107 days later… some FOI requests are answered

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act cast a new light on the saga of Kilcreggan’s ferry and pier.

And, for the first time, emails reveal proposals for Dunoon’s pier to be staffed by ferry operators’ own staff in future, rather than council workers.

The request for information about the ferry, pier and plans for pontoons was originally made to Argyll and Bute Council in early July.

After missing the statutory deadline for responses – 20 working days – council officials then claimed that preparing the documents would cost £870, meaning the authority did not need to release the information.

Eventually – after another statutory deadline was missed – some of the information was supplied by the council’s executive director of customer services, Douglas Hendry.

But the authority is still refusing to provide the cost or details of a feasibility study for pontoons at Kilcreggan, Gourock and Dunoon – even though it was commissioned many months ago and has been referred to in meetings by councillors and SPT officials.

And there is hardly any mention of the proposed redundancies for pier staff in Kilcreggan, which were finally reversed this month.

Some key facts to eventually emerge include:

  • Emails over a period of  several weeks in April and May discuss specific safety concerns relating to berthing of the Island Princess at Kilcreggan
  • In April SPT chief executive Gordon Maclennan told the council his organisation had engaged a naval architect to act as a consultant ‘to ensure a smooth introduction of the standby vessel’ – in fact though this boat did not appear until September. The naval architect would also ‘project manage on behalf of SPT the operators’ improvements to Island Princess’. This is presumably in addition to the naval architect named in an SPT Q&A document in late March as being retained by Clydelink.
  • In May a meeting on the pier between senior officials from the council and SPT agreed ‘general pier improvements’, including rubber D fenders, new or improved bollards and possibly CCTV. A hydraulic platform was also considered.
  • An email in May states a council official ‘is in regular contact with the ferry operator regarding damage to the pier’ – but there is no further mention of this, or indication of the extent of the damage.
  • On February 17 a council official responded to a question about other piers in Argyll and Bute which are manned by ‘ferry operators who use their own staff for berthing etc’ by listing several such as Craignure and Port Askaig, adding: “It is proposed to do so at Dunoon in future.”

Mr Hendry quoted two sections of the FOI Scotland Act in his final response about the pontoons last week, adding: “There is likely to be considerable public interest in the content of the feasibility study and it is imperative that the study is released in a final complete form so that the public can place reliance on the content.

“This assurance can only be achieved once all necessary contributions have been completed and a review by the various contributors to the process has been concluded.”

An appeal has now been made to the Scottish Freedom of Information Commissioner’s office in the hope that these documents and others will finally be made public, arguing that the cost of the feasibility study should have been agreed many months ago and is a separate issue from the public’s view of the study’s findings.

Although the need for work at the pier was agreed in May, potential contractors have yet to tender for the work; earlier this month SPT agreed to pay £27,000 towards the cost.

4 Comments

    • The headline should perhaps have counted the number of working, rather than calendar, days.
      Councils have 20 working days to respond to an FOI request. On this occasion, on the 20th day an official emailed saying they couldn’t make the deadline so I asked for my request to be reviewed.
      Then a few days later another official replied, not mentioning my review request but saying because of the cost nothing would be supplied. The FOI commissioner’s office was then contacted and after some weeks said my request for a review was legally invalid as I hadn’t given the council 20 days… Effectively I should have waited until day 21 rather than emailing after 3pm on day 20. This was a bit frustrating.
      I then had to again ask the council for a review, which was not finally responded to until after the deadline, again.
      Sorry, a bit of a long story!

  1. The mind boggles; given that Clydelink were awarded their contract solely on the cost saving, what would an FOI request for the total extra costs incurred from this fendering nonsense, the ugly and pointless safety barrier, mystery SPT-provided skipper and the retention of the pier staff reveal? Then there’s the unquantifiable loss caused to local business from the reduction in passenger numbers and the as yet unrevealed cost of building this stormproof pontoon; where will it end?

    • Just for clarity, the retention of the pier staff will be a continued cost for the council, not SPT. The naval architect, though…

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