Disgust at Fleetwood Carnival tramline closure bill

Fleetwood Carnival 2013.'The procession sets off past the Mount.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'15-6-2013

Fleetwood Carnival 2013.'The procession sets off past the Mount. PIC BY ROB LOCK'15-6-2013

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Community leaders in Fleetwood are angry the town’s carnival committee has been asked to fork out £355 for the 45-minute closure of Lord Street during carnival day.

And councillors felt so strongly about it the issue was added to the agenda at this week’s Fleetwood Town Council meeting.

Blackpool Transport charged carnival organisers the sum in order to cover costs of extra staff deployed on Carnival Day, June 15, for the first time in the event’s 120-year history.

And they say the same will happen for future events, including Tram Sunday due to the fact the tramway is now classed as a light railway which needs more staffing.

The bill has caused particular fury because funds raised on carnival day go towards a Christmas lunch for the elderly and other good causes.

The carnival committee was made aware of the charge prior to the event, but community leaders who found out later say they are appalled at the move.

Fleetwood Town Council member Coun Dave Shaw, asked for the matter to be put up for discussion and said: “It is disgusting they are being billed.”

At the meeting, Coun Steve Clarke, said: “If Blackpool Transport wants to send bills, Fleetwood should send them a bill back for the two and a half years of disruption to trade when the tram lines were being laid. For the loss of earnings of all those traders, it would be about £3m.”

Coun Terry Rogers added: “Groups who are trying to put on parades in Fleetwood are now being strangled by big organisations like this. Perhaps we should abandon Lord Street and have our carnival and Remembrance Day parades on Dock Street, so we don’t have to deal with Blackpool Transport in future.”

Coun Alan Marsh wanted the issue sorted amicably and said: “I have been in touch with my colleagues at Blackpool Council, who have close connections with Blackpool Transport, to try and put a halt to this bill. This town council donates, and this is not what we want to see our money spent on.”

Two Lancashire County Council members from Fleetwood, Coun Ron Shewan and Coun Lorraine Beavers, have tried to soften the blow by donating £177.50 towards the carnival committee from their Local Members Grant, via County Hall.

Coun Shewan said: “All authorities are looking to make savings, but it is unfortunate Blackpool Transport chose to ask such an amount from a charitable group.”

Fleetwood Carnival Committee members did not wish to make a comment on the situation.

Blackpool Transport says the closure affected 12 tram trips over the 45 minutes in which the route was halted.

Bob Mason, a director of Blackpool Transport, said: “This is a very reasonable charge. We are not making a profit from it.

“As a company we cannot expect to be out of pocket over something that causes us to

incur costs.

“All we are charging is for additional inspectors we have had to deploy because of the turnaround at Fisherman’s Walk and the three members of staff who are required to switch off the power to the overheads.

“This was also on a Saturday, so we are talking about premium rates on wages.

“We are not even taking into account the disruption caused to passengers.”

He added: “Fleetwood Carnival Committee knew about this weeks ago and did not seem to have a problem with it, so this is not a new thing.”

Mr Mason said the reason such charges were not required in the past was that the current tram system is classed as a light rail operation and needs more manpower.

He also said such charges would be needed for any event affecting the tram operation, including Tram Sunday and the Blackpool Marathon.