Members of Purbeck District Council have voted unanimously to object to proposed toll increases for the Studland Ferry and the Leader of the Council has written to the Secretary of State to make the Council’s objections clear.
The ferry company is consulting on proposals to increase the tolls up to the year 2022.
In his letter, Councillor Gary Suttle expressed the Council’s concerns that the proposed increases would have a detrimental impact on local residents who rely on the ferry to get to and from work; and therefore on the local economy.
Councillor Suttle said: “The rate of inflation as of December 2017 was 3%. All of the proposed increases, with the exception of books of tickets, in April 2018 are above 3% with some as high as 33%. With Purbeck having some of the lowest wages in the South West and with a significant number of jobs in the tourist industry that are traditionally low paid this adds an additional cost in getting to and from work, in some cases an extra £21 a week by 2022.”
Councillor Suttle also stressed the effect the proposed increases would have on residents of Studland and Swanage who need to get to Poole (and vice versa) and who would be less inclined to use the ferry if the increases were enforced. He said:
“The only alternative route is a 20 mile road trip on a road that passes through several villages that are already congested at peak times, but particularly in summer months. The additional road traffic will contribute to increased pollution, and would contradict the Government’s policy of improving air quality.”
It is up to the Secretary of State to decide whether or not to approve the ferry company’s application to raise the tolls. However, the Council believes the Secretary of State would be acting unreasonably if he were to approve them.
Councillor Suttle has also drawn the Secretary of State’s attention to the company accounts which show that a significant dividend has been paid to shareholders over the years, with no prudential allocation to ferry reserves despite the company knowing it will eventually reach the end of its useful life in 2026.
He also pointed out that the public notice of the application for an increase is misleading by not showing the tolls current at the time that public notice was given; rather it showed the tolls as at 1 April 2018. The percentage increases are as a consequence greater than suggested.
Councillor Suttle concluded: “While the Council understands that some increases are necessary to meet operational costs and a ferry reserve is required, it requests that the company re-submit their application to propose fare increases that are closer to inflation with some of the costs for the new ferry financed by a reduced dividend to the shareholders.”