Dear Directors and Shareholders,
Those of us that live on the Isle of Wight are very aware of the unique social and economic issues that come with being an Island.
‘Varbes’ (reference below) reports that:
* The GDP value of Isle of Wight represents 0.2% of the English economy. Isle of Wight is the 53rd unitary authority in England (of 59 total) when ordered by GDP, and the 50th unitary authority in England (of 59 total) when ordered by GDP per capita.
* The jobs in Isle of Wight represents of the 30,055,000 reported jobs in England. Isle of Wight is the 53rd unitary authority in England (of 59
total) when ordered by total jobs, and the 47th unitary authority in England (of 59 total) when ordered by job density.
* Isle of Wight’s unemployment rate of 7.5% is 3.6% higher than the unemployment rate for England (3.9%).
Last week the IoW Observer (reference below) reported that:
This year, as last year, the Island has been ranked at 47th place out of 47 English counties for A levels at grade C and above. The English average is 83 per cent of pupils achieving the average grade, but the Island achieves only 71 per cent.
The picture is similarly bleak for the higher grades needed to study academic subjects at good universities. The English average for A*/B results
in all subjects is 63 per cent, while Island students score just 50 per cent. At this level, the Island has the very worst results in 14 out of 28
subjects and is very near the bottom of the table in a further five subjects.
An article in the ‘On the Wight’ paper on the 12th of March (reference below):
“Nearly a third (32 per cent) children under the age of 18 on the Isle of Wight live in poverty, an increase of 10 per cent from previous estimates.
A small but significant snapshot of how the Island very much needs support. There are unique social and economic issues that affect all aspects of our lives and negatively impact our equality of opportunity and productivity.
It is no wonder then that we look at the barriers to economic growth we are faced with, and conclude that one of the major ones are the ferry companies that we so heavily rely upon. Commuting, imports and exports, tourism, health, education, leisure, to name a few, all rely upon the regular, cost effective and reliable provision of transport. This transport is provided entirely by private companies, the biggest of which is your company.
Wighlink Ltd has a long chain of ownership concluding with Colliers Investment Management UK Holdings Ltd and Basalt Infrastructure Partners
LLP. We see that the directors and shareholders are paid exceptional salaries and above average dividends. We see that the huge debt that the
company has is paying interest at well above LIBOR. We see that no tax is paid in the UK, and that no dues are paid directly by Wighlink Ltd. to the
Isle of Wight Council.
It is not unreasonable of us to conclude that the Isle of Wight is being heavily exploited by you at the expense of the economy and residents of the
Isle of Wight – an area already at the bottom of so many league tables.
On the island, rightly or wrongly, Wightlink is viewed, to put it mildly, unfavourably. So many people are unhappy with the service provided by
Wightlink. People frequently describe it as a company that is ‘cavalier’ and ‘parasitic’ and that it is only in business to extract maximum profit at
every opportunity from a captive customer base . Our group ‘Wightlink Users’ started as a fledgling idea, by one person, in November 2022, it now
has over 1200 people supporting it and is growing steadily as the word spreads about our simple aim, “Better Services for Wightlink Users”.
We note that your corporate Key Performance Indicators emphasise and highlight your positive impact on the local community…. Yet this is not
reflected in our experience or in actions of the company on the ground. Your directors and shareholders decisions impact the population of a whole County in the UK. I hope what we have written makes you more aware of our situation, and we ask that you look at measuring the ‘success’ of your company in terms other than just profit and bonuses.
I would be grateful if you could present this view to your board and shareholders, and ask them if they are comfortable to be associated with a
company which operates in this way and has such a poor reputation.
The Wightlink Users Group (who represent 1248 members as at the 15th March 2023)