Hands ON OUR Harbour
WHW Public Meeting
7.30 pm, Monday 11th October
The Stables Bar, Duke of Cumberland
• Public ownership is essential
• Why CCC’s Review is flawed
• Enlisting expert guidance
• A working harbour for Whitstable
Whitstable Harbour Watch
Comment on Canterbury City Council Scrutiny Review Panel Report
Presented to the Scrutiny Review Panel Sub-Committee on 22 September 2010
Whitstable Harbour Watch was formed by public meeting in August 2007 and has a membership of over 1400, predominantly from Whitstable. The constitution was published by leaflet in September 2007, is on our website and is reviewed at our Public Meetings.
Whitstable Harbour Watch was pleased to be consulted by the Review Panel.
Recommendation One – Harbour Board Success
We agree that the Harbour Board has made substantial progress and that the contribution of the Independent Members should be particularly noted.
However, the Review does not mention areas where success has been more limited. We expected analysis of the reasons why the governance has not been effective in all cases.
Recommendation Two – Leasing, Outsourcing and Sale
We agree that leasing, outsourcing and sale options should be rejected.
Recommendation Three – Trust Port Status
Ownership of the Harbour must remain with Canterbury City Council on behalf of the people of Whitstable, Herne Bay and Canterbury. If public ownership definitely precludes Trust Port status, then we accept this judgement.
Recommendation Four – Incorporation
We consider that incorporation of the Harbour is a fully viable option and we are surprised that the Review did not work up a model for how it could work in practice.
Democratic control would seem to be retained in the incorporation option as it is proposed that CCC remains the owner and safeguards could be built into a company Articles of Association to ensure suitable control of governance.
We feel that the option for creating an independent company should be further developed and contrasted against the non-executive direct management option.
Recommendation Five – Executive function
We agree that the direct management of the Harbour as an executive function would be a backward step. The emphasis must be on moving control into the hands of people expert in port control and management of a significant public space.
Recommendation Six – Non-executive function
Retaining direct management of the port as a non-executive function seems to have been selected without great justification. There is little evidence presented as to why non-executive direct control would work better in the future than the current governance arrangement.
We are concerned that this was the only option worked up in detail. Some of the sub-recommendations do have merit but would not sufficiently inject the business focus required in governing a major public maritime asset which requires specialist expertise.
It does not seem logical to reduce the most important contribution to change in the Harbour Board – the Independent Members. While a reduction in size of the Harbour Board is acceptable, four / five Independent Members and three / four Councillors would better fulfil the tasks set for the Board. CCC retains overall control in any case and does not need to micro-manage each governance decision by majority control.
Recommendation Eight – Overall
It is essential to keep both the independent company and non-executive options open in order that a full and detailed comparison can be made against the tasks required to manage the Harbour.
Whitstable Harbour Watch – Conclusion
This Review has not addressed with sufficient vigour the essential changes required in governance. Further work is required to ensure that the future of the Harbour is given the best possible governance structure consistent with public ownership.
Whitstable Harbour Watch
22 September 2010