Councillors Discuss Future Of St Mary’s Airport

airport may 2015An arms-length company could be set up to run St Mary’s Airport.

That was one of the ideas put forward at an urgent meeting called by Council Chief Executive Theo Leijser last Thursday to address the growing financial crisis at the airport.

Thirteen councillors attended the meeting, chaired by Mr Leijser and Airport Manager Craig Dryden, although some of them had to leave during the session.

Accounts published last week showed that the airport’s bank account was £170,000 in the red at the end of last financial year.

That’s a big problem for the Authority. In the Full Council meeting in March, a report written by Senior Finance Manager Laura Roberts said it was “not legally permitted” for the airport’s trading account to be subsidised by the ratepayer.

The airport also operated at a loss last year, costing £168,000 more to run than it raised through fees and charges.

In a surprise move in March, councillors voted to increase these fees by 10%, adding around £100,000 to the bill of the sole operator at the airport, Skybus.

On top of this, the work to refurbish the runways and terminal overspent by £600,000.

The Council is hoping to get some of that back from European funders, although it’s not certain they’ll get the money. There won’t be a decision on that until September.

Radio Scilly understands that Mr Leijser asked councillors to come up with some ideas on how to stem the losses.

That could include setting up a separate company or tendering out the operation to a third party.

In 2012, a report by infrastructure experts Parsons Brinkerhoff made a number of suggestions, including a Newquay-style landing fee, raising more money through internet charges, gaming machines and catering concessions.

The meeting resolved that doing nothing was not an option and councillors have been asked to come back with their ideas later this year.

12 Responses to Councillors Discuss Future Of St Mary’s Airport

  1. Dolph July 14, 2015 at 11:53 am

    I think a Newquay-style landing charge is more than fair.

    £5 per head, it’s a negligible cost in the overall cost to a family visiting the islands for a week.

    Take an average of 100,000 flights, would we tax people a fiver each way or just outward bound flights? Say it’s the latter, that’s 50,000 paying a fiver, and that’s £250,000 per year raised without much ado. For that fiver, it would include free Wi-Fi, and perhaps a free newspaper.

    Not doing this would be negligence. It’s a workable model as Newquay have proven, so it doesn’t leave much room to argue against it as a solution for us.

    I’d also like for the council to look at entering into an arrangement with the RAF, or Navy, for example, to see if there was an appetite to use the islands as a sort of military base for training pilots and doing exercises. It would seem a mutually beneficial arrangement.

  2. meme July 14, 2015 at 8:37 am

    I’m confused, Craig Dryden the Airport Manager !! How many hats does the man wear? No doubt a man of many skills (hopefully) Strange happenings within the Corridors of Power, Whatever next..

    • L. Blériot July 14, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Corridors are no longer de rigueur, ACE and the rest of the team all work out of a Dutch barn now, I thought he was the Accountable Manager which is a very different safety helmet type hat made fashionable and very exclusive by the CAA.

    • Ian T. July 15, 2015 at 9:47 am

      With due respect to Mr Dryden, there is an old saying – “Jack of all trades – master of none”. The situation where one person has several responsibilities is unavoidable in such a small community with limited resources both of money and people.

      • Julie Q July 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm

        I love the way that saying “With all due respect” means you can go on and insult who you want and in this case one of the hardest working officers we have.

        • Ian T. July 16, 2015 at 8:58 am

          Sorry, that was not in any way an insult. It was just pointing out that no one can be an expert in everything. I am sure Mr Dryden does his very best for the islands but he is only human after all.

      • Master Sillyme July 16, 2015 at 1:47 am

        With all due respect at least no one could describe him as pompous or arrogant or overly opinionated.

  3. pgh July 13, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    “some Councillors had to leave during the meeting ? ” If these news reports are accurate then the financial threat hanging over the airport SHOULD BE the most important agenda item on EVERY COUNCILLORS AGENDA and either they should all be in meetings or the meeting should be scheduled to allow all Councillors to attend.

    • confused July 14, 2015 at 10:57 am

      i agree to a point. Sometimes, waiting for 20+ individuals to all have the same evening free is only going to lengthen the process. Set a date and let them work around it. As you say, its such an important issue that it would be hoped the councillors would re-schedule any prior appointments

  4. Adam Morton, St.Martins July 13, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    This is where people are kidding themselves that a bit of promotion and twiddling websites is going to turn the economy round- it wont! Hard decisions had to be made and they weren’t! Persuading people to shoulder an average of £120 each in extra costs from the mainland is going to show somewhere! To be competitive, that figure + airport & other costs must be subtracted from the value of the economy one way or another! This is where it is a nonsense the Council comparing salaries with mainland counterparts. You must make bigger financial and work investments than the mainland or we will fail. The so called “lifestyle” comes at a price! I just don’t think we can afford to put rate & taxpayers money into white elephant projects like porthcressa, airport terminal, roads & the quay. Most of the economy is based on demand which is driven by price & value for money. First and foremost it is reducing transport costs, improving service by using any public money to get the absolute best return on investment. In the past islanders put their money into the SSco and ran it at loss or break even to keep the flower industry going , its no less necessary in today’s tourist trade except we have no choice but to contribute national rates & taxes to prop up an LA which does not use them for this purpose!
    If every person gets a fair return on their work, we will be in deficit. Sharing it out equally is impossible. The main difference between us and the mainland is no access road . SSco or no SSco we must somehow get that access cost down which to my mind is most cost effectively done by sea. As a start perhaps it would be in the public interest for the LA to do some kind of deal over the airport with the SSco which freed up freight transport to be separated and run at a loss to qualify for subsidy, leaving passenger service to operate more efficiently? The freight & year round travel club service would then be tendered out (possibly to the SSco).

  5. Biggles July 13, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    Will the company be The Isles of Scilly Steamplane Company, I wonder?

  6. Linguine July 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Here we go again with the full reverse Midas everything they touch turns to s–t with monotonous regularity. No prizes for guessing who will run the “arms length” company.
    The Dutch fellow has got both arms in the dyke and it is still haemoraging cash and credibility.