Harbour users’ anger over “lack of consultation”

122736k  file pics - Scarborough Harbour. Picture by Andrew Higgins      04/07/12
122736k file pics - Scarborough Harbour. Picture by Andrew Higgins 04/07/12

A row has broken out between Scarborough Council and members of the harbour users group over a “lack of communication” on harbour fee increases.

During last week’s Scarborough Harbour Operational Consultative Group meeting at the Town Hall, members made their anger clear over the fact that a decision had been made to increase fees by five per cent without proper consultation.

The individual member’s decision was made by harbours portfolio holder Cllr Mike Cockerill, following a meeting in January.

However, at last week’s meeting it became clear that some group members - including Cllrs Janet Jefferson and Colin Challen - had not received the correct documentation beforehand.

Bob Roberts, a spokesman for Scarborough Fishermen’s Society, said: “We expected consultation and we didn’t get it.

“People didn’t receive details in the prescribed manner and it looks like due process has not been followed.

“This was possibly a systematic failure, as Cllr Cockerill said the documents were sent out, but the fact is they didn’t receive them.

“This means they couldn’t look at it and call it in. We’re entitled to know what we’re paying for and how much we’ll have to pay.”

Mr Roberts said he was disappointed as the meeting proved inconclusive, as he thought they’d been making progress.

He continued: “From the point of view of the fishermen who pay their fair share of revenues toward harbour charges, this decision needed to be called in.

“In this case all the boxes have not been ticked and procedures not followed. This is not democracy – this is autocracy and what you see in North Korea and as such is unacceptable.

“To be presented with an increase in fees and charges without any prior consultation whatsoever, and without the opportunity to assess the changes is not what is expected from what is supposed to be a democratic process.”

Cllr Janet Jefferson said she was concerned about the evident lack of communication.

She said: “Somewhere along the line there has been a problem. My main concern was that all the group members had not seen the fees and charges information in advance, before the discussion took place.

“There had been a lack of consultation.”

Cllr Jefferson said the situation would hopefully not happen again in the future, as officer Nick Edwards had given assurances that he would make sure all documents were sent out to members in advance.

She said: “We’re trying to move on and create a more positive way forward.”

As far as calling in the decision, she said: “I think I would have called it in. Members should know what the actual increases are and what the money will be spent on.

“However, I don’t know if it would have made any difference to the decision. But I’m in favour of complete openness and distribution of documents.”

The next meeting will not be held until June and members have questioned whether the planned fee increases will go ahead on April 1, or whether the matter will be deferred.

Mr Roberts said: “It’s not been made clear, but we think we’ll be paying the same harbour fees until this is resolved.”