Knott End ferry decision sparks anger

Knott End to Fleetwood ferry
Knott End to Fleetwood ferry
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A decision to delay the launch of a new contract to run the trouble-hit Knott End to Fleetwood ferry until after May's county elections has caused a political storm.

The ferry WILL continue running between now and then - but it's future is increasingly uncertain.

Wyre Council's cabinet went into secret session last week to discuss applications from companies to run the ferry service for the next eight years.

The ferry issue has become complicated over the past few months as the county council is withdrawing its share of funding.

Now reports that Wyre would continue its funding for four years have now been denied by borough council Conservative leader Coun Peter Gibson who says such claims were "just a political smokescreen by Labour."

Wyre has declined to say how many companies put in a tenders for the new contract, which had been due begin in April. It is believed there were only two bidders.

Under an interim plan, Wyre says it is "working to continue the provision of the service" for the next two months.

Following the Wyre cabinet meeting, Wyre's Labour group leader, Coun Ruth Duffy, accused the ruling Conservatives of performing a political stunt - trying to gain votes in the forthcoming county poll, based on a promise of saving the ferry.

But Coun Gibson said it had already been the stated aim of Conservatives at County Hall (where the Tories are in opposition), to save the ferry and find savings elsewhere if the Conservatives win control of the county on May 4.

Prior to the meeting, Labour had insisted a deal had been struck between Wyre and Lancashire guaranteeing that Wyre would fund a new regime of the ferry for the next four years, with a contractor on board following the recent receipt of tenders.

Coun Gibson said: “There never was a deal for us to keep it going for four years, that is just a political smokescreen by Labour. We cannot afford to do it all ourselves and we are not a transport authority.”

“At the cabinet meeting, our choice was either to end funding at the end of March, or keep it going nearly two months longer and see what happens in the election.

He added: “It was also clear to us that the tenders aren’t sustainable financially in the long term.”

Preesall Town Councillor Derek Hudson said it was vital the ferry continued as it would leave rural residents stranded if the service was to end.

* Wyre has also delayed answering Courier questions about on-going silting problems at the Knott End jetty and has not responded to a media query regarding a possible contribution of £10,000 from Preesall Town Council to help the service.

There was no response either to a request for clarification about the future ownership of the ferryboat, Wyre Rose.

It had been thought, though Wyre has not confirmed this, that the county council would gift the ferry boat to the successful new contractor.