Campaigners Secure Port of London Authority Agreement
Chief Executive promises to review licenses on BBC London
Leader of Hounslow Liberal Democrats Cllr Andrew Dakers (Prospective MP for Brentford & Isleworth constituency) yesterday reiterated his concerns regarding license fees for residential boat owners on BBC London radio’s drive time show.
The campaign is also championed by residential boat owner actress Susan Penhaligon and Vince Cable MP. They are arguing that people living in houseboats on the Thames are not getting a fair deal from the Port of London Authority (PLA). In a potential breakthrough the PLA Chief Executive announced on air last night that he would revisit the previous review of charges to residential boat owners. Cllr Dakers welcomed the news and urged the PLA to put on hold all changes to the license fees that are currently in dispute.
Vince Cable MP (Twickenham constituency) told BBC London Radio: “The PLA has been jacking up charges quite substantially in recent years. People have had doubling and tripling of their licence fees. It's ... causing ... a lot of difficulty and it's changing the nature of the population because only people who are really well off now can afford these licence fees.”
“[The PLA] tried to justify big increases on the basis that this is what is happening in the London property market. But, these are not houses, the people who live in them don't have security of tenure, they are depreciating not appreciating assets. It's wrong to treat it in that way.”
A boat-owner told BBC London Radio: “There are now more boat owners on the river than freight, but the 1968 Port of London Authority Act doesn't cover residential boat owners.”
Richard Everitt, PLA Chief Executive explained that an extensive consultation had been conducted but admitted that they had not achieved their objective. He responded to the complaints of boat owners such as Susan Penhaligon by saying:
“I can assure [Susan Penhaligon] I will have look again....I will do that to see if we can get a broad consensus on how we should charge these mooring fees ... they are an important part of our revenue stream. We do a lot in that part of the river both in terms of safety and amenity. I am sensitive to the fact that there are concerns about this and will see if we can make some progress on it.
“There is no question of people being forced out of their homes.”
The PLA explained that there are sections of the upper river for which they have considerable outlays for cleaning up and maintaining the tow path and the river for which there is no corresponding revenue stream.
Cllr Andrew Dakers, Prospective MP for Brentford & Isleworth constituency, said: “Many of my constituents will be delighted with the news tonight from Richard Everitt that there is going to be a review of their previous review. I think that what is essential now is that some of current increases that have been proposed are put on hold until a satisfactory compromise is reached.”
Cllr Dakers agreed that the PLA has difficult decisions to make, but added:
“You need to put this in perspective. The license fee that the PLA is charging comes alongside the income tax and the Council tax that people living on boats are paying just like the rest of us. So there needs to be a bit of a reality check on the part of the PLA. They should not see the house boat people as a source of revenue for funding tow paths and locks. That really has to come from elsewhere.
“It needs to remain a low-cost housing option because if it doesn't then we are going to see people like the pensioner that Susan Penhaligon talked of, or a young disabled woman that is living on a boat here in my ward who is on benefits and is now wondering whether she will have to leave her boat, as well as many key workers.”
March 12, 2010