KCC chiefs face grilling as USA flights collapse
COUNTY council chiefs face public questioning over the collapse of ambitious plans for direct flights from Kent International Airport in Manston to America.
Opposition parties say they intend to summon key figures in the failed venture to answer questions to a cross-party watchdog committee about what went wrong with the ill-fated scheme.
The move comes as county council leader Paul Carter declined to rule out further investments in other commercial enterprises.
Council insiders say KCC earmarked as much as £150,000 to support and promote the transatlantic flights from east Kent to Virginia, some £60,000 more than the £90,000 that the council has publicly estimated will probably be written off.
Airline operator Cosmos pulled the plug on the planned weekly service last week after only 800 of the 10,000 tickets were sold ahead of the May launch.
Meanwhile, the political recriminations have continued, with Labour and Liberal Democrats councillors criticising KCC for backing a private airline operator with public money for a second time. The council lost £100,000 after EUjet ended package holiday flights out of Manston two years ago.
Opposition Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy said KCC needed to come clean and answer questions about its projections for ticket sales and the scale of its investment.
“It might have been better to spend this (investment) on improving the infrastructure in the area to make it more attractive,” he said.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean echoed: “It is a shame because Manston is a tremendous resource for Kent. But the lesson is the same as before. If we as a county council are required to invest in something that the commercial sector itself is not prepared to invest in, then we ought to be very, very careful.”
Despite the setback, county council leader Paul Carter said he would not rule out making other investments in private companies if it boosted the Kent economy.
“We would have to look very, very closely as we always do with these enterprises. Some of the investments we make won’t always come off,” he said.
SIX passengers were led to safety after a train was derailed by a tree which had fallen across a track on Tuesday. The incident happened at 5.40am as the Gillingham to Redhill service was travelling through a cutting between Edenbridge, near Tonbridge, and Godstone. No one was hurt. Southeastern Trains spokesman Nigel Jarrett said the incident happened when the front wheels of the three-carriage train left the track. The train rode along on the rail sleepers for 200 yards before stopping. He added: “It stayed upright. There was the driver, a conductor and six passengers on board.” The line remained closed while engineers and contractors from Network Rail, which owns the track, cleared the tree from the rails and assessed the damaged. POLICE have closed down the 20th cannabis factory to be discovered in the Medway area since last October. Officers were patrolling Chatham Hill, Chatham, at about 2am on Saturday when they smelt cannabis. The patrol searched a nearby house, where 178 plants were found. The people at the property fled, abandoning the crop that has a street value of around £44,000. It is thought that the “farmers” were in the process of harvesting the plants. DETECTIVES are searching for two men after an incident in which a 40-year-old man was shot and wounded. Police officers were called to Carlton Avenue, Greenhithe, near Dartford, following reports of gun shots at about 9.20am last Thursday. The victim was taken to Darent Valley Hospital with injuries to his arm. He has since been released from hospital. A STAG fallow deer caught up in netting has been rescued by the RSPCA. The rescue was carried out after the animal was spotted snared in rubbish near Ranscombe Farm Cottages at Cuxton, near Rochester, just off the A228. RSPCA animal collection officer Zenon Brown, trainee animal collection officer Brian Milligan, chief inspector Steve Dockery and inspector Dave Grant arrived and managed to get hold the deer and pull him to the ground with a blanket. They then spent 15 minutes cutting the hessian from his antlers before setting the uninjured deer free. A 36-year-old van driver has been charged by police with causing death by dangerous driving following a four-vehicle crash in which one woman died and several other people were injured. George Forbes, of Douglas Road, Herne Bay, will appear before magistrates at Canterbury on Thursday, March 15. The collision happened on the old Thanet Way near the Greenhill roundabout in October last year. Businesswoman Janice McKenzie, 50, a mother of three, of Herne Bay, was killed.