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Council has been concerned that they’d have to use their own money to maintain a subsidy if it was granted and then withdrawn.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

6 Responses to Scilly’s Transport Forum ‘Sacks’ Council

  1. Adam Morton, St.Martins July 18, 2015 at 9:17 am

    What can they ask the government for? The SSco have already publicly declined public investment and are clearly not interested in subsidy . Im sure I remember reading on an early ST item of Tresco estate bringing in another company a few years back and negotiated them down to £9 a ton for building aggregate against the SSco at £16, or the current rate to private individuals of £90 ton, it is clear the difference competition makes and equally clear that those rates would be unsustainable to the SSco. Showing 1/2 a million profit last year means that at these rates they would lose over £1m in revenue on 15000 odd tons of goods.The point is that cases like this prove it is NOT financially viable in a normal market. A fact the Council could have robustly supported in its alleged requests for subsidy over the years! This is where the whole cycle of extra cost begins and makes Scilly uncompetitive. Now we are in an internet age – our non competitive pricing cannot be made up for with any amount of extra effort without causing near bankruptcy. Supply is dictated by the SSco and demand to a very competitive worldwide market in anything from fish to tourists!
    Personally I feel there is more than adequate evidence included in various surveys and reports to put a good case to the government. It just isn’t widely supported because of shareholder capital!
    At every level from Councilors to IP board members, the system is infiltrated to ensure that any efforts to change come to nothing!Shareholder payments last year amounted to just over £116.000 which cannot have any significant impact on all but 20 shareholders , most of which don’t live in Scilly! Most of the Scottish islands services are private companies that lease state owned ferries and run agreed service levels. Clearly they are set against this!
    My guess is they know full well that when it comes down to it, no one will stump up any money to go into competition so they can afford to take a minimal risk of losing the lot by not cooperating and a competitor starting up and driving both to bankruptcy! If they won’t then perhaps its the only option. As it is, if you work hard to make a success, all will happen is the fares go up and cancel it out by reducing numbers again!
    To show what the economy could be like , we should look at the mail order firms in Scilly who are successful and this is possible because of the universal service obligation .
    This isn’t about paying for peoples holidays or the people with money making more, this is about having enough people living here to provide the services we all need ! Realistically wages are not going to go up enough in real terms to allow them to pay their rents let alone buy a house and certainly not at Scilly rates! Creating some high paying industry isn’t going to suddenly negate the need for basic services.
    A landlord cannot build a house double cost and let it at a price someone on £13660 can afford to pay. A business with high import costs and a restricted seasonal market cannot afford to pay more than this. A tourist paying very high fares to get here is not willing to cover this. Close down all the unprofitable businesses and do people really want what’s left?

  2. Ray Wornes July 15, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Was democracy ever part of the transport issue? How much democratic policy making did FRIST deliver to those that signed up? The Council didn’t provide any worthwhile representation for islanders. So who will the IP represent other than the IOSSCo and friends of? Take away the new school and the closure of the incinerator which is still not being removed and what change has there been to benefit islanders? We didn’t ask for our airport building to be redeveloped so that it could be handed over to private management – and who tried to stop our Airport making a profit? As for waste we have gone back 30 years to the businessmen’s solution of transporting waste the whole length of St.Mary’s damaging our new road surfaces from Moorwell to despoil Pendrathen in Heritage Coastline, a Conservation Area, an AONB, near to Ancient Monuments and the best beach and sand dunes on the island. Councillors, is there ever going to be a reckoning?

  3. Keri Jones July 15, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Adam Smith- It is clear in the first paragraph. The Council has been “sacked” as lead body and the I.P has taken over. The Council is no longer leading the group as the group’s members were unhappy with their performance to date.

    • Adam Morton, St.Martins July 15, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Yeah, but sacked from what? At the end of the day, government ministers rely on the say so from the leaders of democratic and accountable bodies such as a Council. They assume (not unreasonably) that the local population will have taken the care to elect members to represent their interests which will then be channeled through to government . Seemingly no such link is perceived by the majority of the electorate! Somehow I can’t see Leijser losing sleep over this! In fact it could be a relief.
      Unfortunately Adam Smith’s description of IP will fit, Its not broad based and inclusive enough. Its why I have been hammering away at the freight subsidy for years because few would be able to deny basic food & shelter and the transport of produce was a reasonable and in fact affordable request. Not much but a step in the right direction.

  4. Adam Morton, St.Martins July 15, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    At last! Trouble is there’s no money now – the Council spent it and got the rest ring fenced for space projects!In the mean time members can consult all they like but the likes of RDS & the SSco sit on the board and can veto anything not in shareholders interests ie public investment or subsidy!-still going nowhere!

  5. Adam Smith July 15, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    So, the Council wasn’t ‘sacked’ from the Transport Forum, it just no longer ‘leads’ the forum? Can you clarify? It seems to read that they have been ‘sacked from the group’ is that right?

    In terms of leading the group, I’m unsure about the IP leading it. No, it’s not the Chamber of Commerce, it’s a group of tourism entrepreneurs, mostly right-wing and wealthy.

    Any subsidy from the Government would be based on necessary intervention, it won’t be on the basis of ‘getting more people to the islands so tourism operators can keep making a lot of money’.

    What is the IP’s plan? To storm Westminster and shout “do you know who I am?”.

    I wrote to Derek Thomas MP about a month ago on the subject of transport and the IOSSCO, and the level of service we receive, and I still haven’t received a reply. That’s about the size of it.

    Complain about the IOSSCO, it’s the only way to force the government’s hand as they are content that the IOSSCO offer a ‘viable’ service to the islands. Tell me, what’s ‘viable’ about the level of service, affordability of the service, resilience of the service? It’s like having a motorway that’s shut a couple of days a week, costs £120 to drive on it, and shuts when it’s foggy or windy.

    The best way forward is for the IP, and Scilly Today, to get 100,000 signatures on a petition to government which qualifies it to be debated in the House of Commons.