Councillors rebel against possible 110% increase in berthing charges

Councillor McDonald - could never support 110% berthing increase.
Councillor McDonald – could never support 110% berthing increase.

CONSULTATIONS ON CHARGES levied at the six harbours owned by Moray Council will take place – but with warnings from several councillors that some of the proposals need to be toned down.

Officials had drawn up a list of revised charges in a bid to move the harbours at Buckie, Burghead, Hopeman, Findochty, Portknockie and Cullen closer to their becoming self-funding.

Currently, the joint losses being met at all six harbours are costing Moray around £135,000, prompting a study into ways of bridging the gap – including an increase in charges levied on boat owners. A paper put before Councillors pointed fees at the Council-owned harbours being much lower than those paid at privately owned harbours such as Lossiemouth.

However, Buckie councillor Gordon McDonald and Heldon & Laich member Dennis Slater led the way in reminding officials that their proposals assumed an equal level of facilities being paid for – and that, they said, was clearly not the case.

Councillor McDonald highlighted that in some cases boat owners with a pontoon berth could see their fees increase by 110% – and that, he said, could simply not be justified.

He said: “We are not comparing apples with apples, for a start that are no boats at Findochty that are 8m long, which is where the comparator is made.  Also there are no security fences, no CCTV, no fixed pontoons at Findochty – the one there is past its sell-by date by over six years. There is a harbour that has not had any capital investment for a 12 to 13year period, its crumbling and we know that there is a deficit of work to be done well in excess of £7million.

“Yet we are comparing harbours such as Lossiemouth which has all of the equipment – so we are not comparing like with like at all. Also the increase [owners could be charged] is as much as 110%, there is no way I could possibly support an increase of 110% on these boats.”

Councillor Slater said that he had also been approached by local boat owners at Hopeman Harbour, adding: “I think the feeling there is yes, prices have to go up and they would work with the Moray Council, but the situation there at the present time is decking on the pontoon that is crumbling.

“For me that presents a health and safety risk – these guys have no electricity, no water and no security and these all have to be taken into consideration before we start making assumptions and laying down price increases.”

Councillors agreed that rather than a single set of charges being proposed, harbour users would be consulted on a number of options that would be be drawn up by officers.

The consultation will also focus on individual development plans for each of the six harbours to help them realise their full potential and maximise development opportunities which exist at each of the locations.