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May: 'Council letter showed dogmatic approach'

Andrew May has accused Council Chairman Robert Francis of taking a "dogmatic and uncompromising approach" in his recent letter to the Isles of Scilly Steamship Group.

At a meeting on Tuesday, June 5th, Members agreed that a letter would be sent to the ISSG "that highlighted concerns raised by the public with regard to capacity of their air service", to be written by Cllr Francis with Cllrs Marian Berkeley and Ted Moulson, with approval from the Authority's Monitoring Officer.

The resolution followed hundreds of passengers being stranded after flights were cancelled due to fog the previous weekend.

Cllr Francis's letter, which was obtained via a Freedom of Information request from Scilly's Cornishman correspondent Clive Mumford, said the ISSG had shown a poor level of overall service.

Read Andrew May's response in full below:

Dear Robert,

It’s disappointing that your first correspondence as Chairman of the Council of the Isles of Scilly with the Steamship Company, received by email last week, demonstrates such an apparently dogmatic and uncompromising approach.

Nonetheless, I reiterate my congratulations to you on both your election to the Council and as its Chairman. For our part my colleagues and I will endeavour to work constructively with you and the Council for the common good of our Islands’ community and its visitors.

Your letter places considerable emphasis on the disruption to scheduled air services on Friday 1st June 2018. It might be helpful if I list some of the relevant facts and timelines around 1st -3rd June:

  • The detailed weather forecast for Friday 1st June on the day, as the preceding day, was for visibility to improve to allow flying from between 11.00 – 12.00 at the latest. Had it done so, it’s likely that all air passengers could have been accommodated on the day of their choosing, and certainly there would have been spare capacity the following day.

  • In the event visibility improved at 16.30 and there was insufficient time between then and 19.30 (we’re grateful to St Mary’s airport for this extension) to fly all passengers booked for that day.

  • The feasibility of a second sailing of Scillonian III on Friday 1st was considered and discussed. It was not until sometime after 12.00 that it began to be understood that this might be required. My discussion with your CEO on this topic was mid-afternoon. It would not have been possible to mobilise passengers for the first sailing to depart St Mary’s much before 16.00. A second sailing then could not have departed St Mary’s before 23.00, arriving Penzance during the early hours of the following day. We believe we would fail in our duty of care to our passengers to discharge them in Penzance at this hour. Further, the ship’s crew would not have been able to stand down until 02.00, before reporting for duty around two hours later to fulfil the scheduled double sailing.

  • Skybus carried a record number of 857 passengers on Saturday 2nd.

  • On Saturday 2nd June ISSG’s services carried 2,301 passengers.

  • Scillonian III undertook an additional sailing on Sunday 3rd carrying fewer than 50 passengers. Out of interest, the number of passengers choosing to travel on Saturday 3rd February was 34, while on Saturday 13th January this figure was just 8 - evidence of the variation in demand with which the transport infrastructure serving the islands is asked to contend.

I regret you’ve chosen to use some emotive and subjective language because it does not foster constructive debate. ISSG rejects a number of your assertions, including those implied in the first 5 of your bullet points on page 3 of your letter. Regarding the 5th & 6th, I’d be interested in understanding the degree of operational oversight of ISSG’s operations you feel your Council should have.

My colleagues and I make two undertakings to your Council. First, that we will in due course supply it with a document sufficiently detailed as to make clear ISSG’s vision and ethos as well as some detail around the process of our asset replacement programme. Second, that we will look to engage constructively with it and we’ll work to achieve this directly between our two organisations and as members of a wider strategic forum.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew May

Chairman, Isles of Scilly Steamship Group


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