Harbour told to balance its cash

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WHITBY Harbour must be financially sustainable by 2014, a council report has stated.

As part of Whitby Harbour Board’s mandate, the group will soon be responsible for managing its own budget, independent of Scarborough Borough Council.

Harbour board chairman Coun Mike Cockerill said the change is taking place during an extremely testing time for the harbour, which leaves the board facing a budget shortfall of £82,000 per year.

For the first two years this deficit is to be subsidised by SBC, but following that the harbour board must generate their own revenue for maintenance and repairs.

“It’s up to the board to take steps to hopefully generate more income,” said Coun Cockerill.

“But if we don’t then we have to decide how we are going to balance our own budget.

“I want to keep going but you have got to be realistic in these very difficult times. “Difficulties are being created for lots of people, through no fault of our own.”

The harbour board was established on the condition that it would be cost neutral and so from 2014 the board will only be able to spend as much as it can generate through landing fees, wharfage costs and other revenue streams.

Whitby town mayor John Freeman pointed out that this might cause problems as many aspects of the harbour do not directly create any income. He said: “You look at Kiddies’ Corner, it’s a vital attraction for tourism, but on paper it doesn’t earn a penny.”

The SBC board must therefore find a way to either generate or save the missing £82,000 per year, but Coun Cockerill is not panicking yet. He said: “All you can say is we will be closely monitoring the situation and in 12 months’ time we will have a better grasp of what’s happening and we can start formulating plans.”

But Whitby councillor Tom Brown said: “To a man on a galloping horse it looks like Whitby has got no history, and Scarborough are saying we can only take it over if it’s going to pay for itself.

“They really can’t say ‘unless we don’t get money from the harbour we can’t spend anything’, it’s just not going to happen.”

Whitby Harbour Board has £223,000 in reserves, which may need to be utilised if the attempts to balance the books are unsuccessful. The Gazette reported on 6 January that £807,000 is being donated from SBC’s capital budget to pay for repairs of sheet piling works at Endeavour Wharf.

This investment will still take place, with revenue from the sale of the Dean Road Depot in Scarborough to Tesco, which will generate funds of around £10m.

Another £102,000 annual shortfall is estimated for car parking around the harbour, but this money is to be supplemented directly from SBC’s general reserves. A total of £109,110 also remains from the Whitby Marina Development budget. Of this, £60,000 will be used to repair Kiddies’ Corner and £30,000 for car park resurfacing at Whitby Marina, leaving £19,110 which is yet to be allocated.

l Whitby Swing Bridge will soon no longer be the responsibility of SBC or Whitby Town Council as North Yorkshire County Council are set to take over its upkeep this year.