Apparent collusions to prevent a fixed link- by the IOW Chamber of Commerce.

 

This web page has been produced to give an insight of how the IOW Ferry Companies manage to control the decision making processes within the IOW Chamber of Commerce, which then lead to IOW Council strategies and decisions.

 


 

The IOW Chamber of Commerce (COC) is a business itself… reliant on event charges, subscriptions and ‘donations’ from member businesses, to pay staff wages and bills. As a business, it will first and foremost make decisions to ensure its own survival and best financial return. 

 

No consultation has EVER been carried out by the COC amongst its member businesses regarding a potential IOW Fixed Link, including how enhanced 24hr, fast and immediate connectivity would affect and benefit them? …. not once in its history.
 
Island businesses encounter huge logistical, time consuming and expensive problems crossing the Solent  … yet the Chamber of Commerce has never chosen to solve the island’s restrictive isolation.

 

Why not?

An impenetrable fortress? The COC, the FSB and the IOW Council work together, but are controlled by the Solent ferry companies… read more.

 


 

1:    The dire island economy.

 

Endorsed by parliamentary ministers, highly respected economic strategical ‘think tank’ – Localis, has declared the Isle of Wight the worst performing economy in England. The IOW comes 109th out of 109 English economic regions, yet it is geographically located just 4 miles from one of the most affluent and prosperous regions in the whole of the UK.  The IOW economy is ‘stuck’.

It is clear that the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce has wilfully ignored the continual deterioration of the islands economy. Business and Tourism on the island is reliant on connectivity and access across the Solent. The three IOW ferry transport providers control this connectivity and access. It is clear that they utilise the COC as a tool, to maintain that control.  

 

 

IOW Chamber of Commerce / Solent Freedom Tunnel
Amongst other studies, highly respected ‘think tank’ Localis… has declared the IOW the worst economy in England … read the report

 

From page 28 of the report. The basic foundation for success in any region is Transport Mobility. However, cross Solent transport alternatives, are purposely suppressed by the ferry companies through the COC.

 

The influence that the cross solent ferry companies impose on the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce can not be underestimated.  Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel bosses all have seats on the COC board of directors who combined, dictate COC decisions and strategies which are then fed to the IOW Council. Each ferry company is unregulated and under no obligation to provide a service to any individual or business. Businesses that upset or appear disloyal to any of the three companies, can have fare discounts removed or refusal of loading. There is no ‘body’ or entity to complain to, or arbitrate with. The possible result is, these ferry companies can bankrupt an island business that needs to cross the Solent… almost instantly. It is a constant and oppressive threat, not suffered in any other part of the U.K. These businesses are afraid to speak out, for fear of retribution.

 

BUSINESS FEAR (County Press article from 2015). Some recorded examples of banning from ferries … are here

 

 

 2:     What are the COC priorities?

 

During a 17 year reign, COC ‘CEO’ – Kevin Smith, kept the ferry companies happy. ‘Those who pay the Piper, play the tune’.

An IOW Radio “Friday Report Fixed Link Special” was held During December 2014. Kevin Smith, is heard praising the IOW ferry company services much to the contrary of the other attending debating parties and ‘phoning in’ general public. Kevin suggested on air that all the IOW ferry businesses should be subsidised by the UK taxpayer, rather than have a fixed link be built to compete with them.

IOW RADIO FIXED LINK DEBATE with Carl Feeney, Debbie Gardner, Richard Priest and COC CEO Kevin Smith in 2014.
IOW RADIO FIXED LINK DEBATE with Carl Feeney, Debbie Gardner, Richard Priest and COC CEO Kevin Smith in 2014.

Any member business of the COC , understands that the three ferry companies have access to scrutinise their business activities from within this institution. The vast majority of member businesses would clearly benefit from a road based fixed link providing 24 hour affordable, immediate and fast cross Solent access… but the COC has continually restricted any debate


 

3:    Institutionalised manipulative influence

This Business Magazine interview (click) with ex CEO of Wightlink Ferries – Russell Kew, stated that he and Wightlink are instrumental in influencing the IOW Chamber of Commerce.

 

 

Russel Kew / Wightlink / IOW Chamber of Commerce / Solent freedom tunnel
Russel Kew had considerable influence over the IOW Chamber of Commerce decisions … read more

Extracts from the interview;

A board member of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, Kew also chairs the Solent Local Growth Panel and the Solent Local Transport Body (SLTB) as well as being on the board of shaping the future of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce.”     

This statement clearly indicates the influence this Wightlink boss had on the COC on both sides of the Solent. Red Funnel chairman – Kevin George has now taken up these positions, able to prevent a fixed link through the SLEP and the IOW Chamber, while securing LEP (taxpayers) funds as SLEP Business Director, to develop Red Funnel assets.

And…

“At a recent Isle of Wight Council meeting, Kew revealed that a third of Wightlink’s sailings are loss-making, and that the company operated 600 empty sailings last year.” 

This statement clearly indicates that the business model of each ferry company is flawed, while at the same time creating operational environmental damage needlessly. 

 


 

4:     Conflicts of interest

 

 

The ferry company bosses who are COC Directors, are:

 

 

  • COC Director –Kevin George  – Chairman of the entire Red Funnel Group.

 

  • Still COC Chairman – Steve Porter – Red Funnel Freight.

 

 

 

All cross Solent operator bosses are on the Board of the COC.

 

As directors within the same COC Board, it would seem likely that all three ferry company bosses could collude to protect their ferry businesses from a fixed link competitor, while ensuring that COC strategies are adapted to their own advantage. Over one quarter of the Board Members, are directly linked to existing Solent Transport providers.

 


 

5:     COC ‘CEO’ – Kevin Smith and the COC member.

 

During March 2018, Isle of Wight COC member – Jon Benton, became particularly frustrated with the cross Solent access problems encumbering the competitiveness of his island business… so much so that he wrote to CEO – Kevin Smith to ask what could be done to find solutions?… offering his opinions also. Adding to the anxiety, Jon’s wife – Mandy had recently undergone life changing surgery at a mainland hospital and was subsequently treated awfully by Wightlink staff on her way home. 

The email thread below explains the conversation between Jon and Kevin:

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Jon Benton
Sent: 30 March 2018 19:25
To: kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk
Subject: Question 

Hi Kevin,

I have serious concerns that The Chamber of Commerce tells members that it’s an independent powerful voice that represents us (businesses on the IOW) yet have three board members also employed by the ferry companies, the latest publication from the SLEP doesn’t mention any issues the island has involving travelling to and from, it basically ignores us completely.
The Chamber is meant to have involvement, and influence with the SLEP, but we are currently not represented positively by the The Chamber, or it seems the FSB.
As a personal example I have recently encountered with Wightlink, my wife was diagnosed with grade two cancer, requiring highly invasive surgery. The time for arrival on the day of the operation was 07.00, due to the regular cancellation of ferries we had to spend the night before in a hotel, I also stayed the next night due to visiting times, and wanting to be close by.
Saturday 24th Feb, she was discharged in the afternoon, she left hospital with 7 surgical sites in total, many stitches, and three chest drains, obviously weak, and in pain.
By prior arrangement with Wightlink staff I’d requested that as she didn’t qualify for an ambulance, she could remain in the car for the duration of the crossing, this was confirmed and I only had to notify staff as we boarded.
When we arrived I notified a member of staff, he then shouted at the top of his voice to a colleague “ this blokes wife has got stitches in her chest and other shit” the colleague came over, said they needed a weeks notice!!, they actually had 10 days, and if I didn’t get her out of the car, we basically had to get off! So with much added and needless discomfort, she went up in a filthy lift, to encounter being the centre of attention due to staff carrying out a conversation about her at the top of their voices. 
It was a shocking, distressing and painful experience we paid £60 for.
With obviously biased board members with the C of C, do you think that my wife’s treatment is acceptable, that my business suffers financially due to travelling time and costs, is it not the main function of the C of C to assist in business growth, to help them trade fairly with businesses on the mainland? Currently The Chamber does not seem to represent us, if they did the Island might have had some consideration with the SLEP.
As an example of increased costs, our travel regarding my wife’s illness and treatment was in excess of £700 attending The QA in Portsmouth, I purchase paint from a company called Pexa, they deliver FOC nationally, but to the island the cost is £90 for 5 litres of product, is this helping me be competitive? It obviously does not.

Best Regards Jon Benton

Director at Advanced Performance Coatings Ltd.

 

*

 

On 3 Apr 2018, at 12:14, Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk> wrote:

Dear Jon,

I am so sorry to hear of your dreadful experience with some of the staff at Wightlink in what is a very difficult time for both you and your wife. 

This level of service is clearly unacceptable, and I would like permission from you to forward this email to Keith Greenfield the Chief Executive of Wightlink, who I know will be as horrified as I am at the treatment and experience that you both had to endure at a very difficult time. Please let me know if this is OK to do.

Regarding the Chambers representation and influence on behalf of Island business and wider community, we are actively involved in working with and feeding into the future plans for business growth with both the SLEP and the IW Council. Much of this work is through regular meetings with both organisations.

With the SLEP we have had input to help shape their infrastructure investment plans for the Isle of Wight. This includes helping them understand some of the issues of Island businesses including cross Solent travel. 

The point to remember with the SLEP is that they do invest in main routes of transportation across the south of Hampshire with a focus on train and motorway interchanges. And they do look to invest in the city ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, including a multi-million-pound investment at the Red Funnel Terminals both in Southampton and on the Isle of Wight; to assist with traffic management and capacity. As a part of this work we had to remind both the SLEP and the Isle of Wight Council about protecting on Island deep water maritime access, which at one point they both seemed to have forgotten.

Our ongoing work with the IW Council has included the Chamber having input into the Cross-Solent Transport study that they commissioned, as well as working with them in developing the economic plans for the Isle of Wight. This includes the costs to Island businesses of crossing the Solent which is an ongoing conversation.

Having the ferry companies being represented on the Chamber Board does not harm the representation of Island companies but, in my opinion, enhances this as far more non-transport companies representing the wider Island business community also sit on the Chamber Board. These businesses have very frank and open conversations with them including costs of cross Solent transport as well as frequency of the service. We also recognise the positive contribution’s that they make such as the number of Islanders employed by them, their levels of on Island investment etc.

We are also very mindful that the ferry companies are commercial operators and like any commercial enterprise exist to make a profit.  What we have understood very clearly regarding cross Solent transport and the costs to Islanders is that to reduce these costs we need some form of Government funding to subsidise these costs. Most Island communities across Europe receive such subsidies; our lobby to government, which is ongoing, is for Government and their agencies to understand this and that the Isle of Wight is one of the largest Island economies in Europe and we do not receive any subsidised support. 

A lot of the work we do is proactively pushing this message behind closed doors, encouraging the SLEP to invest and spend more of its money on the Isle of Wight and for the Isle of Wight Council to actually do things that enhance the Isle of Wight economy and encourage business growth instead of blocking development or arguing amongst themselves.

The latest piece of work that we have launched to encourage more of this is the IW Chamber Vision 2030, which I have attached a copy of for your information. We want all Islanders to work together in whatever way they can to support this and you will see more information about this over the coming months.

Once again sorry to hear about your poor experience with Wightlink recently, please do let me know if you would like me to take this up with them on your behalf.

Kind Regards

Kevin Smith
Chief Executive
ISLE OF WIGHT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Tel. 01983 520777
Fax. 01983 554555
Email: kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk
Web: http://www.iwchamber.co.uk

‘the voice of Island business’

 

*

 

From: Jonathan Benton 
Date: 21 April 2018 at 20:16:59 BST
To: Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk>
Cc: Vanessa Brozowski <vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk>
Subject: Re: Question

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your reply, and the information contain within, as apposed to a copy and paste, much appreciated.

The latest SLEP paper  seems to suggest that there are no issues with travel, and I assume this includes cross Solent or at least it should include the Solent. This is not the case though, there are major issues, the two main ones are an unreliable service and the most obvious is cost. I fully understand that they need to make a profit, but the level of profit they make is very generous in their favour, ultimately at the cost to Island businesses. I was also unaware that the SLEP subsidised the Red Funnel building projects. So to me they receive government subsidy to run their business, but are not regulated, and have absolutely no official responsibility to offer a reasonable level of service. They don’t seem to have made it public that they received  a large amount of funding to increase the value of their assets at the expense of the taxpayer.

I also understand that you need ongoing dialogue with representatives of these firms to try to reign in the costs and up the level of service, but this isn’t happening so I’d question the benefits of having them onboard. If they have any kind of sway in voting or general input then I think they should not be there, and they can only be biased towards what they expect to get out of being there, they will not be working for locals firms at the mercy of the ferry operators, it cannot happen, and it would be naive to think they would be looking out for ferry users and not themselves. Imagine if their line managers discovered they had voted/suggested that changes should be made and their profit took a downturn because of this. They have a totally different standpoint to Island based businesses, and they can and do charge as much as they can.

The SLEP should be there to help fund businesses that genuinely need financial support, Red Funnel did not need financial support but got it anyway, and at the expense of other more vulnerable companies that genuinely need it. One of the major issues with attempting to secure funding is the process, and knowledge required to make an application. If you’re a sizeable company, in the position to put finances in to the application process you’d be in a better position than a smaller company that has to constantly manage it’s outgoings. If the application is incorrect in anyway, it’s discarded without notice. The SLEP operating in that way are making it easier for larger firms to secure funding, and harder for smaller more vulnerable firms to compete, it’s wrong and Island businesses need more support and stronger representation.

Tourism is down on the Island, Engineering/Manufacturing are all on the decline, you surely have to see that the main reason is Solent related, the Island is a black spot locally compared to the rest of the affluent South, why is that? Wages are lower, why is that? The wage of a general fitter at GKN is approximately 25-27k working on Airbus related projects. The same type of projects pay up to 37k in Chester, you can probably have a pretty confident guess why local firms can’t afford to compete nationally with wage levels, and why firms feel they can pay less for the same work.

With your on going dialogue with the ferry companies, do you see a better more affordable service on the horizon Kevin? I think you’ll find an increase in pricing generally, and the justification will be due to investing in improvements to loading, and unloading areas, of which they’ve actually received funding for!!

Jon Benton

ADVANCED PERFORMANCE COATINGS LTD.

 

Kevin Smith did not reply to Jon’s second email.
However, Jon and Mandy received and apologetic phone call from the WightLink PR department. Soon after, a £300 Wightlink voucher for future travel was received through the post.

 

6:     Conclusions from the above emails.

 

 

Several things became clear:

 

Regarding Wightlink:

1/         The process of communication between office staff and crew must be severely lacking. Jon Benton gave plenty of notice that his wife Mandy, would be travelling post operation in discomfort that day, yet the communication was not relayed.

2/         Once the request from Jon and his wife to remain in their vehicle had been voiced on the day… confirmation from the office should have been sought. The conduct experienced, would appear to have the characteristics of ‘enjoyable bullying’ by several members of staff. As yet, no communication has been received by Jon and Mandy as to how the situation had been resolved by Wightlink, so that this behaviour or similar, would not occur again in future to others.

3/         Kevin’s email above, stated that he would approach CEO of Wightlink – Keith Greenfield directly.  Having presumably communicated such a shocking story, the insensitivity appeared to continue from the head of Wightlink and COC Director… passing the apology to his PR team, rather than doing it himself.

 

Regarding the Chamber of Commerce:

1/          Quoted from Kevin’s email to Jon:

“Regarding the Chamber’s representation and influence on behalf of Island business and wider community, we are actively involved in working with and feeding into the future plans for business growth with both the SLEP and the IW Council. Much of this work is through regular meetings with both organisations.

With the SLEP we have had input to help shape their infrastructure investment plans for the Isle of Wight. This includes helping them understand some of the issues of Island businesses including cross Solent travel.”

“we are actively involved in working with and feeding into the future plans for business growth with both the SLEP and the IW Council.”

Kevin George / Red Funnel / Solent Freedom Tunnel
Red Funnel Group Chairman – Kevin George, has huge influence on decisions made within the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce and SLEP… read more

Kevin George is SLEP Business Director and also IOW COC Director. In these capacities, Kevin George will act as liaison and intermediary between the two. Kevin George gets paid by the Red Funnel Group including share options, but unpaid as Director of the SLEP and the COC. As Jon Benton mentions in his email to Kevin Smith, it would be naive to think they would be looking out for ferry users and not themselves“.  Red Funnel, Wightlink and Hovertravel are able to lobby the IOW Council through this arrangement… sometimes to even ask the Council to lobby for them.  As an example, it can be as simple asking the IOW Council to lobby for the removal of proposed Clean Air Zones in Southampton, which would hurt Kevin George’s Red Funnel’s business and also devastate Chairman of the COC’s HGV cross Solent transport business – Steve Porter Transport… read more. 

 

2/             Quoted from Kevin’s email to Jon:        

“With the SLEP we have had input to help shape their infrastructure investment plans for the Isle of Wight. This includes helping them understand some of the issues of Island businesses including cross Solent travel. The point to remember with the SLEP is that they do invest in main routes of transportation across the south of Hampshire with a focus on train and motorway interchanges. And they do look to invest in the city ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, including a multi-million-pound investment at the Red Funnel Terminals both in Southampton and on the Isle of Wight; to assist with traffic management and capacity.”        

The Solent LEP Business Director is largely responsible for allocating government funds for infrastructure projects. While planning work at Gunwharf and Fishbourne was being predetermined, given planning permission to construct and then build, the SLEP Business Director was Russel Kew.

Russel Kew – from the SLEP website.

Russel was at the time also CEO of Wightlink and heavily involved with the IOW Chamber of Commerce. The UK taxpayer funds that the SLEP gave to Wightlink, developed their port infrastructure.. increasing Wightlink’s asset worth... read more  Wightlink has now been put on the open market for reputedly more than £300million. (Sept 2018).

Once funds to Wightlink had been allocated by the SLEP, Red Funnel Chairman – Kevin George replaced Russel Kew read more

At the time Kevin George became SLEP Director of Business, Red Funnel were challenging an IOW Council planning decision, refusing permission for the demolishing of manufacturing buildings and residential homes at East Cowes… read more.  The PRO-LINK Campaign had brought to the attention of the IOW Council, that Red Funnel had been encouraging their employees to submit statements of support for the application using a generic template, which indicated a false majority of support by islanders… read more.

With Kevin George as SLEP Director of Business however, the planning refusal was overturned on appeal. It was expected that the appeal expenses by Red Funnel would have to be paid by the IOW Council… of around £100,000.  Red Funnel decided not to pursue this sum.  Red Funnel was then sold for £320million read more

3/           Quoted from Kevin’s email to Jon:   

“What we have understood very clearly regarding cross Solent transport and the costs to Islanders is that to reduce these costs we need some form of Government funding to subsidise these costs.”             

petition / solent freedom tunnel
Confirmed. Regulation, nationalisation or subsidies are impossible… read more

This corroborates the suggestion Kevin made four years previously. Kevin will know that subsidies are of course not possible at all…. nor is regulation or nationalisation… read more.The subsidy conversation has been continuing with no foundation for decades, seemingly in an attempt to stall the only solution possible… a fixed link. The UK government has now unequivocally confirmed that English ferry companies will not be interfered with at any stage by the state… read more.

4/         Quoted from Kevin’s email to Jon:

A lot of the work we do is proactively pushing this message behind closed doors” 

Just prior to election periods, it will be very easy for such well connected ferry company bossed to influence political elections and therefore policies… “behind closed doors.”  To gain the best media coverage of a candidates political merit, it would be quite simple to gain timely press coverage of a popular project for example, that could be arranged through the COC.  There is no proof this has occurred, but it is possible.


 

7:      The MP

BOB Seely MP / Solent Freedom Tunnel / IOW Fixed Link / IOW Ferries
The IOW MP launched an abusive attack when he was politely asked questions. Click here or on photo for details.

CEO of the IOW Chamber of Commerce – Kevin Smith, chose not to reply to Jon Bentons’ second email above – dated 21st April 2018. After waiting for nearly three weeks for the reply, Jon decided to use an opportunity to ask the MP – Bob Seely and the Chamber, what solutions could be initiated at an “Ask the MP’ event that the Chamber had organised for the 11th May 2018.

Feeling that he may get emotional asking questions, Jon decided it would be best for his employee – Simon Gentle to do this… so two seats were booked and paid for. During the evening prior to the event, Simon became ill and had to cancel. Jon phoned Carl Feeney, sent him the email thread above… and asked if he’d like to pose the question to the MP. Carl took up the offer, attended… and politely asked two questions. What happened next, was an unprovoked vicious abusive assault on Carl Feeney by the MP. The MP didn’t answer the questions… read more about this.


 

 

6:       PRO-LINK and Able Connections presented plans for a fixed link study to the Chamber of Commerce ‘Economic Advisory Committee’– Feb 2018.

 

The build up to the presentation:

 

From: Carl Feeney
Sent: 24 January 2018 17:51
To: kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk
Cc: Geoff.Underwood Tim Cooper Able-Connections. <timothypcooper>
Subject: Able Connections Ltd funding request presentation.

Dear Kevin

Geoff Underwood has given your name as the contact point in order to arrange a presentation to the COC membership, with regard to a funding request for an IOW Fixed Link viability study.

Would it be possible please, to arrange a meeting to discuss the above?

Kind regards.

Carl.

Carl J Feeney  F.R.S.A.

PRO-LINK.   (Chair)

Campaigning for the IOW Fixed Link solution.

Able Connections Ltd (Director)

 

*

 

On 25 Jan 2018, at 10:43, Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk> wrote:

Dear Carl,

Geoff spoke to me about your wish to present your ideas to the IW Chamber.

I suggest that in the first instance that you present to the Chambers Economic Advisory Committee. This is a group of Chamber Members who shape the policy for economic development for the Isle of Wight, from the Chambers perspective.

The next meeting is due to take place on the 1st February at 3.00pm at the IW Chamber, the format would be a 20-minute presentation followed by 10 minutes Q&A.

Would you like me to put you on the Agenda?

Kind Regards

Kevin Smith

Chief Executive

ISLE OF WIGHT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

Tel. 01983 520777

Fax. 01983 554555

Email: kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk

Web: http://www.iwchamber.co.uk

 

*

 

From: Carl Feeney [mailto:feeneycarl]
Sent: 25 January 2018 23:15
To: Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk>
Cc: Geoff.Underwood Tim Cooper Able-Connections. <timothypcooper>; Vanessa Brozowski <vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk>
Subject: Re: Able Connections Ltd funding request presentation.

Hi Kevin

Thank you for your reply. I did try to get in touch by phone today and left a message with Catherine for perhaps a call back?

I wanted to ask you which Chamber members make up the Chambers Economic Advisory Committee …. and which affiliations or businesses do they represent? It will be important for us to understand the dynamics of those businesses pre presentation, regarding cross Solent Transport.

In principle we would like to take up your offer of the 1st February and appreciate the opportunity.

It is imperative however, that we know who we are presenting to please?

Best regards.

Carl J Feeney  F.R.S.A.

PRO-LINK.   (Chair)

Campaigning for the IOW Fixed Link solution.

Able Connections Ltd (Director)

 

*

 

On 26 Jan 2018, at 12:34, Vanessa Brozowski <vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk> wrote:

Hi Carl

Please see below a list of attendees for the meeting on 1st February which starts at 3.00pm.

Karen Lucas (Chair)         Vikoma

Kevin Smith                        IW Chamber

Geoff Underwood            IFPL

Steve Porter                      Steve Porter Transport

Norman Arnold                 Chair of IW Economic Development Board *

Tom Honeyman Brown Tapnell Farm

Paul Herbert                      Island Roads

Mark Lee                             Lifeline Alarm Systems

Edward Nicholson            Consultant

Christopher Scott             Christopher Scott

Janet Stevens                    IW College

Robert Stewart                 Aluminium Marine Consultants

Peter Tomlinson               Betapak

Jonathan Thornton         PC Consultants

Richard White                    Studio School

Colin Palmer                       Wight Community Energy

John Irvine                          WightFibre

Tim Sell                                 Crossprint

Chris Ashman                    IW Council

Julie Jones-Evans             FSB

Clive Tilley                           Deputy Chair  of VIOW Board/ Wightlink  *

 

Please can you let me know if you will require a screen and projector for a presentation.

Kind regards

Vanessa Brozowski

P.A. to Chief Executive and HR Manager

ISLE OF WIGHT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

 


 

7:     What happened at the Presentation?

Norman Arnold / IOW Chamber of Commerce / Solent Freedom Tunnel
Norman Arnold disrupted the presentation.

The PowerPoint presentation on the 1st February 2018 was greeted with interest by all of the parties present… even Wightlink’s – Clive Tilley. Just one individual was very keen on disrupting the event. Norman Arnold – chair of the IW Economic Development Board, heckled Carl Feeney during his element of the presentation… while Tim Cooper was also made to feel uncomfortable. The terms of reference for the IW Economic Development Board.. can been seen here. It is quite clear that Norman Arnold would be keen to resist and challenge any attempts by PRO-LINK to gain support by the COC. As Chair of the Economic Development Board and also Vice Chair of the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) he will be influential in doing so. Several members of the committee that PRO-LINK presented to, contacted Carl Feeney after the meeting and apologised for Norman’s conduct.

For more information regarding Norman Arnold and perhaps his reasons to oppose a fixed link study.. read here. 


 

8:     After the presentation… what happened?

 

A follow up email to the President and CEO of the Chamber, was sent on the 6th of February to confirm the elements that the presentation on the 1st of February had covered. The communication email culminated with this request;

“We invite members of the Chamber of Commerce who wish to support the study, or who simply want to talk further about the proposals, to make contact with us, and we ask that you pass this invitation to your members.”

The response from Kevin Smith ended with this statement:

The Chamber will highlight the proposals for a viability study to Chamber members and ask them to contact you or Carl directly if they would like further information, as the Island’s business community will need further information and facts in order to move forward in any direction or to have a wider discussion on the issue.”

September 2018, PRO-LINK still know of no Chamber of Commerce members, that have been contacted by the COC regarding a fixed link study. It is apparent that they were not informed.

 

The two emails are below:

 

From: Timothy Cooper <timothypcooper>
Date: Tuesday, 6 February 2018 at 14:49
To: Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk>, “geoff.underwood” <geoff.underwood>
Cc: Kevin Smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk>, “feeneycarl” <feeneycarl>
Subject: Able Connections Viability Study

 

Dear Geoff and Kevin.

Carl and I would like to extend our sincere thanks to you and the other members of the Chamber of Commerce Economic Advisory Committee for allowing us to present the Able Connections proposals for fixed link viability study funding.

The world has moved on from the days when infrastructure was built to satisfy the demands of lobbyists, whether grass-roots organisations or partners in major accountancy practices. The criterion for investing in infrastructure today is that it represents good value for money, with economic benefits to a large population that amount to many multiples of the capital cost. We believe that our scheme meets this criterion. It does more to regenerate the Solent at lower cost to the public purse than any other scheme currently proposed. I hope that in the short amount of time we had available, we were able to demonstrate in outline how this will happen and how our proposed study will provide data to quantify these assertions.

The investment made by Hampshire County Council in the SRTM model, combined with the vast amounts of data which are now available on everything from travel behaviour to the financing of major infrastructure schemes, allows us to answer many of the questions which are asked of a proposed scheme much more cost-effectively than was the case 20 years ago. Indeed, it is likely that the work done to date by Able Connections is already much more advanced than was accomplished in the previous study, because the industry of transport planning is more advanced and more of the relevant data is now accessible.

However, we have now reached a stage where we need funding to quantify the work we have done to date so that we can provide both the public and central government with evidence to inform the appropriate debate. To ensure transparency of the work we shall seek to appoint an independent steering panel. Hampshire CC are necessarily involved, as SRTM is only available through them on a bureau basis. We seek other parties to sit on the steering panel, and would welcome representation from the Chamber of Commerce.

Our proposal for the next stage of work represents a very attractive opportunity for the Island business community. It will create a significant amount of interest in the Isle of Wight as a place to do business – we have repeatedly seen in recent weeks how much the press likes to report on new infrastructure schemes. Equally importantly, it will be a credible, high quality piece of work and this too will reflect favourably on the Island. The study will be administered by Able Connections. It will be carried out by world-leading consultancies who are experts in their field. The final study report will have input from Royal Haskoning, KPMG and Systra, and we are in conversation with most of the other major engineering consultancies about the provision of specialist advice (for instance on freight movements, tourist trips, land use / transport interaction, agglomeration benefits, bus planning etc), if requested by the steering panel and funds allow.

Once the study has been achieved, we will know whether the proposed Fixed link scheme is financially viable or not. If it is, we can proceed to the next stage of work. If it is not, the island will be able to look to the future using ferry transport only to cross the Solent. We will have that answer once the viability study has been concluded.

As explained in the meeting, we have set a budget of £150k to conduct the viability study, which should be sufficient to allow us to carry out the work we propose with full public transparency and independence overseen by the convening of the steering panel. We invite members of the Chamber of Commerce who wish to support the study, or who simply want to talk further about the proposals, to make contact with us, and we ask that you pass this invitation to your members.

 

Kindest regards,

Tim Cooper.

Carl J Feeney  F.R.S.A.

PRO-LINK.   (Chair)

Campaigning for the IOW Fixed Link solution.

Able Connections Ltd (Director)

 

*

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Vanessa Brozowski <vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk>
To: Tim Cooper Able-Connections. (timothypcooper) <timothypcooper>
Cc: Carl Feeney (feeneycarl) <feeneycarl>; Underwood, Geoff <geoff.underwood>
Sent: Wed, Feb 14, 2018 5:12 pm
Subject: Able Connections Viability Study

Dear Tim

Thank you for your email below and for coming along with Carl to present your proposals to the Chamber’s Economic Advisory Committee.

As a membership organisation that represents a wide range of views, the Chamber itself takes no stance in the Fixed Link debate and our advice to members in situations like this would always be for them to engage – to find out more, to consult and to make up their own minds. The Chamber therefore cannot support or endorse your work or make any financial contribution to your study.

The Chamber will highlight the proposals for a viability study to Chamber members and ask them to contact you or Carl directly if they would like further information, as the Island’s business community will need further information and facts in order to move forward in any direction or to have a wider discussion on the issue.

Best regards

Kevin Smith

Chief Executive

ISLE OF WIGHT CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

 

September 2018, PRO-LINK still know of no COC members that have been contacted by the COC regarding any conversation of a fixed link study. It is apparent that they were not informed.

 


 

 

9:     The subsequent incorrect Newspaper article.

 

The IOW County Press offered to produce an article regarding the COC presentation by PRO-LINK / Able Connections. The conclusion email dated 6th February, was copied to the County Press to support the context of the meeting and for the County Press to draw information from.

It was then surprising to see the CP article headline  … “CASH PLEA FOR FIXED LINK STUDY TURNED DOWN”… as this bore no relevance to the presentation.  

Carl Feeney then contacted COC President – Geoff Underwood to ask why Kevin Smith would have made such a statement, considering that no funds had been requested at all from the COC?

 

——– Original message ——–

From: Carl Feeney <feeneycarl>

Date: 16/02/2018 6:28 pm (GMT+01:00)

To: Geoff Underwood <Geoff.Underwood>

Cc: Timothy Cooper <timothypcooper>, vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.ukkevin.smith@iwchamber.co.ukkevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk

Subject: Re: Able Connections Viability Study

This is the County Press article Geoff, along with Kevin’s statement. It is unfortunate that the statement gives the impression that we asked the chamber for funding, which was then declined. It would be greatly appreciated if this statement could be corrected in some way to the appropriate media? I have attempted some damage limitation today, but a statement from the COC would go a long way.

Best regards

Carl J Feeney  F.R.S.A.

PRO-LINK.   (Chair)

Campaigning for the IOW Fixed Link solution.

Able Connections Ltd (Director)

 

*

 

On 16 Feb 2018, at 19:15, Geoff Underwood <Geoff.Underwood> wrote:

Yes. You’ve been quoted as asking for funding from the chamber. I know you meant that you wanted to seek funding through chamber members… Subtly different, but you can’t be subtle with the CP

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

 

*

 

From: Carl Feeney <feeneycarl>

Date: 16/02/2018 11:04 pm (GMT+01:00)

To: Geoff Underwood <Geoff.Underwood>

Cc: Timothy Cooper <timothypcooper>, vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk, kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk, kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk

Subject: Re: Able Connections Viability Study

 

Exactly Geoff.

Obviously it’s just a mistake. However, the impression given is that Able Connections has requested funding from the COC that has been turned down.

What in your opinion, would be the best course of action to have this perception corrected?

Carl

Carl J Feeney  F.R.S.A.

PRO-LINK.   (Chair)

Campaigning for the IOW Fixed Link solution.

Able Connections Ltd (Director)

 

*

 

Hi Carl

I’m not a PR type so don’t really know.

CP will print a correction, but that’ll be hidden in a tiny corner of the mag.

You could contact Kevin again and ask if he would run an article in Island Business with the right title and content.

I suggest you rewrite the article as it is but correcting the mistakes.

Cheers

Geoff

Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.

 

*

 

From: Carl Feeney [mailto:feeneycarl]
Sent: 19 February 2018 10:24
To: Geoff Underwood <Geoff.Underwood>; alanm@iwcpmail.co.uk
Cc: Timothy Cooper <timothypcooper>; vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.ukkevin.smith@iwchamber.co.ukkevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk
Subject: Re: Able Connections Viability Study

 

Hi again Geoff

I’ve just spoken with Alan Marriot – General Editor of  the County Press.

I have explained the situation to him and he is now reserving a space in the “Letters to the Editor” this Friday for the statement I’ve drafted below … to come from ‘Kevin Smith – CEO of the IOW Chamber of Commerce’. It would be good if the COC could also state that they support a study, as to not do so would be in opposition to the IOW Council and the IOW Transport Infrastructure Taskforce [ READ MORE ], of which I believe you were a stakeholder.

“The IOW Chamber of Commerce would like to amend our statement concerning the presentation of a Fixed Link viability study by Able Connections Ltd on the 1st Feb 2018, as previously reported in the IOW County Press on the 16th Feb 2018. The COC mistakenly stated that Able Connections Ltd had asked the COC for funding for a study, however the request was to have the COC Economic Advisory Panel inform member businesses, that funding sponsorship was being sought. Therefore the COC was in no position to state that a funding request from Able Connections Ltd had been declined, as the question was not asked. The COC apologises for any potential professional detriment to Able Connections Ltd, that the previous incorrect statement may have caused. – Kevin Smith.”

This statement can then be published in the Cp, either in an article arranged with Alan Marriot or ‘letters to the editor’… which can then be placed on line. 

Obviously nothing can fully correct the situation, but this will limit the damage caused by some degree. If the statement could be either sent to me by email from Kevin by this Tuesday, or placed directly into the Cp in time for the 23rd Feb edition, that will be appreciated. Please let me know which option is best? 

We’d like to take you up on the offer of an article in the ‘Island Business’ magazine with the correct information. Thank you. 

I do hope that these measures are agreeable. 

Alan has asked that this is arranged by the end of today in order of diligence.

Many thanks and regards.

Carl Feeney.

 

*

 

—–Original Message—–
From: Geoff Underwood <>
To: Carl Feeney <>; alanm <alanm@iwcpmail.co.uk>
CC: Timothy Cooper <>; vanessa.brozowski <vanessa.brozowski@iwchamber.co.uk>; kevin.smith <kevin.smith@iwchamber.co.uk>; kevin.smith <kevin.smith@iiyp.co.uk>
Sent: Mon, 19 Feb 2018 13:46
Subject: RE: Able Connections Viability Study

Hi Carl

I’ve just got home to a pile of problems, so I can’t give this any time until next week I’m afraid. I understand that Kevin is currently on holiday, and I can’t commit him to anything.

I understand that the article was in error, and your own statement in the article didn’t really help.  You are quoted as saying “We are hoping for the chamber to firstly assist sponsorship investing in the study….”

That’s not was discussed. You and Tim said that you were approaching the Chamber to seek funding for the study from our Membership – NOT the Chamber itself. We said the Chamber would not be able to fund the viability study, but we’d circulate the info to the membership.  

At the meeting we also made it clear that the Chamber has a neutral position regarding a tunnel.  There’s nothing in the article that Kevin said that is not true.  As with many reporting issues, Kevin’s comments that includes “….no offer of support or any type of commitment for or against…” refers to the Tunnel project…..not the viability study. The report in the CP is conflating the two.

Sorry I can’t be of further help this week.

Best regards

Geoff

 

The County Press published Carl Feeney’s letter, but no corrective statement was issued by the Chamber of Commerce. Nothing more was heard regarding the correction being placed in the ‘Island Business’ magazine.

 


 

 

 

10:      What plans does the Chamber of Commerce have now?

 

The 2030 vision.

At the start of this webpage, the description of the Isle of Wight’s economy as “stuck” by  Localis, is testament to it’s horrendous handling by the COC over the past two or three decades. As the IOW Ferry Companies have gained a stranglehold over all major institutions and political instruments on the island, they have clearly imposed a tourniquet of greed and control over the islands fortunes.

 

2030 vision / solent freedom tunnel IOW Chamber of Commerce / COC / IOW COC
Vision with no apparent no substance. “Talking up the island,” does not create attract inward investment. Click to enlarge

The 2030 ‘Vision’ by the COC appears to have been drafted up by the ferry companies themselves. It presentation states “Break down the ‘MYTH’ OF THE SOLENT AS A BARRIER.” This statement itself is surely incredibly delusional… read more.

2030 vision / solent freedom tunnel
With no tangible plan of how to achieve these plans… isn’t this vision just delusion?  Click to enlarge

Many factors will benefit from a fixed link including, career opportunities, healthcare, mental welfare, education, sports, etc. 

But clearly, the islands future economic welfare depends on the island becoming better connected. It must move ahead and progress if it wishes to compete. It needs 24 hour, fast and immediate connectivity… or it will simply fail, as it is already.

A fixed link viability study will inform all concerned of whether we move forward with ferries, or a fixed link. Once that study is done, clarity be have been achieved.

 

On Friday the 21st September, the Solent Freedom Tunnel scheme route will be published… HERE.  The following week, the presentation by International Infrastructure Specialists – ARUP to perform the viability study, will be added to this website. Shortly after, the mechanisms to raise funds for the study will be published.