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The Whitstable harbour service provided by Canterbury City Council is fair but has uncertain prospects for improvem...
The Whitstable harbour service provided by Canterbury City Council is fair but has uncertain prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service one star because although it benefits the local area economically, supporting around 250 jobs, there is no clear strategic direction, there are some public safety issues and the harbour does not yet fully comply with the port marine safety code.

Paul Chambers, managing inspector said:

'Although the council has made progress in setting up a harbour board, it is the commission's view that there is a need for an overall harbour strategy. Without this, there is no clear direction for the new board.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- The harbour is of great economic benefit to the local area and supports around 250 jobs

- The harbour is a significant factor in attracting people to the town

- People who use the harbour express satisfaction with the service they receive

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

- The service has not responded to issues in the past. For example, public safety issues

- The harbour is not meeting its aim of being self-financing

- The harbour does yet fully comply with the port marine safety code

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

- Create a clear vision for the future of Whitstable Harbour

- Address access arrangements for the east quay

Whitstable harbour has three main areas:

- East Quay handling imported aggregates, and a tarmac manufacturing plant

- South Quay with fish and shellfish processing and sales, fish restaurant, and a warehouse, plus vacant space previously used for storage of aggregates

- West Quay for other commercial shipping activities such as imported timber.

The expenditure budget for the harbour in 2002/03 is£363,500 with an income budget of£408,600. However this ignores central administrative charges and capital/asset rentals which amount to£93,400. This leaves a projected deficit of£48,300.

Although the operational performance of the harbour has been close to breaking even in recent years, there has been a consistent overall deficit when central and capital charges are added to the accounts.

Nine members of staff are directly employed in the harbour, six are full-time employees and three part-time.

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