St Mary’s Airport Running Out Of Cash

Councillors will be asked to take action to save St Mary’s airport tonight.

The Council’s report describes the ongoing financial situation as ‘grave.’ Around £4.5m in grants to pay for runway resurfacing, new low visibility navigation systems and airport remodeling has been sourced.

But the airport is rapidly running out of cash to fund day-to-day operations.

Three years ago there was £786,000 in the airport reserves, but that’s nearly all been used and there’s just £20,000 left today.

Some Councillors claim they’ve only recently been made aware of how serious finances are, although they appear to have forgotten that they voted to cap landing charges at the airport last October, claiming this would place an unfair burden on the operators. The state of the reserves was clearly spelt out at that time.(http://www.scillytoday.com/2011/10/20/councillors-cap-increase-in-airport-landing-fees/)

Falling passenger numbers and flights cancelled due to fog and cross winds have taken their toll on finances. This year’s shortfall, before the BIH closure, will be £150,000 and that means the airport account will be drained by next Spring.

Council rules require the airport to break even on its own, without subsidy from the ratepayer.

Airport Consultants Parson Brinkerhoff say that the current committee system is part of the problem. They feel it slows decision making and there’s little attention paid to developing customer service, money making ideas and new routes.

Councillors recently agreed to split the airport’s control between two Council committees; General Purposes and Transport Strategy.

Tonight Councillors will be asked to scrap the recent changes and support the consultants’ advice to put a single transport committee in charge of all aspects of the airport. It will be devoted to the airport and will meet monthly.

Councillors will still be represented on it, with seats around the table for the Chair and Vice Chair of the Policy and Resources committee, the Chair of Planning and the General Purposes Chairman.

Officers from the airport, air traffic control, fire service, finance and economic development will make up the staff representation.

One Councillor told us tonight’s meeting could be challenging as some members and officers who currently have a say on airport operations may be against relinquishing their roles.

If the proposal is rejected, it’s unclear how the airport will continue to trade in the long term, as it will run out of money early next year.

In August passengers were down 2,472 from the same month in 2011. That’s a 15% reduction, while July was down a quarter, year-on-year.

 



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