Dartmouth Lower Ferry
District Councillor Jonathan Hawkins said at the Town Council this month that he hoped that if the ferry was sold, then Dartmouth Town Council would be given the first option. District Councillor Hilary Bastone who is the assets portfolio holder at South Hams Council says there is a limit to what he can say at present and he has no comment to make until the full option report is available. Labour Party election candidate Ben Cooper says.
“Any planned sale of the lower ferry should be totally opposed, it’s a vital connection between Dartmouth and Kingswear and as such needs to be protected from anything which may undermine the service provided – especially when it makes the council a profit every year”. Independent election candidate Steve Smith says “I strongly believe this ferry operation should be handed back to Dartmouth Town Council to manage. The profit it generates is worth the council raising loans to buy it, as the investment will pay dividends and some of that profit can be invested into community projects But the ferry has just had £1.4m spent on the landing slips and will require something like £3m invested soon on new tug boats. The operation makes a net annual profit of £100,000 – £250,000 , but all the £450,000 contingency savings in a repair fund were spent some years ago. Some say they were used to help keep down council taxes but others say it was used to pay golden handshakes to the last 4 Chief executives. Purchasers
offered the ferry for even a nominal fee will thus be faced with huge liabilities, and a Public Works Loan raised by the Town Council to buy tug boats could take 30 years to pay off before profits could be spent on good causes. If not, council tax payers could end up with higher taxes to pay this off
An employee buy-out was prepared last time the ferry sale was considered and it is understood that this is still valid. Other potential buyers include the Steam Railway and the Upper Ferry but the latter would then operate a monopoly on the river crossing and it is unlikely that public opinion would allow this option. Which is why all prospective councillorsshould state their views before the election on May 7th