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.


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

  1. Bill Weaver July 24, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Mike’s hit the nail squarely on the head – all the waffle about bringing in e-businesses from the mainland will achieve next to nothing – the islands’ bread and butter is tourism.
    Visiting is already very expensive – we all know that a ” foreign ” holiday is cheaper!

  2. mike July 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    If all the subsidies are to reduce local Islanders travel cost then the problem of dwindling tourists will not be addressed….it is them that you have to attract by reducing their travel costs, this is seen as the biggest hurdle to the problem!

  3. Adam Morton July 22, 2014 at 11:01 am

    In my view this social subsidy would be a waste of resources and extremely unfairly distributed among the islands population. Basically those who can already afford to travel regularly will be able to do so cheaper and those who cannot will be unaffected. A freight subsidy would share the benefits evenly in reduced living costs for everyone! The SSco claim to already subsidize local travel by 3/4 of a million. Presumably much of it would end up being air travel and so would cost very much more than this. The same money could drastically reduce food & fuel & service costs for the whole population and lower costs for industry and so boost the economy and allow people who work to fund their own travel.
    Medical trips are already about £5 or were until recently and a local fare on SCIII is already about £10 for the summer season, I really can’t see much of a case for it!
    If they want to support year round affordable travel then how about encouraging the SSco to invest in a new GRY with a cabin for 25 or 30 passengers and pay for the extra crew & lifesaving equipment or whatever the reason is for only taking six passengers. The biggest problem is fog or crosswinds and few of the airport improvements will do much to help this.