Council Battles To Hold Onto European Cash

Council Chambers at Old Weslyan Chapel

The Battle to hold onto European cash formerly allocated to the Route Partnership is on.

And there were plenty of military metaphors in last night’s Council debate with Fred Ticehurst stating that the project has lasted longer than World War Two.

Members agreed to concentrate on an area of the former Route Partnership plans that they could control and which generated little public concern or objection.

They’ll try and grab the European cash, and see whether Whitehall can spare some change, for our quay refurbishment.

Julia Day warned there was only one major quay for the islands and that needed safeguarding.

She pointed out that there were other mainland facilities and ports and other avenues for shipping but just one St Mary’s Quay, so efforts had to be concentrated.


Deadline in “weeks”

Several times, members heard that time is of the essence with the deadline for action being in weeks rather than months.

Chief Executive, Philip Hygate warned that other bids were waiting to ‘soak up the money’ and Head of Planning and Economic Development, Craig Dryden, confirmed that other ‘oven ready’ project were waiting to go.

Philip said the issue was further complicated with “Politics with a big P”.

Councillor Marian Bennett

Marian felt that the Council should not take what she called precipitous decisions and whilst she agreed with the sentiment that we needed to do something, she felt we had time to wait for a reply from the minister as the letter only went in on May 3rd.

Dudley Mumford also voiced concern over ‘knee-jerk’ reactions.

Chris Savill warned that time was not on our side. “If we dither, all will be lost” she said.

Marian’s view was, rather than asking for and receiving “crumbs under a table”, a smaller amount that civil servants could sign off for work to the Quay, we should go cautiously and go for more.

Marian urged members to consider that the Council coud be over it’s borrowing limit if it had to fund a project, and we had time to wait for a government reply.

But Philip Hyagte said the use of the term ‘crumbs’ was misplaced. The plan was to ask for in excess of £10million.

In the end, Marian threw her support behind beginning talks with the Department for Transport and other funders about cash for the Quay before Norman Baker replies to Mike Hicks’ letter.

She wanted Government to know that our Councillors had agreed on a course of action unanimously, which was the outcome of a subsequent vote.

Members also backed looking at any other partnership oportunities that arose.

More councillors will be involved now after there were suggestions that not all of them had been keep informed about the Route Partnership plans.

Amanda Martin and Gaz O’Neil, in their roles as Chair and Vice Chair of Planning and Economic Development, will be brought into the project planing discussion.

Gaz said he had felt excluded from some information recently .

Philip Hygate warned that there’s no guarantee this approach will work but there was a ‘worthwhile chance’.


Replacement boat discussed

The discussions on the replacement boat occupied much time yesterday.

According to former Steamship Company Chair and current Council Chair, Mike Hicks, acccepting a second hand boat would result in a downward spiral for our islands and we’d find it difficult to find a way back.

Council Chair, Mike Hicks

A “specialist ship is needed for a specialist operation” and he said he will be demanding that “with all the vigour he has”.

Julia Day later added that she had a “grave concern” about plans for a second-hand  boat.

Mike Hicks has written to Norman Baker asking for an undertaking that his Department will ensure that both a passenger and freight service will continue if either of the current vessels fail to operate on the route in the future.

Mike said that he knows the Minister has had discussions with the Isles of Scilly Steamship Company who have convinced the Minister that they are in a position to continue to serve the islands with no public sector funding for the foreseeable future.

He wants to know why the Ministry believes a second-hand boat will work and warns Council feels it would be innappropriate due to a combination of rough seas, shallow harbours and the limited resources of the IOSSCo leading to an inevitable compromise in adequacy and quality of the vessel .

Speaking before the meeting, Mike told Radio Scilly he’d like to bring the transport minister over.

He would also like to get the Steamship Comapny around the table with council staff and others to see if they can work together to obtain funding for a purpose built vessel.


“Missing a trick” by not joining Euro islands group

Amanda Martin felt we missed a trick by not joining the European small islands network.

We should look at joining because its membership has success in drawing down euro cash.

Councllors passed on thanks to some of the staff for their input with Fred Ticehurst talking of his “unalloyed appreciation” of Philip Hygate and other officers.

He said that the fact that they didn’t succeed doesn’t reflect on their capability or devotion.