It seems the rumours about the City council commencing enforcement action on or prior to Easter weekend were nothing more than
that (unless they have had some undercover agents out collecting data) so it was down to the weather to make life difficult in
these times of uncertainty.
With nearly 30 touts between Scudamores and independent punt
operators, unfortunately it seems that everyone is determined to
squeeze every last penny out of the situation before the impending
changes. However the British weather was conspiring against
those engaged in outdoor activities and whilst the forecast snow didn’t
materialise the cold was enough to keep most people away.
We met with Cllr Ian Nimmo-Smith (Leader of the Cambridge City Council) and Phil Doggett
(Properties and Services) to discuss
our problems with the current proposal. We indicated that the proposed touting zone will simply not provide enough business to
make the station a viable long term prospect. We presented the figures from this site (you can view them
here). We stated that if the touting zone was changed so that touts operating from La Mimosa and
Scudamores were allowed to tout anywhere on Quayside then the prospect would become commercially viable.
We were told they would consider our views and get back to us, but urged us to sign up for the pontoon anyway so as not to
“miss an opportunity”.
We would urge everyone considering signing up to not do so unless license terms are changed. If they don’t get enough
tenants they will be forced to reconsider terms. Put simply, by applying you are sending the message that the current proposals
Still think they are, or can’t be bothered with our detailed analysis? Let’s put this simply too. The best year Tyrells Punting Company ever had they took £250,000 in chauffeur tours. Given that figure the La Mimosa station would struggle to take £100,000 in one year. Removing the almost £40,000 in costs for the 15 boats at the station you are left with £60,000 to split between the tenants. So if there are ten licensees they make a handsome £6,000 each, and this is ignoring any other costs of business – ie assuming they have no additional staff and incur no other expenses.
Once again, we urge anyone considering applying to halt their application and contact the council indicating they don’t
believe the current solution is viable.
Finally some communication from the City council, in the form of the application packs for the La Mimosa licences. Unfortunately the City council appear to have lost touch with reality… If you have read the worst case scenario on the state of play page, then you’re about to find out our predictions were horribly accurate.
£40 per person for the CRB check
£25 deposit for the station key
£250 processing fee (for successful applicants) per punt
£1000 (+VAT) per single punt & £2000 (+VAT) per ferry punt
1 extra person allowed per punt (ie one chauffeur)
Maximum 4 touts weekdays, 6 touts at weekends
Touts not allowed further than the toilets on Quayside
Station can only operate from 9am until sunset
Public liability insurance cover of £5,000,000 (double the current £2,500,000 required by the Cam conservators)
The station will not be available until sometime in May
The start up costs for one single punt to operate from the station will be approximately £2000. If the operator needs
to purchase a punt then they will potentially need to add anywhere from £500 to £1500 to this. The start up costs
for a ferry punt will be significantly higher.
What is the upshot of this? Essentially that the station will not be commercially viable and here’s a breakdown of why not.
The La Mimosa station has been vacated, well sort of!
Scudamores have removed their punts and the larger of their ticket offices (that had been stored there since they stopped using it at Quayside). The punts are nowhere to be seen, the ticket office has been moved across the river to Jubilee Gardens. The smaller ticket office is still in situ and the gates to the station and also the smaller, public access landing stage are still chained shut.
On the face of it this would seem to indicate that recent suggestions of imminent vacant possesion of the station were correct. However it raises more questions than it answers:
Has the station been given up?
Is so, why is the public access stage still locked?
Why is the Scudamores ticket office still present? There is no mention of a ticket office in the City council’s plans for
the station when used by independent punt operators
Why has the other ticket office not been moved up stream, merely across to the other bank of the river? If it’s because of
the wind then why start the job when it couldn’t be completed? The weather forecasts have been mentioning severe weather and
strong winds for at least the last 3 days
Has the pontoon been given up willingly or because the legal battle was won by the City council? If
Scudamores gave up the pontoon willingly it would indicate that they
have succeeded in finalising whatever details they felt
needed finalising and they have been able to influence the future
licence terms for independent punt operators using the station.
As the City council have had over a month to prepare the application packs (since the meeting when the decision was rubber
stamped), why have they not been sent out yet? Given that the council must have had an idea (certainly they have indicated that
they did) that the station was about to be released (if indeed it has), they have had ample time.
What are the licence terms going to be for the new station?
Why is the City council still failing to communicate properly with independent punt operators?
the City council have succeeded, by legal means, in getting Scudamores
to give them vacant possesion of the station (not
currently the case) then this must be seen as positive progress. On the
other hand, if Scudamores have started the process of
handing over the station willingly then it would seem to indicate that
they have finalised the details that were a sticking point
and that the city will impose restrictive licence conditions on
independent punt operators. Only time will tell, we would welcome
some communication from the City council to clarify what is happening.
Taylor Vinters solicitors finally (it’s only taken just over a month) receive a response from the council to their letter sent on 6th February 2008 on behalf on independent punt operators. It doesn’t contain any new information and continues to claim the La Mimosa station is coming soon…
Terms & conditions for the licences have yet to be provided.
On Friday the Cambridge Crier (free local paper) published an article
with the emotive headline “Illegal punts face ‘trespass’ action.”
The article contained a number of factual inaccuracies and this morning
we telephoned them to speak to the journalist to query
these. The inaccuracies are as follows:
The punts (boats) are not illegal, they all have commercial licences from the Cam conservators and insurance to allow them to be used on the river.
The council has set aside a budget of £10000 (capital expenditure). The income from the licences is expected to cover the running costs of the station and provide an income for the council. The council have not set aside a budget of £40000 to run the station over a 3 year period. See Service Plans and draft Budgets 2008/09 pages 17, 38, 55 & 56
The Scudamores lease on the La Mimosa station expires at the end of this year (2008) according to the article.
However: “6.3 The latest Licence Agreement between the City Council and Scudamore’s Punting Company Limited was completed on 17 May 2005 for the Licence Period 1 March up to and including 31 October in years 2005, 2006 and 2007. The Licence terminated on 31 October 2007. However, because of a challenge over the status of the agreement the City Council is seeking possession of the landing stage through the Courts.” taken from Punt Operation in the City of Cambridge
However despite highlighting these inaccuracies Laura Jean Morris, who wrote the article, claimed that it was accurate and
balanced and declined the opportunity for an interview to present the independent punt operators side of things.
Tim Campbell and another independent punt operator spoke to two PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers), who were in the area responding to an incident, in an attempt to obtain information about the current situation.
The PCSOs stated that the council would seek to obtain injunctions on the grounds of trespass. As trespass is a civil matter it would not involve the police.
Anyone trespassing would first receive a warning, followed by a summons and then potentially an injunction could be served.
They indicated that this process would take at least a couple of weeks (not the 3 days stated by Emma Wynne).
However they also said that it was their belief that the council did not wish to do this until such a time as a viable alternative is being offered.
We welcome this if it is the case and would welcome the opportunity to work with the council to make sure that any alternative is viable and not a token offer.
As yet we have still not been officially informed when enforcement will commence and it appears that the council may not have actually decided yet.
Whilst it seems the council may be being reasonable and lenient in their approach towards enforcement their communication leaves a lot to be desired.
Today Tim Campbell (leader of the campaign to Save Independent Punting) received a phone call from Emma Wynne (former independent punt operator) expressing her concern that the current publicity campaign to save independent punting could have a detrimental effect on independent punt operators by angering the Cambridge City Council and likened it to commercial suicide.
She suggested that she had spoken to Alastair Roberts (Safer Communities Section Manager, Cambridge City Council) and he had informed her that the La Mimosa punt station would be available within the next 2-3 days (that sounds familiar…) and that we would all be receiving letters very soon.
She stated that independent punt operators had not been involved with the consultation process because we are “illegal” and not stakeholders and that we should be grateful for whatever we are offered by the council and not to question it.
During the meeting on 17th January Debbie Kaye of Cambridge City Council stated that the council had used a list of commercial licence holders supplied by the Cam Conservators during the consultation process (although no one on the list received the consultation document).
Following the meeting Debbie Kaye expressed concern that we had not been consulted and claimed it was an oversight.
Emma Wynne went on to claim that Alastair Roberts and the council had sufficient evidence (video, eyewitness, etc) to secure injunctions against independent punt operators for trespass on Jesus Green (common land owned by the council) and that these injunctions could be obtained within 3 days.
She reiterated her concern that the current campaign is not representative of the views of independent punt operators and that it would damage the prospects of applicants for licences on the La Mimosa station.
It is the assertion of Tim Campbell that if the process of granting licences is to be fair and transparent then no harm can be done by drawing public attention to the matter. On the other hand, if this campaign is in someway damaging to his (or anyone else by association’s) chances of securing a licence then clearly the process is not fair or transparent and Cambridge City Council are acting improperly and have something to hide.
With this website live for fewer than 12 hours we have already received a phone call from Phil Doggett, not happy with the wording of the 5th March section. He asked what was meant by ‘shut down’.
We stated that the council are planning to commence enforcement action on Jesus Green and with no where else to load or unload that independent punt operators would effectively be unable to trade.
He confirmed this but stated that it is not his department’s responsibility to provide punt stations nor was he able to confirm whether the start of the season meant 1st April as it was originally taken to be or prior to Easter weekend as now seems to be the case. He requested that the wording be changed and that the new wording be emailed to the him for approval by the council prior to being published. He also wanted to know the name of the independent punt operator who was involved in the conversation.