Few people may have realised it – but allegedly cash-strapped Vale of Glamorgan Council owns a passenger ship – a ship which is never used and lies rusting and neglected in Cardiff Bay.
The vessel is the MV “Lewis Alexander” which used to take passengers to the island of Flatholm from Barry Docks – but which has lain rotting and unmaintained in Cardiff Bay for almost all the time that Labour administration has been in power in the Vale of Glamorgan .
Now Cardiff Council has made a “bottom book” offer to the Vale Council to snap-up the Lewis Alexander for a bargain price of just £17,000 and sell it on for “salvage”.
The Vale Council’s ruling ‘cabinet’ – which has limited expertise in matters nautical – has agreed to sell because it now admits the little ship is of “no practical use or benefit to the Council”.
The Vale Council’s ownership of Lewis Alexander stems from the Labour Party’s disastrous re-organisation of local government in 1996 when South Glamorgan County Council – which owned Flatholm – was dissolved. Flatholm Island itself was handed over to Cardiff City Council – but the 45-passenger Lewis Alexander, the ship that the island depended upon for communication with the mainland, was given to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
In 2013 however Cardiff City Council stopped operating the Lewis Alexander’s regular passenger sailings to Flatholm and ever since she has just been languishing at its Cardiff Bay berth with the Vale Council picking up the tab for berthing costs of £2,000 a year.
Every so often, at “irregular intervals”, someone would go aboard and start up the engines but that’s about the extent of the attention the ship – potentially a useful and marketable asset, owned by the council-tax payers of the Vale – has received.
In 2015 Cardiff City Council undertook an “independent valuation” of Lewis Alexander which reported that the ship was worth between £15,000 and £17,000.
Cardiff Council then put the squeeze on by asking the Vale to remove the vessel from its berth in Cardiff Bay “at the earliest opportunity as the vessel is taking up valuable space” Now the Vale of Glamorgan Council appears to have accepted Cardiff’s £17,000 offer without quibbling saying “it would be prudent for this Council to proceed with the sale of the vessel directly to Cardiff City Council at the earliest opportunity.”
The Vale Council however won’t get the full £17,000 for Lewis Alexander because it will have to pay £3,000 for a valuation and condition report, transport costs, “officer costs”, and “advertisement costs relating to the sale of the vessel” – so at the end of the day the Vale will be lucky to recoup £10,000 on the deal .