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Decision on Ramsgate Brexit port funding on hold

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A decision on budget cuts which could have prevented Ramsgate reopening as a ferry port in the event of a no-deal Brexit has been delayed.

Thanet District Council had been set to cut £730,000 of spending on the port.

But it delayed the decision at the request of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Council leader Bob Bayford said Mr Grayling had asked that it be postponed while talks with shipping firm Seaborne Freight continued.

The government handed the company a £13.8m contract to run a service to Ostend, in Belgium, to alleviate any delays at Dover in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Councillors had said they would vote on the proposed cuts if a new deal to provide a Ramsgate to Ostend service was not signed.

Its budget has to be approved by 11 March – 18 days before the UK is due to leave the EU.

Seaborne Freight, which came under fire after it emerged it has no ships and has not run a ferry service before, said dredging at the Port of Ramsgate to make it ready for ferries was "nearing completion".

Port income needed

The mayor of Ostend has also said it would be impossible to have a new service up and running by the end of March.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said it was continuing to talk to the council about plans to re-establish ferry services.

A council spokeswoman said: "In order to meet its statutory obligations to deliver a balanced budget, the council has identified that savings of £730,000 will be required at the Port of Ramsgate.

"Any new service out of the Port would have to, as a minimum, generate the level of income required to balance the budget."

BBC business correspondent Jonty Bloom said Thanet Council appeared to be "caught in a bind".

"It can't afford to spend this money on the port's facilities if no ferries use them, but the ferries will only run if there is a hard Brexit, something the government is committed to avoiding," he said.

neallesh@yahoo.co.uk

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