needed to establish the new Trust next year are falling into place … it is all taking place much longer than either party would wish.”

However, even if there is no delay in the move to Trust status on 1st April, the public launch could be delayed until mid-June, to ensure it does not clash with the planned Diamond Jubilee festivities over the Whitsun bank holiday or the Olympics the following month. 

WW understands that should there be any delay in Trust status, it will also include the transfer of the Scottish waterways to Scottish government control. 

Saturday 14 January  | Andrew Denny  | 1.38pm, Saturday 14 January 2012

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