Council Refuses To Make Airport Lease Report Public
It means the authority is effectively pulling out of running the airport, which could pave the way for it to be managed by a private company.
Radio Scilly formally requested a copy of the document presented on the 17th September to a secret session of the Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee.
At the time, Cllr Gordon Bilsborough opposed the move to hold the discussion away from public scrutiny, a proposal supported by Cllr Adrian Davis.
But Chief Executive Theo Leijser said that the report contained information that was considered to be commercially sensitive and that could affect the employment of staff.
All other councillors present voted to keep the subsequent discussion behind closed doors.
The decision was ratified by Full Council five days later, again following the exclusion of the public and press from the chamber.
So far, the Council has provided no official explanation as to why they’re handing back the lease.
Radio Scilly contacted the Council on 23rd October to request a copy of the report under the Freedom of Information Act – either in full or with the sensitive information removed.
Yesterday, the Council told us that they wouldn’t provide it, because it was “likely to prejudice the commercial interests of a person including individuals, a company, the Council of the Isles of Scilly or any other legal entity.”
Radio Scilly has asked the Council to review their decision as it’s in the public interest, based on the critical nature of the airport to all islanders.
We’ve also pointed out that all financial information about the airport is currently in the public domain, as it’s run by the local authority.
A report by Senior Manager Craig Dryden in the October Transport meeting showed that passenger numbers were up by almost 9% between April and the end of September this year.
And in April, councillors increased landing fees by 10% to generate more income for the facility and to rebuild the depleted cash reserves.
But the airport is still running at a deficit of around £150,000.
There’s also been no word yet on whether European funders will be picking up the bill for the £600,000 overspend on the recent airport runway and terminal refurbishments.
Cllr Fran Grottick contacted Radio Scilly yesterday to urge islanders to attend a public meeting this evening.
During the session, islanders will be able to ask Council Chairman Amanda Martin about the decision in a questions and answers session at the Old Weslyan Chapel. It runs from 6pm to 7.30pm.