Commons Committee Welcomes Scilly Council’s U-Turn On Subsidies

scillonian summer 2014A Commons Select Committee report on transport, published today, has welcomed attempts to secure a travel subsidy from the government for islanders.

Back in March, a delegation of businessmen, FRIST and Council representatives spoke before the Select Committee examining passenger transport in isolated communities.

In that meeting, Hotelier Robert Francis outlined the fall in visitor numbers and warned that Scilly was facing “an economic precipice.”

At the time the Council said they wouldn’t pursue a travel subsidy, claiming it wasn’t achievable.

Chief Executive Theo Leisjer addressed the Committee. The Council’s stance, outlined in the report, was that the Steamship Company was “commercially viable and, therefore, there has never been a requirement or need to identify subsidies to make it viable.”

Vice Chairman of the Council’s Transport Committee, Cllr Steve Sims, confirmed the Town Hall’s stance on subsidies in an interview with Radio Scilly on the 3rd April.

But Transport Minister Baroness Kramer asked the islanders to come back to the government with a clear request for support.

Community and business groups have convened subsequently to shape the islands’ response and decided, unlike the Council, that they do indeed want to pursue a subsidy.

The Commons Committee report acknowledges that in July, the Council “reversed its opposition to subsidised passenger transport and engaged in discussions with the DfT to introduce a travel subsidy based on social need.”

The Committee has welcomed that U-turn and advised the DfT that they must recognise that islanders are “an isolated community and that they consequently need support to access healthcare and other vital services on the mainland.”

FRIST says they welcome the Committee’s endorsement of their campaign for an affordable, all-year-round transport link.

And they’ve urged the Council to engage fully with groups, including FRIST and the Islands’ Partnership, to take forward discussions with the DfT.

FRIST say they want a joint approach so that ministers can report on positive progress when they respond back to today’s Commons Committee report.

Islands’ MP Andrew George feels it strengthens the case for the government underwriting a new helicopter service. Last week Mr George said he was optimistic of a new route starting if winter operation costs could be underwritten.

You can read the Select Committee report here.


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