April mooring fees hike could be overturned by requete
Boat owners are increasingly confident that deputies will overturn huge increases in mooring fees planned for this April.
David De Lisle said on Tuesday that he will lead a requete asking the States to back an across-the-board increase in fees of 10% in place of hikes of between 17% and 46% announced by the States’ Trading Supervisory Board last year, and confirmed by the States in December.
At that time an attempt to block the board’s plan was defeated by a single vote, with four members not voting and three members absent.
‘We felt that if all members had been present the motion might have been successful last time,’ said Guernsey Boatowners’ Association committee member Chris Workman.
‘From our discussions with other deputies who voted against the motion, we feel they are now better informed of the situation now.
‘To be honest, we are very optimistic about overturning the proposal. I wouldn’t say we’re happy about increases of 10%, but we’re prepared to pay 10% because we understand that work needs to be done at the harbours.’
The requete has not yet been published, but the Policy & Resources Committee is expected to propose scheduling it for debate at the States meeting in March.
The six other signatories of the requete are Deputies Simon Vermeulen, John Dyke, Liam McKenna, Victoria Oliver, Chris Blin and Adrian Gabriel.
‘The increases the board has in mind are preposterous. They are putting the leisure activities of boat owners at risk,’ said Deputy De Lisle.
‘Leisure boats are part of our marine industry of course. It is part of our traditional way of life. Government risks undermining a fundamental element of our Guernsey way of life.
‘One also has to consider young people with limited resources who might want to get into boating or into the marine industry.
‘It’s unfair to close off these opportunities to them, which is the way it’s heading with these huge increases in cost. There was always an understanding previously that mooring fee increases would be kept to within reach of the ordinary Guernseyman, which typically meant increases with inflation but not these great hikes the board is after.’
Inflation was 6.3% last year.
Deputy De Lisle said the mooring fee increases announced by the board – between 20 and 31% for most leisure boats – were another example of ‘government losing touch with the public’, alongside inflation-busting increases in property rates and electricity charges.
The board recently announced that St Peter Port Harbour would require nearly £65m. of maintenance and refurbishment over the next 10 years.
About a third of this would be spent upgrading ageing facilities at the marinas, including £10m. at the Queen Elizabeth II, which has not seen significant investment since it was opened in 1989.
Board president Peter Roffey this week maintained that non-boating taxpayers could not be expected to pay more for harbour improvements.
‘We inherited a fee structure from a time when States general revenue paid for all substantial capital expenditure at the harbours. Now general revenue does not and we have to fund more of it ourselves,’ he said.
‘I accept that general revenue should fund very major capital items from which the whole island benefits.
‘But this week the board was discussing new marina gates, which will cost nearly £9m. I don’t see why Mrs Le Page, who couldn’t possibly afford a boat, should see her taxes increased to pay for things like marina gates.’