COMMERCIAL AND LEISURE users of Moray Council-owned harbours will, as expected, face major increases in fees from April next year.
Members of the economic development and infrastructure committee met on Tuesday to consider the results of consultation over current charging levels, which fails to meet increasing maintenance costs at Hopeman, Findochty, Cullen, Portknockie, Buckie and Burghead.
However, the increases will not be as savage as they may have been, as Councillors opted for a compromise proposal that will see the current £40 per metre for a pontoon berth increase to £60. In addition, the 25% discount enjoyed by boat owners over the age of 60 will cease.
Charges for berths against a harbour wall will go up from £40 to £50 – helping to raise an additional £33,831 income for the local authority each year to a total of over £103k.
One of the major complaints from boat owners has been the lack of supplied power and water facilities in the Hopeman, Findochty, Cullen and Portknockie harbours. Councillors have committed to a programme of installing these services where it is possible to do so, but once installed there will be a further increase in pontoon berths to £80 per metre – although harbour wall and quayside charges would reduce.
Other charges for commercial vessels and activities have been raised to bring Burghead and Buckie harbours in line with current market fees.
Speaking after the meeting committee chairman John Cowe said: “Given that we last raised the fees by more than inflation in 2008, it’s perfectly reasonable to implement an increase now.
“In these straitened times the council cannot subsidise what is now largely a leisure activity exclusively for a few.
“The harbours are expensive to run – we have an annual deficit of £135k on our harbours meaning that we spend that much more than we earn from fees at present.
“This is clearly unsustainable. As a Council we have to focus our reducing budget on providing front line services to all our residents.”