The future of the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry remains unclear after a stormy meeting of the Wyre Cabinet.
Conservatives and Labour members bitterly clashed after the ruling Tory group voted to defer a decision to cease the council’s funding of the ferry, at the end of March, until after May’s county elections.
Coun Ruth Duffy, leader of Wyre’s Labour group, accused the Tories of a performing a shameless political stunt – a bid to gain election votes based on a promise of saving the ferry.
But Wyre Council leader, Coun Peter Gibson, said it had already been a stated aim of the county council’s Conservatives, who are currently in opposition – to save the ferry and find savings elsewhere if elected.
Previously the ferry service was supported financially by both Wyre and the county council – at £72,000 a year each – but the county has now pulled out of future funding, leaving Wyre as the only subsidiser of the service,
Wyre says it cannot afford to run the service by itself and blames County Hall for pulling the plug.
Coun Duffy, a councillor for Fleetwood, said: “This is clearly a political non-decision aimed at attracting votes in the County elections in May.
“Coun Alan Vincent and Coun Peter Gibson made it clear to everyone in the room that it would be in the Conservative manifesto that the only way to save the ferry is to vote Conservative.
“However I believe recent goings-on in Parliament prove that these Tories will put anything in their manifesto to gain votes and then simply ignore it when it suits them.
“Their manifesto promises will not be worth the paper it’s written on. Where would County get the money from to run the ferry under the Tories? What else would suffer to pay for it?”
The meeting was held behind closed doors as the ferry item was on green paper, meaning certain issues were not ready to be heard by the public.
Prior to the meeting, Labour had insisted a deal had been struck between Wyre and Lancashire guaranteeing that Wyre would fund a new regime of the ferry for the next four years, with a contractor on board following a recent tender.
It is understood that two bidders have come forward and are being considered, although Wyre is not able to confirm this, and that County will gift the ferry boat to the successful bidder.
However, Coun Gibson said there never had been a four-year funding deal.
He said: “At the Cabinet meeting, our choice was either to end funding at the end of March, or keep it going nearly two months longer and see what happens in the election.
“There never was a deal for us to keep it going for four years, that is just a political smokescreen by Labour.
“We cannot afford to do it all ourselves and we are not a transport authority.”
And he added: “It was also clear to us that the tenders aren’t sustainable financially in the long term.”