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TRUST PORTS MUST BE FULLY ACCOUNTABLE

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Trust ports would be made fully accountable to the local community and port users under proposals published by ship...
Trust ports would be made fully accountable to the local community and port users under proposals published by shipping minister Glenda Jackson.

The change is included in a consultation document on the conclusions and recommendations of the trust ports review commissioned by the Department following the decision last year not to privatise the Port of Tyne.

The consultation was announced by Ms Jackson in answer to a written parliamentary question. She said:

'Our review confirms that there is a continuing, significant role for trust ports to play within the UK economy.

'Whilst many operations can be viewed in a positive light, the review has provided little evidence to dispel concerns over general issues of accountability. Trust status brings obligations as well as

benefits.

'The common thread running through all trusts was, and should still be today, that they are independent statutory bodies run by an independent board of trustees for the benefit of the local community and all port users, including wider local and regional interests. It is not always evident that the trusts have retained a clear grasp of this fundamental concept.

'We are putting forward a number of a proposals today to address these issues. They include national standards to ensure that trust port boards are both fully accountable and fit to fill an important role in our wider economic and transport strategies.

'We will expect trust ports to demonstrate their commitment by making the improvements we want see. We intend to name and shame those boards which fail to rise to the challenge I am setting them as a result of this review.

'The consultation will contribute to development of a wider paper on ports policy which will develop this amongst other themes. We intend to publish the ports policy paper, as part of the continuing debate on a new deal for transport, in the dpring of 1999.'

The government's main proposals are

- a partnership with the whole ports industry, aiming to meet the aspirations of ports, their users and local communities as well as the key themes of wider transport and economic policy;

- trust ports should look again at the basic principles on which they were founded and strengthen accountability to the local communities and port users which they serve;

- national standards and guidance to help ensure that all trust port boards are fully accountable and fit to fulfil an important role in wider economic and transport strategies;

- larger trust ports should prepare and publish business plans which clearly demonstrate how they will rise to these challenges, and all trust ports should publish their accounts;

- legislative changes aimed at removing anomalies and widening powers for all ports.

Notes

1. A summary of the specific recommendations is available from the

DETR on (0171) 890 3021.

2. Trust ports are independent statutory bodies established under local Acts of Parliament. They are run by boards of trustees who reinvest all profits for the benefit of all port users and wider regional and local interests. There are some 600 ports around the shores of England, Scotland and Wales. Only around 90 of these now have trust status; they are predominantly small to medium sized ports.

3. From 1993 the Ports Act gave the secretary of state powers to compel a port authority to privatise where the related port trust had an annual turnover above£5m at 1991 prices. These provisions had, at the time, the potential to compel the sale of 10 trust ports.

4. At the 1997 general election a decision on the compulsory sale of the Port of Tyne was outstanding. Ministers of the incoming administration decided that this should not be pursued. However, as a corollary of this, they commissioned a review of Trust ports with the following terms of reference 'to review the role and status of trust ports, with particular reference to their operations and economic activities, their accountability, and the constraints of their statutory powers and duties; to benchmark their performance against that of other ports; to consider the need for improvements; and to identify options available for the future.'

The review was to cover trust ports in England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland's trust ports were the subject of a separate review by DoE Northern Ireland (completed Spring 1998).

5. Written contributions and comments on the review summary document should be sent to

Mike Davies, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions,

Ports Division, Fourth Floor, Zone 13,

Great Minster House,76 Marsham Street,

London SW1P 4DR by 31 December 1998.

6. The review is available from Mike Davies at the address above (tel: 0171 890 5086); it will also be available on the department's website at http://www.detr.gov.uk

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