A settlement has been reached over the Isle of Wight Floating Bridge, but critics say there are more questions than answers, in light of the news that the details will be kept secret.
Opposition Conservative councillors published an open letter yesterday (Friday), calling the matter ‘grubby’.
A deal was revealed on Thursday night, to the surprise of many Isle of Wight Councillors. In a two-line statement, County Hall said its long running dispute over the chain ferry, which has caused problems since the day it was launched in 2017, was over.
Among those speaking out was East Cowes Councillor Karl Love, who said Islanders deserved more, after years of turmoil.
On Friday, in an open letter to the leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Lora Peacey Wilcox, Conservative Group leader Cllr Joe Robertson said: “I read with serious concern that a settlement has been reached between the Isle of Wight Council and the designers and builders of Floating Bridge 6, but the settlement sum will remain a secret forever.
“The Council says it will be making no further comment.
“I am sure I speak for the vast majority of Islanders when I say that this is completely unacceptable. The Council is funded by taxpayers’ money – our money – and the defective Floating Bridge cost £3.5 million to buy and millions more trying to make it work properly.
“You cannot cover up what the Council did or did not recover from the builders and designers, when it would have been public information if the matter had been allowed to progress to court.
The Isle of Wight County Press has asked the Isle of Wight Council:
- Why have no details been revealed, when it is public money?
- Does the Isle of Wight Council think the public has a right to know more and if not, why not?
- Is there any assurance that further problems could also be financially compensated or is this a final agreement ?
- Who will foot the bill for future work?
- How much has the entire project cost and what, if anything, has the council been compensated?
“A secret back-room deal, with no scrutiny or oversight, cannot stand in the way of openness and transparency which you say you stand for.”
The history of Floating Bridge 6 spans two council administrations – one led by independent councillors and one by Conservatives.
Cllr Robertson raises questions about why those involved in the project at the start were allowed to make decisions about information being released to Islanders.
In its own press release, issued on Thursday night, the Alliance accused Conservative councillors of wasting time and money, due to discounting the idea of a replacement chain ferry.