Full Council Meeting Rejects 15% Increase In Airport Landing Fees

airport in fogScilly’s Full Council has rejected a 15% increase in landing fees at St Mary’s Airport and has sent the proposal back to the Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee for more discussion.

The TEDI Committee, which is the only Council body that can set the airport charges, made the recommendation to increase them by 15% at their meeting last week.

Five members voted in favour of the rise, while three voted against.

The decision provoked an angry response from Steamship Company Chief Executive, Rob Goldsmith, who said the rise was “totally unacceptable” and that the Council had refused to engage in any consultation with the company over the increases.

But at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting, Cllr Marian Bennett proposed rejecting the hike in fees.

Marian wanted a “full round table discussion” chaired by an independent person, to decide the increase.

She suggested the islands’ former MEP and expert in economic development, Lord Teverson.

Marian said it was “unthinkable” that such an important matter was not open to consultation with our sole transport operator and that discussions “should have taken place months ago.”

The Vice Chairman of the TEDI Committee, Cllr Ted Moulson, agreed. Ted couldn’t make last week’s meeting because of transport problems, but he stated he was “strongly against” the proposed increase.

Cllr Moulson said they were, “sending the wrong signals entirely to the community and to our sole provider of transport.”

“We have to work with them,” said Ted, “not drive a wedge between the Council and the Steamship Company.

Cllr James Francis, another member of the TEDI Committee who couldn’t attend because of transport issues, also wanted the charges rejected.

James said transport was one of the foremost concerns of islanders and the Council had to acknowledge that.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin warned members five times that if they rejected the increase, the Council would not be able to “balance the budget” by the required date of the 11th March.

However, when councillors finally asked Senior Finance Officer Ben Barrett whether that was the case, he told them it was not correct.

The airport is a ring-fenced trading account and the increase in landing charges were designed to replenish the facility’s reserves. This didn’t affect the revenue budget, he said.

“So the argument of balancing the budget is spurious?” asked Cllr Moulson.

“Yes,” replied Mr Barrett.

Nine councillors voted in favour of rejecting the 15% increase, while four voted against.

Steamship Chief Executive Rob Goldsmith has told ScillyToday: “We are very pleased that the full Council has voted to refer this matter back to the TEDI committee for reconsideration as the proposed huge increase in charges was not only unjustifiable but had been reached without any consultation with us as the Airport’s main customer.

“We now hope we will be given the opportunity to work in partnership with the Council through a process of consultation and engagement so that Members can make an informed decision that meets the needs of the Airport and the best interests of the islands’ economy.”

17 Responses to Full Council Meeting Rejects 15% Increase In Airport Landing Fees

  1. Allan Hicks March 15, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    This should say, :- no wunder the islands are in such a state.

  2. Allan Hicks March 15, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    What a load of rubbishy, no wonder the is do are in such a state. Piss up and brewery comes to mind. It would be funny if it were not so serious. Wake up people’s.

  3. Flybe March 11, 2016 at 9:50 pm

    Possibly slightly off topic here but wasn’t the funding for the runaway at Lands End given on the condition that other operators could use the runway not just Skybus?

    • Stuart thomas March 15, 2016 at 8:19 am

      What an interesting or rather intriguing question? Is there a possibility of healthy competition here?

  4. Linguine March 10, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    But but but your a Linguist for goodness sake, accurate use of language is your self proclaimed specialism. How then can you have misinterpreted the well documented facts about the operation of ‘stand alone accounts’ so completely?
    You’ve been at the game for plenty long enough to know how such functions operate; it is cleary explained in your copy of Financial Regulations. There can be NO excuse for an ‘loud cough’ oversight that could have misdirected the business of council.
    In your defence perhaps it is sadly the case that even your linguistic powers are failing you now?
    I pity the poor Senior Finance Officer (in his defence he is under a statutory obligation to ensure that an accurate interpretation of the regulations is made clear during a meeting).
    Even so “Hell hath no fury…..” and all that……

  5. Mike N March 10, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    You’d think that Madame Chairman would know how the Council’s budgets work by now. Or was she just trying to steamroller through a decision from councillors in her usual bombastic fashion. Thankfully the new Finance Officer seems to be on the ball.

  6. Fred Up March 10, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Oh dear Madame Chairman, it would appear that you got your facts wrong yet again! Money matters and absolute accuracy do not appear to be your strengths.
    Well done councillors.

  7. Katie March 10, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    So is it only the steamship company that are allowed to make millions on this route? how about the steamship lower their prices and absorb the increase (of only actually several pounds per ticket, and lower fuel costs for them) and then the council might actually be able to afford to run the airport

  8. Ernest Bourguignon March 10, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    This is absolutely what I feared the council would vote yes on, supporting a greedy and unviable transport service whilst forgetting about generating more revenue for necessary services. They are once again showing evidence of favouring the interests of people with shares in the SSCO, or those who are directly linked with tourism, who whinge about anything that could upset the balance in their profits.

    Scilly Today has reported on many shortfalls made by the council and by missing this opportunity of raising fees by a modest amount, they have buried themselves further in debt and at the cost of making more Town Hall staff facing redundancy once again (news flash! ). Yes, instead of laying off the very people paid an extorinate amount to move over here, take our homes, run the place into ruin and move on to another job elsewhere, they decide to pick on the local, hard working people with families to support on a low wage and living in inadequate housing.

    I don’t think the council should work with the SSCO, no, I think we should fight them and take our chances of driving them out and getting a government driven transport subsidy instead. And I guarantee the prices of the steamship’s services will increase somewhere, maybe not on transport (yet), but maybe freight, fuel etc… They won’t be thanking the council for sparing them a couple of quid, they’ll be thinking, ‘I wonder how much we could charge for airport parking’ when the council can no longer afford to operate the airport and it inevitably goes to them.

    • Adam Morton, St.Martins March 16, 2016 at 8:12 am

      That’s all very well aside from the fact that “fighting the SSco” with taxpayers money would be illegal. That and there is very little evidence to suggest that the Council has any interest in local hard working people . I think you will find the underlying principle of local government is not to convey advantage or disadvantage on any one person or entity over another!
      Whilst I feel the SSco does little to further anyone’s interests but their own, it is NOT illegal. Any subsidy would be available for anyone (including the SSco) to bid on and in fact I think it highly unlikely anyone else would be interested.
      That is also beside the point because at the juncture this would have happened(2013-14) we had a coalition government with a not unsympathetic ear due to the severe winter and widespread flooding drawing the spotlight to this area. Unfortunately the situation was very much played down and suggested that the egnos system, runway resurfacing , terminal refurbishment and quay extension would sort our resilience problems. That came from our Council at a publicly broadcast meeting in London.Subsequently we have a conservative government with much more severe austerity and an MP who has as good as pledged not to interfere in the SSco interests (re Scilly today)
      The MAIN point however is that 90% of our transport costs are exactly that- costs! Whoever supplies the service, this will be the same. Even if the SSco made no profit then the reduction would not be as significant as is needed to stimulate our local economy which mainly consists of self employed/sole traders.
      Any LA has the responsibility to provide an access road where people and vehicles that supply the local economy can transport themselves and their goods at nominal costs. Indeed even the highlands & islands of Scotland have a principal of supplying a road or bridge between communities wherever possible and a boat where it is not. This is supported by Europe in protecting outlying communities. This is why I simply don’t buy it when our Council says there is nothing in the offing. It isn’t offered , you have to construct a bid & fair plan which is why I assume we have officers who are supposed to be looking out for the wider communities interests not just safeguarding their staffs salaries & housing.
      To return to the subject, inflation runs at about 2% these days so costs will rise. Instead of hitting the economy with 10-15-37% increases , just increase it to cover essential running costs as was done last year and then 2%pa thereafter?
      Bear in mind that a significant portion of the community is employed by the SSco or have substantial investments there, swapping one half of the communities hardships for the others might seem like justice, but any commision wouldn’t see it as a net gain!
      What I strongly feel isn’t helping the situation is dreaming up non essential schemes swallowing the whole of our grant allocations but delivering no economic and little social benefit. It considerably lessens any possible rights to any subsidy.This isn’t just Scilly as the whole of Cornwall was declared to be behind eastern Europe AFTER all the millions invested in it!

      • Oh did I just say that? March 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        I do believe the council subsidises the off island transport not only for people but also for goods, so to continually bleat on about transport costs for poor little off islanders smacks of hypocrisy somewhat!

        • Adam Morton, St.Martins March 16, 2016 at 6:29 pm

          Perhaps you should check your facts first oh high & mighty one? The launch subsidies of $19k a year ended years ago and 10p off a shopping boat trip a week even before that. All we have is a free ticket once a week for OAPs and the older school children are transported to St.Mary’s since you chose to have the school sited there. Back at yeh! Put your name on our comment or crawl back under your rock.

        • Adam Morton, St.Martins March 17, 2016 at 7:24 am

          Rest assured the Council in no way subsidises anything to do with freight to the off islands, hasn’t done for years now. In the past there was 10p off the price of a shopping boat once a week (not now)and the OAPs have a free boat pass once a week in the same way you have the buzza bus. Since you chose to have the school on St.Mary’s ,the older kids do get a boat fare there & back once a week. We pay a full 25% surcharge on our freight to the off islands and £6.50 on any scheduled boats each way the rest are £50 each way so if you need to go to the mainland and the flights cancelled for fog, that’s £100 on top of the £75 flight! Please don’t comment on stuff you clearly have no knowledge of , it smacks of ignorance somewhat!

          • Pete March 17, 2016 at 11:04 am

            Well said Adam. The likes of these people are totally Ignorant.

          • Oh did I just say that? March 17, 2016 at 2:48 pm

            Good, I don’t see why I should subsidise your life style choices!

  9. Rasputin March 10, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    So did the Chairman of the Council deliberately mislead the meeting or was she simply ignorant of the true position? Either way it does not give one a great deal of confidence in her competence.

  10. James - Islander March 10, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    Here, here! Well done to the full council for stopping this in its tracks. The comments of working with the sole commercial user are absolutely correct.

    Work together for a common goal, for example why not agree to a 5% rise but that will not be impletmented if Skybus agree to peak season Sunday flying which will open up the Islands for short breaks and generally improve the transport system.

    We should put in place commercial incentives for Skybus to have a full and robust timetable.

    With low fuel costs, no serious increase in landing costs and higher passengers numbers we can then pressure Skybus to freeze fares and we all benefit.