A PETITION CALLING for a change of direction by Moray Council over increased charges for harbour berths has been accepted and supported by the SNP group.
Angry council-owned harbour users in Hopeman launched a bid to reverse the decision – and having conceded that the original decision taken late last year by councillors may not have been ‘fully informed’, the local authority has already agreed to a new debate.
That will take place on Tuesday next week when the economic development and infrastructure services committee are next in session.
During the previous debate SNP Councillors proposed an option that provided a discount for over 60 and which kept increases in charges to a much more reasonable level. However, administration group members, including representatives of communities with affected harbours, backed a charges increase that completely removed the over 60s discount and would have seen some harbour users getting an over 100% increase in charges.
Commenting after accepting the petition SNP Opposition Leader Councillor Gary Coull said: “The SNP proposed a measured and considered charging option that we felt was as fair as possible but also recognising that some increase was required.
“We were flabbergasted when the Tory and Independent councillors, including John Cowe and Dennis Slater who represent Hopeman Harbour users, decided to go for not just the biggest charging increase option but went even further with a proposal that would see some users getting over 100% increase in their charges.
“Like the harbour users we were disappointed that we lost the vote but with the information in the original report being incorrect there is a further chance to get a fairer outcome. I would urge councillors like Dennis Slater and John Cowe to reconsider their proposals which grossly unfair for harbour users.
“Once again it is another consultation where Tories and Independents are not listening to the responses.”
Buckie SNP Councillors Gordon McDonald and Sonya Warren also represent harbour users affected by the proposals, both having previously fought against the plans.
Councillor McDonald said: “I was just astounded at the proposal from the Council’s Tory and Independent administration councillors. They were way beyond anything I thought they would do. Their plans are totally unfair on harbour users with small boats.
“These are not wealthy owners of large yachts and other vessels but people who have small boats only a few metres long. They are ordinary people who come from coastal communities where going out on a boat is a normal everyday occurrence.
“I will be making the same arguments I made before and I sincerely hope that the Tories and Independents will take note of the angry response from harbour users and vote with us this time.”
Councillor Sonya Warren added: “Harbour users with small vessels right along the Moray coast are rightly angry and frustrated with Tories, Independent and Labour councillors who have simply not understood the impact of the original charging decision.
“There is now an opportunity for them to reconsider this daft decision and vote for a more balanced approach that does not discriminate heavily against harbour users.
“Harbour users are making it clear in large numbers that they do not want to pay an excessive increase for facilities that they don’t require. They just want a harbour that is maintained as it should be.
“They are currently paying harbour dues for harbours that are in desperate need of dredging and getting in and out of the harbour is far more important to them than additional unnecessary equipment on the quayside.”