Annual Report and Statement of Accounts
1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 Fight4Whitby Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for the year to 30 June 2019
Why are we campaigning?
Whitby is its harbour. Surrounded by the jumble of cottages clinging to the cliffs on either side, the harbour is the heart of the town and the reason for its existence. Whitby Urban District Council (WUDC) recognised that the economy of the town was dependent on maintenance and continued investment into the harbour. By means of an Act of Parliament, WUDC purchased the harbour in 1905 to safeguard its future.
The 1905 Act requires that all income from the harbour (including adjoining land forming part of the harbour) must be ring-fenced for harbour use. If harbour funds are insufficient to meet annual maintenance and running costs, the shortfall must be met from the general funds and rates of the council. But any surplus made by the harbour cannot be transferred to general council funds. It must be reserved in a renewal fund to meet costs such as major repairs to the piers or harbour walls. Such repairs may only be needed once in every twenty years or longer, but involve a huge investment each time.
The Fight4Whitby group was formed to raise funds to pay for expert legal advice on whether the 1905 Act was still applicable to SBC. If so, then all of the harbour income over recent years should have been reserved for harbour use – which it has not been. The general state of disrepair of the harbour is raising safety concerns and adversely affecting harbour-related businesses. In particular, major structural repairs are overdue to the piers but SBC has repeatedly delayed the works for more than ten years, pleading insufficient funds. This is despite millions of pounds of income from the car parks on harbour land having been taken into SBC’s general funds over recent years.
The legal advice obtained by Fight4Whitby was very clear: the 1905 Act is still in force. SBC is the successor Statutory Harbour Authority to WUDC. SBC is therefore obliged to comply with the 1905 Act, subject to any amendments made by subsequent legislation. Protracted legal correspondence with SBC failed to obtain any satisfactory response.
On behalf of F4W, a local elector objected to the External Auditor about the Draft SBC Accounts 2015-16, on the grounds that the treatment of income from Whitby harbour did not comply with the 1905 Act. This objection has been repeated for the Draft SBC Accounts for 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19. Consequently the External Auditor has not signed off the SBC accounts for the last four years, pending investigations into whether SBC’s accounting treatment of income from Whitby harbour is legally correct.
Fight4Whitby Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for the year to 30 June 2019
Review of Activities Over The Past Year
Until the External Auditor reaches a final decision, all parties are legally prohibited from disclosing the content of the on-going exchanges. It has been necessary for Fight4Whitby to instruct barristers specialising in harbour legislation and public law.
Fundraising to pay F4W’s legal costs depends on maintaining public interest and awareness. This has been extremely difficult, given the news blackout imposed by the legal constraints. Crowd-funded donations via Paypal have almost ceased in the absence of regular news stories and media coverage. Donations from local supporters have held up remarkably well under the circumstances. In previous years, the campaign was forced to seek personal loans to help meet our legal costs. We are extremely grateful to the individuals who have shown such trust and confidence in our campaign.
Meanwhile, members of the Fight4Whitby team have continued to correspond with SBC, the Marine Management Organisation, the Health & Safety Executive, and our MP about other aspects of harbour operations, particularly the risks resulting from many years of inadequate maintenance of the piers and the pier extensions.
During 2019, work has finally started on repairs to the main piers; on raising the harbour wall to improved flood defences along Church Street – and, after 18 years, the planned re-instatement of the footbridge to allow safe access from the East pier to the East pier extension.
We believe that the Fight4Whitby campaign played a pivotal role in persuading SBC that it was imperative that they be seen to start work on these three projects, without further delay. However, SBC itself is only contributing about £500k of the £11M costs, despite the income taken from the harbour car parks. Whitby Town Council has had to borrow £120k against its parish income of around £200k a year, in order to ensure the re-instatement of the East Pier extension bridge which was storm-damaged in 2001.
Even the completion of these three projects will not safeguard the future of Whitby harbour. Works to the main piers are only Phase 1 of a major project, identified in 2007-9. Phase II is to repair the pier extensions which shelter the main piers and inner harbour from the full force of the North Sea, and reduce the wave height within the harbour. The Phase II works were deferred until 2028-2030 – on condition that dive surveys were carried out at 5-year intervals to monitor the condition of the extensions. Phase II would start earlier, if necessary. Those dive surveys have not been carried out.
Structural repairs to the extensions are likely to cost considerably more than the £9M currently estimated for the repairs to the main piers. The WUDC Act of 1905 was designed to cope with precisely this type of situation: ring-fencing the income from all harbour land, including the car parks, would build-up the harbour reserves to help meet the eventual cost of the Phase II repairs to the extensions.
Fight4Whitby Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for the year to 30 June 2019.
In July 2019, the External Auditor reported publically to SBC as follows:
‘In Dec 2017 we issued a provisional view which we shared with both the Council and the objector. In response to further information provided by the objector we deemed further work to be necessary. We met with Officers in June 2018 to discuss the potential impact of legislation and progress on identifying income and expenditure attributable to the Whitby Harbour. We have reviewed the Council’s analysis of income and expenditure for 2015/16, reviewed documentation on Whitby Harbour held in the National Archive and we are now updating our provisional view. We will be in a position to make progress now the Council has set out its plans for implementing a Harbour Revision Order that clearly sets out the boundary of the Whitby Harbour and Council land.
‘We will continue to consider the objection in line with our statutory responsibilities under the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.’
No application has yet been made by SBC to the Marine Management Organisation for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) for Whitby Harbour. Any such application must be publicised and objections lodged with the MMO within 42 days. Such objections may well result in a Public Enquiry, which is a prolonged and costly process.
Even if SBC was eventually successful in obtaining an HRO to amend the harbour boundaries, it cannot be made retrospective. All monies due to harbour funds under the provisions of the 1905 Act would still need to be repaid.
Despite the protracted wait for a decision by the External Auditor, and the publicity embargo, the F4W group has raised just over £1,000 during the past year. Our legal costs amounted to £3,800 leaving a balance of around £500. As soon as the External Auditor issues his final decision (or SBC makes application for a Harbour Revision Order) the issues will become public knowledge. We will redouble our fundraising efforts as soon as the news blackout is lifted.
As Chairman, I thank all of our members, supporters and friends for their unstinting efforts and generous support of the campaign. The fight will continue for however long as it takes to safeguard the future of Whitby harbour.
John Smith, Chairman of Fight4Whitby, 30 Sept 2019.
Fight4Whitby Annual Report and Statement of Accounts for the year to 30 June 2019
Fight4Whitby An Unincorporated Not-for-Profit Community Group
Income and Expenditure for the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019
Opening Balance as at 1 July 2018 : £3341
Donations via Paypal £120
Donations via Collecting Boxes £650
Other Donations £265
Legal Fees incl VAT £3,780
Bank Charges £73
Paypal Charges –
Balance as at 30 June 2019 : £523
(Bank £279 + Cash £244)
The Fight4Whitby constitution was signed on 25 April 2016 and amended on 3 June 2019.
- * Outstanding loans of £6,000 are interest-free and repayable if/when possible
- ** All promotional and admin expenses, including the website, posters, printing, copying, encapsulation, collecting boxes, phone calls, adverts, etc have been provided as donations in kind.
26 September 2019
NB: A paper copy of the full Report and Accounts 2018/19 is available at the Coliseum Centre, Victoria Place, Whitby or click