BW’s Boating Projects report for May 2011 shows that BW is unsure whether people will pay overstaying charges. When Head of Boating Sally Ash reported on the progress of BW’s trial of “Extended stay charging” on the visitor moorings at Thrupp, she wrote: “Pertinent questions: WILL people pay? Are they more likely to pay if we offer pay-by-mobile”. This uncertainty demonstrates that the entire system of overstaying charges is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. BW know that they do not have the legal power to impose overstaying charges, regardless of whether they are called charges, fees, penalties or fines. This explains why Sally Ash was undecided whether to “wait to test whether invoicing route is effective”. The reports were obtained by a Freedom of Information request.
Regardless of what these charges are called, they amount to fines, and BW do not have the power to fine people for overstaying. Every time a boater has challenged an overstaying “charge”, BW have backed down. In the BW v Davies case, BW withdrew their claim for recovery of an overstaying “charge” against Mr Davies. An overstaying “charge” of £25 per day rising to £50 after 7 days would cost around £18,000 for a year. This is a punitive amount, intended as a deterrent, and is therefore a fine, intended to impose a financial punishment. An annual fee for an online unserviced mooring is around £1,000 to £2,000; a genuine, pro-rata charge for providing the service of mooring for longer than the time limit would be £2.25 to £5.50 per day.
BW’s trial of “extended stay charging” was due to begin at Thrupp this spring, with volunteers carrying out daily boat sightings and logging them using a smartphone app. The Cobalt pay by mobile system BW was considering would cost £15,000 and another of Ms Ash’s questions was whether there was a risk that the investment would not produce a fast enough return. We understand that the trial will begin without the pay by mobile option, and that the volunteers are members of Thrupp Canal Cruising Club. However, it was being delayed by the workload of BW’s web team according to the Licencing and Enforcement report of March 2012. We believe that the trial has now started. Here is the relevant section of the May 2011 Boating projects report:
“Extended stay charging
Cobalt procurement for pay by mobile development is stalled for 2 reasons: contract issues (resolvable with time), and urgency: Lee & K&A projects unlikely to result in early implementation of proposed daily charging. More likely that we’ll introduce longer term towpath permits as transitional stage for established cc’s facing potential hardship.
SE pilot kicking off at Thrupp, and we have similar signage already in place in London and K&A that allows us to introduce charges via invoicing. So default step 1 is to invoice on basis of regular (volunteer logged) sightings by smartphone app once this is live. Would value views on urgency of progressing Cobalt: setup is £15k – should we go ahead now anyway or wait to test whether invoicing route is effective. Pertinent questions: WILL people pay? Are they more likely to pay if we offer pay-by-mobile (I think answer is yes and we should progress Cobalt, albeit with risk that it takes time to show roi [return on investment] on the £15k. COMMENTS PLEASE.”
You can read and download the full FOI response here