Cllr Debbie Andre shares this latest news, in her own words. Ed
The Leader of the Island Independent Group, Cllr Debbie Andre, has spoken out today following unjustified comments from Cllr Dave Stewart, the Leader of the Conservative administration in County Hall.
Cllr Stewart claimed that the Conservatives “inherited the FB from the Independents” and that they had “not kept a tight handle on it”.
Conservatives said nothing
It’s important to note that the last Independent administration was a minority administration.
The Conservatives and their allies had the numbers to request a rethink on the Floating Bridge proposals under the former administration, especially as Cllr Stewart was Chair of Scrutiny at the time. They didn’t.
Opposition members do not currently have this same opportunity as they are outvoted. Also, many decisions are being made under delegated powers, thus avoiding effective scrutiny.
Indies not involved in procurement, design or build of vessel
Cllr Andre stated earlier today,
“The fact is that the Independents were responsible solely for accessing and securing the funding to replace the FB, which was coming to the end of its lifespan, and were not involved in the procurement, design or build of the vessel that was delivered.
“This was carried out by a Project Board which included stakeholders and senior Council Officers but did not include any Councillors.
“The project board were the people keeping a ‘tight handle’ on the project which was entirely a professionally qualified and operational matter as should have been the case from the outset. Cllr Stewart knows full well that Councillors are not, nor should they be, involved in operational matters.”
Delivered after Conservatives seized power
The delivery of the FB took place in 2017, after the Conservatives had seized control of the IWC, and the vessel was brought into service.
Cllr Andre went on to say
“The Conservatives took delivery of the vessel and brought it into service without completing full trials.
“They then blamed public pressure to introduce the vessel into service, as the reason they did not complete those necessary trials and tests.
“Faults became apparent almost from the outset and yet they signed off this vessel as fit for purpose. Clearly, the situation that now exists shows that this was a massive error of judgment by them.”
The Solent LEP say around £1.49million has been spent on the vessel since delivery and there has been a further £539,281 spent on the replacement passenger launch that has been frequently used to transport passengers across the River Medina during the FB suspensions.
Cllr Andre added,
“It remains unclear why the design agreed upon differed so much from the previous design. It would appear that the many remedial works that have been carried out since its installation have been ineffective and questions need to be asked why yet more money is being poured into modifications when the design is so obviously not fit for purpose.
“Instead of dealing with the inherent faults in the FB, the Conservatives try to shake off their ongoing responsibilities by blaming the previous administration who were not involved in any part of the process of designing and building the replacement FB.
“Clearly the Conservatives prefer to play the ‘blame game’ approach instead of accepting their own failures and resolving this issue in a satisfactory way.”
Heavy congestion being predicted
Extensive road works at St Mary’s roundabout are due to start work on 30th September with heavy congestion on this route being predicted. Apart from Newport centre, the only other vehicle route across the Medina river is the Floating Bridge.
The Floating Bridge is currently out of service for some three weeks which will mean that there will be a period of overlap when it’s likely that there will be gridlock around Newport, if the works for St Mary’s roundabout go ahead next Monday.
Blaming everyone but themselves
At an Extraordinary Full Council meeting called for by Cllr Julie Jones-Evans and four other opposition councillors to pause the works and reconsider the whole St Mary’s roundabout scheme, concern was raised by several opposition councillors regarding the ongoing unreliability of the FB and the impact that this will have once the works start.
Cllr Andre said,
“The public are tired of the Conservatives blaming everyone but themselves instead of dealing with the current problems efficiently and effectively.
“The time has come to hold those responsible for this failing to account, and then to go back to the drawing board with a bespoke design that will provide the vital service that Islanders deserve and rely on.”
The Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee has been asked to look into the ongoing unreliability of the FB as soon as possible.
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh