Thursday, March 22, 2007

Not So Cheap Flights

County Councillor Chris Wells answers a reader's question on the real cost of cancelling the flights to America project from Manston:

"As promised I asked your question at the scrutiny committee at county hall today, and here is the reply.

The total loss to KCC up to the moment they called a halt £289,565.

The money came from the Kings Hill Regeneration Fund. It is public money in the sense that it flows into the county coffers, but it is not money from the council taxpayers of Kent. This money is generated by KCC's own operations at Kings Hill and is then put into this fund (which totalled £1.5 million this year) to be used as one off expenditure on projects that could bring significant economic benefits to the county.

The estimated return if the seats had all been sold and tourists came into the county was around £2.25 million.

This was flagged up as a significant risk as a venture when it was begun.
Every single county councillor was sent a letter outlining the proposal and the fact there was significant risk - not one from any party urged the council not too invest."

Ed: Read the story in detail here.

On the KCC website, please look under Council and Democracy, Partnerships, Kent-Virginia - where there is a link to Direct Flights Project on the right hand side.


Cllr David Green said...

Wrong as usual Chris. In view of the £40,000 of TDC tourism money invested in this fiasco, I asked TDC Chief Exec for the Business Plan and Consultants report. I'm still waiting of course, but its not true that nobody asked the questions concerning risk.

Chris Wells said...

I am merely reporting the evidence given to county scrutiny yesterday. I recieved a letter as described as will have all county councillors. There was no denial or dispute about this point yesterday from your labour county colleagues. Nobody at county had to ask questions about the risk because the letter clearly flagged up the level of risk and rationale.

The level of loss for TDC given yesterday was nowhere near the figure you qupte. The figure given was £10,000. I have hesitated to put that into the public domain as I have not been able to confirm that figure with TDC directly as yet. There is confusion about the budgeted amounts, which sould well have been £40,000 and the amount actually spent when the plug was pulled.

If you David expressed concern about the risk here at TDC level then fine. At county level there has been no hiding of the risk elements throughout.

I do think you owe it to any readers to check the accurate figures, starting with your own colleagues in the room yesterday - although given it was Clive Hart perhaps you should check them elsewhere as well! I suggest the Kent on line service who have a pretty accurate report of the afternoon.

Cllr David Green said...

You may well be right about the difference between the budgeted ammount and the ammount actually spent. I havn't checked that. Communication between TDC and myself is not ideal.

Anonymous said...

All this talk about level of risk is ridiculous and makes me very angry.
I am a frequent traveller between US and Margate, an ex frequent flyer with EUJET and a frequent user of Gatwick.
I am, not of course one of those exalted few a Councillor on any public body, just a much travelled and reasonably intelligent member of the public.
There was no level of risk - the whole idea was a TOTAL NONSTARTER, I said so on here at the time, its in the archives somewhere.
Hardly anyone would want to go from Manston with its poor access from London and nonexistent connecting flights to Norfolk Virginia which has poor connecting flights to other parts of the US and is a long way from anywhere to which many tourists would want to go.
Virginia as a State is one of the poorer ones and not many US citizens travel from there to England anyway, and apart from Civil War battlefields (of interest to a few but not the masses) there isn't much to interest any British tourist who only wants to go to Florida.
A wicked waste of public money and Councillors should be ashamed that they didn't use any common sense and vote this down before it got under way.
From what I have been told the feasibility study was done by people connected with the doomed to fail EUJET, hardly a sensible choice for Councillors to make.
Are they all idiots or living in cloud cuckoo land?

DrMoores said...

Try again...! wretched comments keep crashing!

I qute agree with your argument over feasibility!

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Councillors, £285,000 wasted on such folly as promoting flights from no-where to no-where is small change and we shouldn't concern ourselves about it.

It pales into insignificance compared to the folly of spending more than £6,000,000 failing to put an art gallery with no Turner works in it, into the sea at a place called Margate, simply because a painter, unknown to the majority of people in this country, went there 180 years ago to bonk his mistress.

Anonymous said...

What worries me is that when Chris Wells - a KCC Councillor - reports to us that not one County Councillor objected - that presumably means that Chris Wells also supported this stupid lamebrain scheme, or at least didn't object to it.
And there I was thinking that he was a sensible guy!
No one with an ounce of common sense would expect those flights to work out.
EUJET had a better chance, and we all know what happened to them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 8.10 - I think you may find the figure is nearer to 8 million now that they have discovered the Turner Contemporary is going to be built by the sea and that "extras" like door handles are required in the building so that the 3 paying visitors per year can get in and out.

Chris Wells said...

Yes anon of 3.19 I did not record a formal objection. I spoke to the relevant cabinet members and officers, had the risk assessments explained to me and took the best decision I could based on the information available to me at the time that would support regeneration and tourism in East Kent. What I am not willing to do now, as so many others may, is pretend I knew all along it was a mad idea, just did not say anything. If in concert with every other county councillor I got it wrong so be it. If I got it wrong it was for the best of intentions for this area.If anyone wants an apology for that, then one will be freely given. Knowing what I now know, perhaps the decision would be different. Knowing what I knew then, it was, on balance, I felt worth the risk.

Anonymous said...

Oh well I suppose some "good" came out of it, the fat cats on the KCC gravy train no doubt had their free all expenses trips to Virginia paid for by KCC.
Manston is good for freight, otherwise they need a destination for flights where people actually want to go in large numbers and are prepared to take the slightly awkward travel to Manston.
Florida has been suggested, flights to there are very full from major airports like Gatwick, there are even flights there from Doncaster and other small airports now.
Is Manston less viable than Doncaster or similar? I don't actually know but I suspect not.
It would be great to get Ryanair or Easyjet to run just the odd flight per week from Manston, surely we have enough demand even locally for that if the destination was right.
What about Cyprus for example? Charters to Australia or canada? All very full currently from major airports, I know - I try to book them.
What Manston needs is what we call a USP, that is a Unique Selling Point (or proposition), that is some reason so travellers don't mind (in fact feel they absolutely have to) travel from and to Manston.
That USP could be a combination of destination, fare, ease of checkin, cost of parking etc.
Where I feel EUJET went wrong was diving in the deep end with too many destinations, a bad fare structure, poor check in staff, the wrong planes, poor customer service when things went wrong with flights.
And even so I think they might have survived and become successful given time, some changes and more investment.
Chris Wells - Please don't give up on Manston for passengers, justbe sensible about proposals.