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Highland Council has been accused of treating the Corran Ferry as a ‘cash cow’ and that it hiked the price of single fares recently without consulting any of the five affected peninsula community councils.
Last month, a majority of councillors on the Inverness-headquartered local authority agreed a savings package that will see a rise in fares for the Corran Ferry to the tune of an extra £100,000 a year.
It was agreed the price of books of pre-paid ferry tickets will not go up, but the resulting £13,000 shortfall in savings will be spread across drive-up fare categories. This means a three per cent rise for single ticket purchasers – residents and tourists.
And at last Thursday’s Ardgour Community Council meeting, it was claimed there had been no consultation with any of the five affected peninsula community councils.
Ardgour Community Council deputy chairman Michael Foxley said he was pleased the price of a book of tickets was not going up.
‘But I think it is totally unacceptable there has been no consultation with the communities which use the ferry because that was what was agreed,’ he added.
‘The increase in the standard crossing, one-off tickets, goes from £9 to £10 which in my maths is 11 per cent. In years past, increases were either zero or the rate of inflation and I think Highland Council regards it as a cash cow.
‘I don’t think it is related to the costs of replacement directly [of the two ferry vessels] and I do think we need to have a proper discussion about what our priorities are.
‘The very least that should have happened is that there should’ve been a discussion with us and the other four community councils on the matter.’
Council chairperson Sam Thomson told the meeting the first she heard of the plan to raise the ferry fares was when she read about it on the Facebook page of Fort William and Ardnamurchan ward councillor Andrew Baxter – the only Lochaber councillor to vote against any rise in fares.
‘I did say to Andrew [Baxter] that there had a complete lack of communication. We weren’t consulted,’ she added.
Community councillor Kendra Turnbull asked if there had been any feedback about the recent survey that Fort William, peninsula and Mull residents were asked to fill out.
Highland councillor Allan Henderson, Caol and Mallaig, said he was expecting the results of the survey to be presented to himself and others on December 2 and that Councillor Foxley would also be included in that.
Councillor Thomson echoed Councillor Foxley’s comments, saying: ‘I agree it does seem a cash cow and where’s it all going?’
However, Councillor Henderson cautioned the community council that it might be worth them viewing the recorded webcast of the full council meeting at which it was agreed to raise the price of fares.
‘Just to see the position we were put in as councillors,’ he added. ‘Because there were two counter motions by members from your own ward, so we probably took the lesser of two evils.
‘It may be worth a look back before you get involved in the discussion, just so everyone is up to date.’
Councillor Thomson agreed with Councillor Henderson’s suggestion.