Harbour board vents council frustrations

The sun shining on Whitby harbour''w132101a
The sun shining on Whitby harbour''w132101a

Whitby Harbour Board members have spoken openly for the first time of their frustrations at a perceived lack of borough council support

The board members were addressing a review team, established to consider whether Whitby Harbour Board should continue in its current format and review chair, Coun Jane Mortimer said: “This isn’t a Spanish Inquisition, it’s just a review so we can take it back to the council and say, is it working, should it continue?”

The review team, including borough councillors Mortimer, Eric Broadbent and John Ritchie will compile a report as to whether the board’s governance - how it is operated - had worked, rather than whether the board as a whole had been a success.

However, with tensions running high, the debate shifted through a number of topics. Issues raised included the lack of public involvement in meetings, although residents have previously complained the three-day restriction on questions prevented debate. The absence of Whitby Town councillors from board meetings was also noted.

An issue that was repeatedly raised was the distribution of funds generated by car parks around the harbour. It was felt that if this money had been given to the board, instead of the central council pot, more necessary work could have been completed.

Other criticisms included the asset condition check not being undertaken before the board came into existence and the fact the board’s chair, Coun Mike Cockerill is not Whitby-based. A lack of public communication through the press was also lamented, despite the Gazette receiving very little information directly from the Harbour Board throughout its pilot scheme.

Former borough councillor and board member Sandra Turner spoke frankly about her disappointment at the lack of meaningful power given to the board. She said: “I was really excited at the set up of the board, but the remit meant it was doomed to fail. All it did was create angry people. “It was an immediate battle and the reputation of the board is absolutely dire among Whitby people.”

Board members were offered the opportunity to raise their concerns, and called for greater clarity as to the independence of the board, as well as a number of other frank discussions.

Coun Dorothy Clegg said: “I think that people who have spoken today have given more clarity than I have heard in the last two years and I hope it’s translated into confidence in the harbour board.”