Dear SBC Councillors,
I must respond to Cllr Mallory’s reported assurances that all is as it should be with the SBC Annual Accounts, despite the fact that SBC’s Accounts have not been signed off by the External Auditor since 2014/15.
The Whitby Urban District Council Act 1905 says that all income from Whitby harbour land and activities must only be used for the benefit of Whitby harbour. Any surplus is to be ring-fenced for future use in the harbour. Any shortfall in any year must be made up by the relevant council – which is now SBC.
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe’s famous view through the Station doorway shows Whitby harbour as it was in the 1890s. The boundaries were unchanged at the time of the WUDC Act 1905 – and that Act has never been repealed.
Since 1964, any alteration to the financial provisions of the 1905 Act, or to the boundaries of the harbour, would have required a Harbour Revision Order (HRO). To date, there has never been an HRO for Whitby Harbour.
Many in Whitby remember the extensive reclamation from the harbour that took place in the 1960s/1970s to create Endeavour Wharf and the Marina car parks. Without an HRO, all of that reclaimed land remains within the harbour boundary and subject to the 1905 Act.
The Memorandum of Agreement signed between Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) and the Whitby Harbour Board in 2011 includes maps drawn by SBC which clearly show that the harbour boundaries still include the reclaimed land. (See https://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=516&MId=3476 ).
It simply beggars belief for SBC to deny that the 1905 Act still applies – or that SBC does not know the boundaries of the harbour for which it has been responsible since 1974.
It also beggars belief that the External Auditor has not been able to resolve this issue in a reasonable time-scale, when auditors across the country are under fire for their audits of both private and public sector organisations eg Carillion, Patisserie Valerie, and Northampton County Council.
SBC’s latest delaying tactic is to apply for a Harbour Revision Order “to clearly set out the boundary of the Whitby harbour and council land.”
No mention is made of the fact that any such application could result in a Public Inquiry; take 18 months or more to resolve; and cost well over £100,000. Even if the SBC application were to be successful, the decision would not be retrospective. All money due to the harbour funds for the past four years or more would still need to be repaid. The estimated income from Whitby harbour under the 1905 Act is currently over £1 million per year. The risk of such an outstanding debt might well affect SBC’s current plans to borrow a further £22m for its commercial investment portfolio.
SBC’s strategy appears to be endless prevarication, in the hope that Fight4Whitby will run out of time, energy and funds. Four years on, Fight4Whitby is still here – and we are not going away!
John Freeman, Fight4Whitby
This is the Fight4Whitby response to an article in the Whitby Gazette earlier this month, and we acknowledge and thank the Editor for publishing on 14 Aug 2019 a broadly similar letter from John Freeman.
Fight4Whitby ‘is not going away’ but we do need your help with our legal costs. Please donate at John Freeman Studio, or at the Coliseum Centre in Whitby. Or donate and find out lots more by visiting the Fight4Whitby website. Thank-you.