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Scholar Gypsy

Middle Level Licencing arrangements

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2 minutes ago, gazza said:

The houses still stand Simon - Barky dogs reside at both - my old dog used to set them off when we went wandering down the 100' waiting for the tide!

Thank you. I will look more carefully next time I am there ..

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2 hours ago, nbfiresprite said:

The charge for a marina based Houseboat has been set at £118.80, which seems a bit high for 15 minuites work by the office staff.    

Middle Level Act charges amended August 2020 part 2.jpg

nbfiresprite - Can you please advise where this information regarding the £118.80 set fee has been published/made available.  I can't seem to find any reference to it on the MLC website navigation pages.  Thanks.

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It was on the notice board on the main visiters mooring in March. Which I took a photo, I called the Middle Level who confirmed that it was theirs. I looked over the website but could not find it. Heard that Mrs Fox was not happy with the charge to float her houseboat on her own water. Note that from next year Gold License holders will have to buy a Middle Level License as well.

 

95021967_MiddleLevelActchargesamendedAugust2020part1.jpg.59e638eb8d5b920278d22000e421a3c5.jpg 

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Many thanks, nbfiresprite. 

Quite amazing that the (in their words) "fourth largest navigation authority in the country" should be so 'reluctant' to make a full schedule of their charges public by publishing them clearly on their website.

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3 hours ago, Scholar Gypsy said:

Fascinating. Note the two blokes who have just wound the gates open.  Looks there was just a single pair of gates then, ie the guillotine has been added more recently. Is the pair of houses on the left still there? 

I think I recognise myself in one of the photographs - towards the back.  I next returned to Salter's Lode in 2013 and puzzled over my memories until I worked it out.

 

In 1973 there were two pairs of gates but they were closely spaced; I think you can just see the handrail on the second, lower height pair just through the bridge.  I seem to recall they both faced the same way such that with a short enough boat, you could have worked it as a lock, although there were no paddles and the gates were winched open.   But if so, what retained the water when the Ouse was lower? The Old Bedford did not run dry.

 

I remember clearly the Ouse flooding into the Old Bedford River when the gates were opened, so presumably on that occasion at least, it was on the ebb tide.  Perhaps it depended on the timings of the tides.  We were elected to be the first boat out and the current was reasonably challenging to start. 

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18 minutes ago, Tacet said:

I think I recognise myself in one of the photographs - towards the back.  I next returned to Salter's Lode in 2013 and puzzled over my memories until I worked it out.

 

In 1973 there were two pairs of gates but they were closely spaced; I think you can just see the handrail on the second, lower height pair just through the bridge.  I seem to recall they both faced the same way such that with a short enough boat, you could have worked it as a lock, although there were no paddles and the gates were winched open.   But if so, what retained the water when the Ouse was lower? The Old Bedford did not run dry.

 

I remember clearly the Ouse flooding into the Old Bedford River when the gates were opened, so presumably on that occasion at least, it was on the ebb tide.  Perhaps it depended on the timings of the tides.  We were elected to be the first boat out and the current was reasonably challenging to start. 

Ah yes, I can see those now. Replaced now by a guillotine, which I think must act as a sluice to control the rate of flow of water out of the Old Bedford. The outer gates (which as now seal around the top as well as the bottom and sides) stop the sea getting in. 

 

I know I have  a better photo, but can't find it just now.DSC_0527.JPG.51f080a2c1f6d91b99f1edf976d1a580.JPG
 

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1 hour ago, erivers said:

Many thanks, nbfiresprite. 

Quite amazing that the (in their words) "fourth largest navigation authority in the country" should be so 'reluctant' to make a full schedule of their charges public by publishing them clearly on their website.

 

https://middlelevel.gov.uk/navigation/

 

Update on Navigation Licencing on Middle Level Waters

IMPORTANT NOTICE

[Snip]

The Committee agreed that in light of the COVID-19 situation and reflecting on the impact this will have on the boating community, the date when boats will need to be licenced has been set back to 1st September 2020. The licence fee has been reduced from the original fee set and is now equivalent to 50% of a full year Environment Agency (EA) Anglian Waters charge. The EA annual charges can be found here

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anglian-waterways-registration-charges/anglian-boat-registration-charges-1-april-2020-to-31-march-2021

 

and are the figures that should be used on the application form in the box marked ‘licencing charge before adjustment’. 

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4 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

 

https://middlelevel.gov.uk/navigation/

 

Update on Navigation Licencing on Middle Level Waters

IMPORTANT NOTICE

[Snip]

The Committee agreed that in light of the COVID-19 situation and reflecting on the impact this will have on the boating community, the date when boats will need to be licenced has been set back to 1st September 2020. The licence fee has been reduced from the original fee set and is now equivalent to 50% of a full year Environment Agency (EA) Anglian Waters charge. The EA annual charges can be found here

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/anglian-waterways-registration-charges/anglian-boat-registration-charges-1-april-2020-to-31-march-2021

 

and are the figures that should be used on the application form in the box marked ‘licencing charge before adjustment’. 

Thank you. But that still doesn’t answer the question as to why the MLC has to rely on reference to a complicated schedule of charges for a much larger and different waterway in a third party (EA) website instead of publishing a clear schedule of their charges on their own website as part of the licensing information -  as required by the Middle Level Act 2018.  

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2 hours ago, Tacet said:

I think I recognise myself in one of the photographs - towards the back.  I next returned to Salter's Lode in 2013 and puzzled over my memories until I worked it out.

One of my favourite memories of Salters Lode is from when the gates had no balance beams, the locky walked out along the gate carrying a small electric winch in one hand and a 12v car battery in the other. He put them both down on the gate and winched the gate open using a wire cable that was attached to the shore (riding the gate like "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" if you remember that)

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3 hours ago, erivers said:

Thank you. But that still doesn’t answer the question as to why the MLC has to rely on reference to a complicated schedule of charges for a much larger and different waterway in a third party (EA) website instead of publishing a clear schedule of their charges on their own website as part of the licensing information -  as required by the Middle Level Act 2018.  

 

Sloppy administration I'd say.

 

It looks to me like some office minion had to come up with a schedule of charges at short notice, and picked the local EA list as an easy reference point.  Why they didn't simply halve their own previously published schedule is left as an exercise for the reader ... :D

 

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3 hours ago, erivers said:

Thank you. But that still doesn’t answer the question as to why the MLC has to rely on reference to a complicated schedule of charges for a much larger and different waterway in a third party (EA) website instead of publishing a clear schedule of their charges on their own website as part of the licensing information -  as required by the Middle Level Act 2018.  

Cut and paste is quicker, my belief is that the plan is to encourage people to buy a EA licence with a Middle Level add-on instead from next April. 

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11 hours ago, TheBiscuits said:

 

Sloppy administration I'd say.

 

It looks to me like some office minion had to come up with a schedule of charges at short notice, and picked the local EA list as an easy reference point.  Why they didn't simply halve their own previously published schedule is left as an exercise for the reader ... :D

 

More probably someone has learnt a first principle of databases: never store the same data in two places otherwise there always the risk that they get out of sync. If the MLC charges are defined as 50% of something else what they have done is quite correct.

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A few years ago when I was researching the legal basis for a government agency spending its income from official fees, I unearthed a publicly-available official treasury document  (HM Treasury    Managing Public Money) that sets out principles for public bodies charging and spending funds.  The document is a lengthy pdf which cannot be posted here, but here is a link to it on the gov.uk web site 

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/managing-public-money

 

It is rather long, and there are two versions, differing only in that one includes the annexes, while the other does not. 

 

It stresses that a charge should normally be set to cover cost and that detailed anslysis of the costs involved should be made. Charging at more than cost is considered to be taxation that requires treasury approval and / or an explicit statutory authority.

 

I am not clear what the legal status of the MLW is, but on the face of it the treasury instructions would appear to be applicable. 

 

Screen shot extract follows.

 

Screenshot_2020-10-30-22-46-19.png.e8cbab1448e76d20116a3907c3a1995d.png

Edited by Ronaldo47
Typos , clarification

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7 hours ago, Ronaldo47 said:

A few years ago when I was researching the legal basis for a government agency spending its income from official fees, I unearthed a publicly-available official treasury document  (HM Treasury    Managing Public Money) that sets out principles for public bodies charging and spending funds.  The document is a lengthy pdf which cannot be posted here, but here is a link to it on the gov.uk web site 

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/managing-public-money

 

It is rather long, and there are two versions, differing only in that one includes the annexes, while the other does not. 

 

It stresses that a charge should normally be set to cover cost and that detailed anslysis of the costs involved should be made. Charging at more than cost is considered to be taxation that requires treasury approval and / or an explicit statutory authority.

 

I am not clear what the legal status of the MLW is, but on the face of it the treasury instructions would appear to be applicable. 

 

Screen shot extract follows.

 

 

It's always nice to find someone else who has read MPM. I would make a couple of observations:

 

  • The Treasury (I worked there for the first half of my civil service career) has occasional tendencies to write guidance and/or try to set rules that apply to the whole of the public sector.
  • Formally - ie in law - MPM only applies to central government bodies. So for example the Permanent Secretaries of departments are required to follow it, by their appointment letters, as are chief executives of academy schools (which are classified as part of central government). The external auditors can (and in my experience do, very carefully) check compliance against the many and varied rules in MPM.
  • The formal application to the wider public sector is less clear. Much of MPM is of course very sensible stuff - eg the references to the Nolan principles of public life - but in general I would describe it as good practice guidance rather than rules. You need to look at the legislation that sets up the relevant public body.
  • The status of Internal Drainage Boards (MLC is I think the largest of the 120 or so in England) is decidedly murky. Not surprising for bodies that date back to the 13th Century and the Bill of Sewers passed by Henry VIII in 1531. This fairly recent report by the National Audit Office flags up some of the generic concerns around governance of these bodies, which are described as local independent public bodies.  https://www.nao.org.uk/report/internal-drainage-boards/  The NAO carefully avoid making comments about any individual IDB.  There's a lot of MLC stuff here, which I have not read yet https://middlelevel.gov.uk/about/internal-drainage-boards/middle-level-commissioners/ much of which implies that IDBs are treated in  a similar way to parish and town councils. That makes sense given some of their funding comes from local authorities. 
  • Central government does give grants to IDBs, and could use these to influence or control charging policies.  So for  example there was some central govt funding for the recent upgrade to the main MLC pumping station at Wiggenhall, and I would hope/expect that the grant agreement would have included provisions setting out how the rest of the cost of that scheme should be financed, and over what period the funds were raised and from whom. It's hard to see the provisions of MPM having much wider application than that. Far more important would be the various undertakings given when the Bill went through Parliament, and the provisions of the Act itself (which I have not checked).
     
  • And finally, the definition of cost is very far from straightforward, especially in organisations that produce joint outputs. There are regular debates with the EA for example about whether weed clearance on the Fenland rivers should be charged to the navigation account or the land drainage account - as the works benefit both outputs. I wouldn't quite want to say you can produce any allocation of costs that you want - you do have to satisfy the auditors that what is done is reasonable - but there is considerable room for debate. In the MLC context, I believe that Salters Lode and Marmont Priory locks are now only needed for navigation purposes, while Stanground and also Ashline have an important role in irrigation in the summer months. 
  • To put it another way, there is a huge difference between these two statements. 
    • the extra revenue generated from licences, net of enforcement costs, should be spent on new facilities and services for navigation 
    • the fully allocated costs of providing navigation services should be financed (but no more) from licence fees. This would be a very painful policy, I suspect!

As an aside, worth nothing that the BBC licence fee is now classified as a tax, as are the funds raised by the national lottery for good causes. 

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4 hours ago, Scholar Gypsy said:

It's always nice to find someone else who has read MPM. I would make a couple of observations:

 

  • The Treasury (I worked there for the first half of my civil service career) has occasional tendencies to write guidance and/or try to set rules that apply to the whole of the public sector.
  • Formally - ie in law - MPM only applies to central government bodies. So for example the Permanent Secretaries of departments are required to follow it, by their appointment letters, as are chief executives of academy schools (which are classified as part of central government). The external auditors can (and in my experience do, very carefully) check compliance against the many and varied rules in MPM.
  • The formal application to the wider public sector is less clear. Much of MPM is of course very sensible stuff - eg the references to the Nolan principles of public life - but in general I would describe it as good practice guidance rather than rules. You need to look at the legislation that sets up the relevant public body.
  • The status of Internal Drainage Boards (MLC is I think the largest of the 120 or so in England) is decidedly murky. Not surprising for bodies that date back to the 13th Century and the Bill of Sewers passed by Henry VIII in 1531. This fairly recent report by the National Audit Office flags up some of the generic concerns around governance of these bodies, which are described as local independent public bodies.  https://www.nao.org.uk/report/internal-drainage-boards/  The NAO carefully avoid making comments about any individual IDB.  There's a lot of MLC stuff here, which I have not read yet https://middlelevel.gov.uk/about/internal-drainage-boards/middle-level-commissioners/ much of which implies that IDBs are treated in  a similar way to parish and town councils. That makes sense given some of their funding comes from local authorities. 
  • Central government does give grants to IDBs, and could use these to influence or control charging policies.  So for  example there was some central govt funding for the recent upgrade to the main MLC pumping station at Wiggenhall, and I would hope/expect that the grant agreement would have included provisions setting out how the rest of the cost of that scheme should be financed, and over what period the funds were raised and from whom. It's hard to see the provisions of MPM having much wider application than that. Far more important would be the various undertakings given when the Bill went through Parliament, and the provisions of the Act itself (which I have not checked).
     
  • And finally, the definition of cost is very far from straightforward, especially in organisations that produce joint outputs. There are regular debates with the EA for example about whether weed clearance on the Fenland rivers should be charged to the navigation account or the land drainage account - as the works benefit both outputs. I wouldn't quite want to say you can produce any allocation of costs that you want - you do have to satisfy the auditors that what is done is reasonable - but there is considerable room for debate. In the MLC context, I believe that Salters Lode and Marmont Priory locks are now only needed for navigation purposes, while Stanground and also Ashline have an important role in irrigation in the summer months. 
  • To put it another way, there is a huge difference between these two statements. 
    • the extra revenue generated from licences, net of enforcement costs, should be spent on new facilities and services for navigation 
    • the fully allocated costs of providing navigation services should be financed (but no more) from licence fees. This would be a very painful policy, I suspect!

As an aside, worth nothing that the BBC licence fee is now classified as a tax, as are the funds raised by the national lottery for good causes. 

Your detailed involvement may provide a better input but I recall that these principles were originally introduced not to limit the charges made but actually to allow them. Way back, new features of government (obtaining a licence to do x for example) came for free and the costs loaded onto the relevant department, but most often onto LAs. As the demand for more and more regulation* came about, this became unsustainable and, IIRC, it became a requirement that the costs of any new function had to be covered by the income from direct charges. This was also at the time when it was the political mantra that all LA expenditure was 'bad' and had to be curtailed so as the reduce rates and central government support.

 

The allocation of costs to charging centres is a feature of almost any organisation, especially any where more than one person has a budget that is less than that of the whole business. Departmental in fighting is probably more about shared costs than anything else, other them liability!

 

29 years ago we had problems with our local environmental health department when setting up a commercial kitchen. The inspector wanted us to change all sorts of things to a design which we had commissioned from a qualified expert. Then he suggested that we might like to use their 'private' consultancy services for a better design. At the same time the department (of the LA) was under audit investigation for a failure to deliver an adequate standard of statutory service. Turned out that they were really focussing on the consultancy - the outcome was to close down everything apart from the statutory stuff, with a considerable improvement. Heads rolled. I suspect the Audit systems are more likely to pick up on this sort of failure these days. (The consultancy fees were not siphoned off illegally but allowed the employment of more people on higher salaries having more fun)

 

*yes, I know that some commentators have long railed against 'more red tape' but nearly all of it comes about as the result of public pressure, often in red top papers. That is, something goes wrong and there is a demand that 'they' do something about it. 'They' can really only 'do something' by making laws and regulations.

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Most interesting observations, thank you. Indeed, the way that successive governments have hived off statutory responsibilities to various bodies has resulted in a certain lack of clarity as to who has the final say in things. I was only interested in a government body, responsible for administering primary legislation,  that had been set up as a Trading Fund. These are dealt with in their own Treasury document (Guide to the Establishment and Operation of Trading Funds), for which statutory provisions do exist (although not always followed IMHO). The 2006 edition of that document contains the following statement: 

 

"12.5.2    For legal reasons, the price of a statutory service should never be set deliberately to generate a surplus above the agreed return on capital emplyed (3.5 per cent in the SR2002 and SR2004 periods), unless the statute specifically provides for this. A planned surplus would be interpreted as illegal taxation."

 

This is of course only relevant to Trading Funds.

 

Clearly at the moment the Treasury has more important things than inland waterways to think about. 

 

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On 31/10/2020 at 11:34, Mike Todd said:

Your detailed involvement may provide a better input but I recall that these principles were originally introduced not to limit the charges made but actually to allow them. Way back, new features of government (obtaining a licence to do x for example) came for free and the costs loaded onto the relevant department, but most often onto LAs. As the demand for more and more regulation* came about, this became unsustainable and, IIRC, it became a requirement that the costs of any new function had to be covered by the income from direct charges. This was also at the time when it was the political mantra that all LA expenditure was 'bad' and had to be curtailed so as the reduce rates and central government support.

 

The allocation of costs to charging centres is a feature of almost any organisation, especially any where more than one person has a budget that is less than that of the whole business. Departmental in fighting is probably more about shared costs than anything else, other them liability!

 

29 years ago we had problems with our local environmental health department when setting up a commercial kitchen. The inspector wanted us to change all sorts of things to a design which we had commissioned from a qualified expert. Then he suggested that we might like to use their 'private' consultancy services for a better design. At the same time the department (of the LA) was under audit investigation for a failure to deliver an adequate standard of statutory service. Turned out that they were really focussing on the consultancy - the outcome was to close down everything apart from the statutory stuff, with a considerable improvement. Heads rolled. I suspect the Audit systems are more likely to pick up on this sort of failure these days. (The consultancy fees were not siphoned off illegally but allowed the employment of more people on higher salaries having more fun)

 

*yes, I know that some commentators have long railed against 'more red tape' but nearly all of it comes about as the result of public pressure, often in red top papers. That is, something goes wrong and there is a demand that 'they' do something about it. 'They' can really only 'do something' by making laws and regulations.

Yes, that's all good. I recollect that the policy was introduced at the same as increasingly public sector bodies were given statutory powers to charge for services, to prevent abuse and  hidden taxation. (Most budgets are set net of fees, so if you can generate more fees you can employ more staff etc). 

 

I have seen a number of examples of the problems with consultancy - the selling into wider markets initiative - which could easily distract the organisation from its core business. International consultancy (lost of air travel etc) was even worse in my experience!

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