Comment posted Job losses of established staff follow SPT’s change of operator of Kilcreggan Ferry by Councillor George Freeman.
I am assuming that Harry is not including me when he ask “where are our Argyll and Bute Councillors who should be robustly protecting their constituents interests” as I have been working very closely with him on this issue over the past two months. As Harry is well aware, on issues such as this, I am like a dog with a bone. As Harry is also aware, questions have been put to our local councillors recently as to who knew what and when on this issue. Unfortunately a number have not answered the question for some reason.
Prior to the current problem with the ferry, I worked with Harry to ensure that those who are disabled and used the ferry could purchase their tickets on the train. Until then, Scotrail insisted that that they should go to the ticket office after coming off the ferry to purchase their tickets before getting on the train. This caused them to walk past the train to buy their ticket and by the time they did that, their train had often left.
As to the comments from Dave Forbes, I can assure him that Clydelink were absolutely serious when they said that their Plan C was to run ribs across the Clyde. I agree that I do not believe that MCA would approve such a proposal.
The main question at the moment is whether the proposed Clydelink vessel is a new build ferry or not. Although the decision to give the contract to Clydelink was based on the ferry being a new build vessel, the indications at this time are that it is not new build. Unfortunately SPT appear to be dragging their heals in asking MCA for information relating to this question.
Given some of the information that has been brought to my attention over the past 18 hours, it would not surprise me if the report to the SPR Operations Committee requesting a grant of £80,250 plus VAT for Clydelink on Friday morning was withdrawn. WATCH THIS SPACE.
Councillor George Freeman also commented
- Although Clydelink stated categorically at the meeting with SPT last week that the ferry would be a new vessel, was currently being built in Southampton and had not been in service before, information that has now come to hand that suggests this may not be a new vessel.
One of the recommendations at the SPT Operations Committee on 20 January was that: (5) recommending that following re-advertisement of the service, contract 1923C1 Gourock – Kilcreggan ferry service be awarded to Clydelink Ltd at a cost of £874,760 for the contract period 1 April 2012 to 1 April 2017, based on the provision of a new build 60 seat vessel.
Given that this recommendation was accepted and the decision to award the contract to Clydelink was therefore based on “the provision of a new build 60 seat vessel”, if the ferry is not new, then this would fail to comply with the Operations Committee decision.
SPT have been asked to investigate as a matter of urgency.
- The proposed new contract for the Gourock – Kilcreggan ferry service was discussed at length at a meeting of Cove & Kilcreggan Community Council (CC) on 14 February. The meeting was attended by over 70 concerned members of the public. Those attending with me included Gerry Gaffney of the Ferry Users Group and Cllrs Billy Petrie and Daniel Kelly as the other two ward councillors.
Following a lengthy discussion, during which a wide range of concerns were raised, it was agreed that a meeting would be requested with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT). It was agreed that those who would attend the meeting with SPT would include Nick Davies – Chair of the CC, myself as local councillor, Gerry Gaffney from the Ferry Users Group (who also has a great deal of technical knowledge) and Harry Cathcart who first raised this issue with me and who has a wide ranging financial background.
Prior to the meeting with SPT, I submitted further questions and FOI requests to SPT and information was gathered from Argyll & Bute Council (A&BC) and from other sources. As a result of the information gathered, I discovered that discussions on the renewal of the contract had been ongoing with Council officers and some councillors from as far back as May 2011. We also discovered that meetings took place with SPT and certain councillors at Blairmore in June 2011 when it was clear that there was an attempt to try and include Blairmore in the new contract.
I also discovered that Council officers had made the Chair of the Helensburgh & Lomond Area Committee aware of the threat to the Helensburgh link as far back as early November 2011. I asked the other 9 local councillors and Cllr Duncan MacIntyre if they were made aware of the threat to the Helensburgh link by the Chair of the Area Committee or by Council officers in November 2011. Four confirmed that like me, they only found out about the proposed change in January 2012. Unfortunately the other five local councillors and Cllr Duncan MacIntyre have not responded. It now appears that no political action was taken since November 2011 to try and ensure the Helensburgh link was retained.
The meeting with SPT took place on 29 February. Those representing SPT and the Council at the meeting were Gordon MacLennan (SPT Chief Executive) plus two of his officers, Cllr Duncan MacIntyre – SPT’s A&BC representative, Cllr Vivien Dance – Chair of Helensburgh & Lomond Area Committee and Cllr Daniel Kelly. Also attending was Mark Aikman from Clydelink who is due to take over the contract as from 1 April 2012.
At the start of the meeting, Harry Cathcart raised a number of financial issues with regards to Clydelink. He also stated that he considered that SPT had not fulfilled their responsibilities relating to the need for due diligence when awarding this contract. Questions were asked about financial checks undertaken by SPT and the funding of the construction costs of the new ferry.
Clydelink informed the meeting that the new ferry was currently being built at Southampton and is expected to be in place by 1 April 2012. Concerns were raised that although Clydelink had been dealing with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) at Southampton, no contact had been made with the MCA at Greenock who will have to approve the use of the new ferry on the route. Given these and other concerns that were highlighted, SPT directed Clydelink to make urgent contact with MCA Greenock to try and resolve these issues.
There was considerable discussion relating to the specification/class of the new vessel. Clydelink advised that the new vessel will be built to Merchant Shipping Notice 1699(M) Class V. Gerry Gaffney advised Clydelink that the Seabus was built to the EU Directive for Domestic Passenger Vessels (EU Directive 98/18) which is a much higher specification than Class 5 and the one which Clyde Marine had adopted as being appropriate for the Gourock – Kilcreggan route. SPT directed Clydelink to obtain information on the Directive with a view to having any improvements/modifications carried out on the new vessel before 1 April.
Gerry Gaffney then presented information relating to the dimensions of the proposed new ferry against the SEABUS, the Argyle Flyer and the Ali Cat and provided information on the number of cancellations for each of these vessels during Nov and Dec 2011. Based on the information available, concerns were highlighted that the number of cancellations due to adverse weather conditions could increase significantly when the new ferry was in service. The Clydelink representative stated that with regards to cancellations, he could not say what level of service he would be able to deliver. This is clearly a concern with regards to the reliability of the new service.
Clydelink confirmed that they had a Plan B and Plan C if the new vessel was not available for the 1st April. Plan B was a Class 5 specification vessel currently based in Oban. Plan C was the use of two ribs running back and forward across the river. SPT was advised that as the vessel based in Oban is a Class 5, it will also require improvements/modifications to bring it up to the EU Directive prior to being brought into service on the Gourock – Kilcreggan route.
We received confirmation from Clydelink that the ferry will be berthed by the crew using boat hooks. This is the reason why Council staff who currently carry out this work have been informed that they could be redeployed or even made redundant. Clydelink confirmed that the proposed berthing procedure would reduce their costs by £20,000. Cllr MacIntyre informed those present that he had only become aware of the potential implications for Council staff that morning.
With reference to an upcoming problem for berthing at the Kilcreggan Steps at Gourock, it was confirmed that a solution to the berthing problem had not been finalised. Although a proposal to berth 200 metres from the current location had been suggested, no decision had yet been taken on this issue.
Concerns were also raised during the meeting with regards to a number of other issues including projected passenger numbers, subsidy figures, risk assessments and changes to the berthing arrangements.
I hope that this information helps to bring readers up to date on this issue and also highlights why the community has serious concerns about the safety and reliability of the proposed new service.
Further information on this issue continues to come to light on a daily basis and I have no doubt that this issue has still got some way to run. Watch this space.
Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman
- Shift in perspective on Council Tax freeze – but is it being managed?
Graeme, you may not like it but the facts speak for themselves. I was there and I can confirm that of the 80 people in the room, only 6 supported the ongoing Council Tax freeze. This was not a hand-picked audience but were random individuals from all across Scotland. There was no comment or argument on the numbers from Rob Gibson SNP MSP who was on the political panel.
As an individual, I do not support the Council Tax freeze when I see services being cut as a result. As a property lawyer, you certainly would not be classed as vulnerable and will not have seen the worst of the service cuts. Why do you think the Council was proposing the closure of Struan Lodge Elderly Care Home? Why are we currently consulting on the massive cuts that have had to be imposed on the Amenity Services budget? The list goes on and on.
It is clear that without the Counil Tax freeze, service cuts would not be as severe as they are.
Although the freezing of the Council Tax sounds good, over the past seven years, the total saved by the average Band A Council Tax payer is only £258 (70p per week) whereas the wealthy in their Band H properties are saving £4-22p per week (six times the saving being achived by those at the lower end of the wealth scale).
I think that it is quite clear from these figures that it is the wealthy who benefit most from the SNPs policy on freezing the Council Tax.
- Council meeting: is this what Audit Scotland had in mind?
Simon, I am delighted to note your concerns for me. You may have noted that I have remained relatively silent over the past 10 months while the Council has tried to deal with all the political upheaval that it has faced. I will at some time in the near future give my own views on this issue.
As far as my position with the new administration is concerned, I believe that it would be appropriate to clarify a number of points. Firstly, during the political upheaval, I made it clear on a number of occasions that I was happy to work with any councillors who were willing to set aside their own self-interest and work for the benefit of all the residents of Argyll & Bute. My view was that all 36 councillors should have been locked in a room until agreement could be reached on a commitment to put Argyll & Bute first. Any who were not willing to sign up to such an agreement should then have been excluded from the administration. At that point, all appointments would then be made solely on merit and experience. Unfortunately, at that time, all councillors were not willing to agree to a meeting of all 36 councillors. I am sure that you will appreciate that the Council has moved on somewhat since then.
You refer to me accepting a post within the new administration. I should point out that I was appointed as Vice Chair of the Helensburgh & Lomond Area Committee by the Council on 21 March 2013 (almost 8 months ago) under the previous administration. Nothing has changed there. I can confirm that I did not submit an “expression of interest” for that position.
I remain committed to working with any councillor who is willing to put Argyll & Bute first before their own self-interest. This includes councillors of all political persuasions (and none) and those within and out with the administration. I hope that this has helped to make my position at this time clear.
- Grangemouth: facts, consequences and issues
For the benefit of Longshanks and Stewarty, I spent years in a previous life working with oil tankers of all sizes at the large Oil Fuel Depots at Invergordon, Old Kilpatrick and Garelochhead. We loaded and offloaded various sizes of tankers (commercial and RFA) with aviation fuels, F75 and F76 diesel fuels and heavy fuel oils.
Robert Wakeham is correct that VLCCs are crude oil carriers. Longshanks is wrong, even the layman can tell the difference between a VLCC and a refined oil carrier which is very much smaller. Longshanks is also wrong when he states that “many of those VLCCs you see at Finnart are exporting refined petroleum products”.
At no stage did I make a statement that “Scotland is a net importer of oil”. You obviously do not want to admit what INEOS is telling us that most of the crude oil going to Scotland’s only oil refinery at Grangemouth is imported.
- Grangemouth: facts, consequences and issues
Longshanks, the information has been confirmed by Petroineos Refining and Trading. They state that at the Finnart facility, they currently “import around 60% of the crude oil required to feed the refinery (the other 40% comes from BPs Kinneil plant at Grangemouth) and they export 15-20% of the refinery’s output”.
As I am sure you will be aware, Kinneil is the Grangemouth end of the North Sea pipeline.
These figures can also be confirmed by checking shipping and other public figures that are available to the public.
I assume that you do not drive past the Finnart facility on a daily basis like me and that you therefore do not see the VLCCs that are alongside discharging the crude oil that ends up being pumped to the Grangemouth refinery?
Are you telling me that you know the companies business better than them, or is it that you would prefer to have us believe that Scotland does not require to import most of its oil?
- Grangemouth: facts, consequences and issues
Presumably because Alax Salmond knew that most of the credit would have gone elsewhere.
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