Once again the floating bridge is out of order, writes Richard Hollis, former chair of corporate scrutiny for the Isle of Wight Council.

Nothing new there, but what seems to have changed is the attitude of ruling Independent Group in the Isle of Wight Council.

Your readers will recall that they were in control in 2014/15 when FB6 was conceived, designed, commissioned and built.

Before the elections in May this year, any breakdown was met by the ‘Indies’ with howls of blame on the Conservative administration as to why it was their fault.

Cllr Peacey-Wilcox, now leader, said that the only solution was for the floating bridge to be scrapped. Now, suddenly she claims to have acquired magical powers to speed up the legal process, but does not say how this will resolve the problems in the long term.

So, why when the last Conservative administration was “wasting taxpayers' money” keeping the vessel going and pursuing a claim against the designers and builders, is it alright for the Independent group to now spend public money doing the same?

When it was commissioned, the ruling Independent group ignored published guidance on procurement for major local government projects, namely a requirement for a board to be set up comprising councillors, experts and operators to oversee the project.

Instead, this was left to unqualified council officers and a so-called expert, whose CV suggests he was also unqualified for the job.

Ian Stevens, then leader of the council, has publicly stated that he did not get involved.

Put simply, even a layman can see that the design of FB6 is never going to work. The previous floating bridge was struggling with the change of tidal regime from the breakwater.

With 3,500 cubic feet of extra laden displacement, the current bridge has no chance.

The way forward? Pursue the litigation to recover a full refund and all losses from the insurers and/or the designers or builders while simultaneously commissioning Wight Shipyards to build a new design in aluminium: they have the expertise, and the Island would benefit from the use of local labour.

The alternative: build a twin-lifting bridge. If the will is there it could be done.

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