Move To Limit Extra Concessionary Boat Fares ‘Draconian’ Says Councillor

st marys harbour tripper boats scillonianThe Council’s limit on the number of concessionary boat tickets it hands out each year is “draconian” and causing distress to off-island residents.

That’s the view of St Martin’s councillor Colin Daly, who told members of last week’s Community Services Committee that islanders with health problems or who’ve recently been bereaved need to travel to St Mary’s more often.

The Council currently gives 103 off-island pensioners or disabled residents one free, single scheduled boat ticket each week.

They also provide a contribution of £20, four times a year, for people with health problems who need to take an unscheduled ‘special’ boat.

It cost just over £21,000 to run the scheme and that’s expected to increase as boat fares rise later this year.

Anyone who needs to travel more often has been given extra tickets on a discretionary basis.

Twelve islanders received them last year.

But Colin took issue with a recommendation to limit these extra tickets.

He said the £600 gained was small in relation to the overall cost and was a “frontline cut, not a back office saving.”

He recalled his own situation two years ago, when he had to travel to St Mary’s because his late wife was ill, not on a whim, he said, because he “wanted to go to the hairdressers.”

People on the off-islands are responsible enough to know what these tickets are for, said Colin.

He also questioned what had happened to the £65,000 ring-fenced grant from the government, to cover all types of concessionary fares including the Buzza Bus.

But Community Services Chairman, Cllr Richard McCarthy, explained that money ended in 2012 and the last of it would be used up by the end of this financial year.

Council officer Aisling Hick said they’d run a huge survey to find out what people were using the free trips for.

She said it appeared to be to enjoy the greater services on St Mary’s and not for health reasons.

She added that not all tickets are used and they can be flexible for people who are in real need.

But she says they’re working with a shrinking budget and everyone is having to find savings.

It’s absolutely fine for people to say they want to go to the sports hall more often, said Aisling, but the Council can’t afford to fund that.

Councillors eventually voted for extra tickets to be offered if a high level of need had been identified.

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