Wightlink questions council over Community Interest Company

By Martin Neville

Thursday, January 16, 2014

 

THE Isle of Wight Council has made no commitment to support a proposed community interest company to take over Wightlink, councillors heard last night (Wednesday).

Calls to form a community interest company to reduce Wightlink’s debts, with the aim of cutting the cost of cross-Solent travel, were reported by the Isle of Wight County Press last month.

Patrick Seely, of Dunsbury Farm, Brook, told the County Press an Island-based group of entrepreneurs, led by former Liz Earle boss John Buckland, was ready to form the company with the support of London financial advisers.

At last night’s (Wednesday) full council Wightlink's operations director Sean Millward questioned the extent of involvement of the council and MP Andrew Turner in the CIC.

Deputy council leader, Cllr Steve Stubbings, said a number of commercially confidential meetings had been held and the council had provided the group with economic data, as it would with any potential investor, but had not made a commitment to support the CIC or allocated any resources to its development.

"Any decision to support the CIC would require a formal decision to be taken by councillors based on a full cost benefit analysis of the proposals, including an assessment of their economic and social benefits to the Island and their potential impact on the existing cross-Solent operators," he said.

Mr Millward asked: "Recent media coverage — including two letters from Mr Patrick Seely in the Isle of Wight County Press — has outlined plans to establish a community interest company (CIC), which would have an as-yet-undefined role in cross-Solent ferry services.

"MP Andrew Turner's website also states he has worked with others to put together plans for this CIC, which could re-finance one of the ferry companies.

"I have also noted Mr Seely has submitted documents to the Isle of Wight Council's Cross-Solent Services Scrutiny Task and Finish Group (CSSSTFG).

"Could I therefore ask what meetings, discussions and correspondence the council leader, his cabinet members and any CSSSTFG members have had with the individuals behind the proposed CIC (namely but not limited to Mr Seely, Mr John Buckland and Andrew Turner MP), since their election in May 2013.

"In particular, what discussions have taken place about any role which the council might have in relation to the proposed CIC, whether in terms of the contribution of resources (actual and in kind, such as through staffing) and endorsing or supporting the development of the CIC?"

In a statement issued this morning, Wightlink said: "We operate almost 50,000 sailings a year and carry almost five million passengers.

"A survey in summer 2013 found 80 pe rcent of customers rated our service as excellent or good, 70 per cent of those who expressed a preference said Wightlink was their favourite cross-Solent operator.

"We receive no public subsidy.

"However, we have invested almost £60 million over the last five years in new ships and port facilities.

"We offer special fares to customers from the Isle of Wight.

"Consultation with our customers is important to us, we regularly engage with Islanders through ferry user groups, meetings with councillors and organisations such as the Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce and events including Meet the Managers.

"We give £350,000 of support to Island charities, arts groups and individuals each year.

"Anyone, whether a private individual, commercial organisation, or community interest company, who wishes to acquire any business, should contact its shareholder(s)."

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by alan naylor

17th January 2014, at 19:14:03

Wight link questions council I do hope they get an answer because no one else can

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by roger mazillius

17th January 2014, at 17:03:26

NO HE IS NOT! As others have so clearly shown, the build cost would be horrendous and would require even higher fares than now. It may sound attractive to have a permanent road link but weather, overcrowded roads, high costs including maintenance plus how do you really stop 365 days a year some sleepy navigator bumping into a support across what is one of the most crowded narrow waterways in the world!
Stuck with ferries which generally speaking are reliable, morning, noon and night services, many special offer fares, discount for Island residents etc etc.
As for Mr. Turner and a CIC, well he is already in election mode if you ask me!

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by alan naylor

16th January 2014, at 22:28:21

Mr Mazillias has clearly pointed out all the problems of running a ferry crosssing which i agree must be mind boggling for the managment so much so the fares charged and the debt they have which they expect the public to pay for is totaly beyond the islands pay struchure of the majoriy of people the 350000 give away is peanuts a semi on the mainland nearly go s for that a 5 pound toll fee would bring$25,000,000 Mr M in his post has laid out perfectly as to why we need a bridge I do beleive hes for it

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by Colin Barton

16th January 2014, at 20:33:09

The council can't even run their own business let alone a professional logistics company. Any way why not put in an offer and buy them out(a takeover ie buy some shares)! ps how are island roads doing?

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by Jack Woodford

16th January 2014, at 19:53:09

Interesting stuff here, fellas. It would seem that there is much to be dubious about. It'll be interesting to hear what the CIC dudes have to say for themselves when they feel the time is right to tell the community about their plans. To be honest, I've not been able to make head nor tail of the two letters Mr Seely has written to the CP on the subject so far. Third time lucky perhaps.....

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by Ashley Harcourt

16th January 2014, at 19:05:09

Data disclosed to me via a Freedom of Information Request to the IWC show that Wightlink offer IWC members a scheme whereby they can exclusively book discounts of up to 50%. That isn't mentioned in this piece of journalism.
Nonetheless if that is the scale of discount possible from an outside firm not subsidised by public funds then what kind of discount would the IWC seek to procure from a takeover firm should they step up from merely advising to actually supporting such a venture?

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by Dave Coombs

16th January 2014, at 19:01:02

Build a bridge or burrow a tunnel. Or else the island be home to the elderly only, or is this what they want?

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by Dave Dawson

16th January 2014, at 18:44:20

@Jack Woodford
Looking at some of the names out there, philanthropy does not feature high on their CV's

This group is looking to make a fast buck and they see an opportunity (perhaps falsely) to get a jump start on other more viable options that could be out there.

This is a profit gift horse opportunity and the vultures are circulating.

I tend to disagree with R M views, however he does succinctly sum up WL' position and I agree with him on this one

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by Don Prescott

16th January 2014, at 18:43:58

Look at what happened to the last big name CIC.
Nuff said.

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by Geoff Harwood

16th January 2014, at 17:02:40

OMG fixed link. fixed link. fixed link. When will they WAKE UP

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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