A boat owner has branded the Broads Authority “ridiculous” for refusing to reduce tolls after the government ordered people to stay at home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Paul Sergent, from Costessey, said he had asked the Broads Authority (BA) to consider a discount on the annual boat tax for each day of the mandatory lockdown period.
The authority said it sympathises with boat owners, but said “in line with public services such as vehicle and council tax”, it was unable to provide discounts.
Mr Sergent, a retired nature photographer, said: “With the government embargo, people can’t get down to the boats. I’ve tried to ask whether they can waive the tolls or give a reduction. They’ve categorically stated they can’t.”
The 70-year-old, who has owned a boat on the Broads for the past 16 years, added: “My boat toll is about £440 a year – or £1.20 a day. For every day I can’t use my boat, I don’t see why I should pay that.
“For the next three weeks – or months – we should get a discount.
“There’s 31m cars on the roads and if the government turned around and said ‘no more cars’, everybody could get their money back. It’s taking the mickey out of boat owners – it’s ridiculous.”
A BA spokesman said its staff were working “extremely hard” to maintain its services and carry out essential safety maintenance so the Broads remained in good shape when people returned.
He thanked their toll payers, who they said they depended on to “fund the maintenance of moorings, dredging and the patrolling of the rivers and Broads”.
“We sympathise with private boat owners who are unable to enjoy the Broads at this time of travel restrictions,” he said.
“The legal position as stipulated under the Broads Authority Acts is that if your boat is in the navigation area, or in adjacent waters, it is required to pay a toll. In line with public services such as road and council tax. We are unable to provide discounts on private boat owners’ tolls.
“If, however, as a result of the emergency measures, a private boat owner is unable to meet their commitment, they should contact the authority. We will be sympathetic towards individual circumstances.
“We will be maintaining our core health and safety measures throughout the length of this emergency.”
By Jessica Frank-Keyes, Local Democracy Reporting Service