Scilly’s Transport Forum ‘Sacks’ Council

st marys harbour tripper boats scillonianA transport forum set up to feed back locals’ views to government has effectively sacked the Council and appointed the Islands’ Partnership as their lead body after its members claimed the Council-driven forum was a timewasting ‘talking shop.’

Now, the Transport Task and Finish Group will go back to government with a goal of “year-round, affordable transport.”

The group was created after a delegation of representatives from the Council and FRIST was invited to outline Scilly’s travel problems to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee.

After that meeting in March 2014, Baroness Kramer told the islanders that, “no coherent plan” had been put forward and she invited Scilly to return with a unified request for help.

In order to do that, Council Chief Executive Theo Leijser set up the Task and Finish Group, consisting of business and community leaders, boatmen, the Islands’ Partnership, Steamship Company and Healthwatch.

The stakeholders were meant to decide what to ask the government for, but there have been claims that the Council has a different transport agenda to locals and that there’s been little momentum under their stewardship.

Meetings have been infrequent and at last week’s session, attendees told Mr Leijser that they’d had enough, before they appointed the Islands’ Partnership as group organiser.

The IP will now channel locals’ transport needs to government.

Robert Francis from the IP recognises that the Council has delivered significant infrastructure upgrades but says those haven’t solved all the problems faced by the islands’ community on a daily basis.

And he says the Council-run group has “not been able to function in a satisfactory manner” to achieve their requirements.

Robert says they’ll now separate issues into those that the Council can handle and the challenges better met by the private sector.

The new leadership will also redefine Scilly’s transport improvement goals.

There’s been a call for the government to provide freight or passenger subsidies but the Council has rejected that outright.

Last April Cllr Steve Sims said the Council believed asking for subsidy was a waste of time.

The Council has been concerned that they’d have to use their own money to maintain a subsidy if it was granted and then withdrawn.

Robert Francis understands this and feels a subsidy for visitors’ travel costs is unlikely but some support for islanders could still be investigated.

He says they’ll now ask the IP’s 310 members about their views.

The FRIST campaign group has called for year round reliable transport. Robert feels most IP members would agree that this is the way forward for Scilly but said it was outside the Council’s remit.

“They don’t see themselves as a body that deals with that,” he said.

Robert says the Partnership isn’t just a tourism and marketing operation but has effectively become the islands’ Chamber of Commerce. He says that means they can now be an important force in business for Scilly and “there’s no bigger issue to our economy than transport.”

Robert says the new group won’t be called a “forum” because that implies it will “just be a talking shop.”

“We’ve done enough talking about transport,” he said. “We now need to deliver.”

The first meeting is likely to take place later this month.

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