WIGHTLINK USER GROUP MEETING WITH RT HON BOB SEELY MP TUESDAY 04 APRIL 2023
Note: This meeting was originally arranged with Mr Seely on a date of his choosing. The meeting has been postponed.
- You have agreed in the past that the ferries are an extension of the UK mainland transport network, linking the IOW into that network, and are therefore essential for the health and well being of the residents and for the economic survival and success of the island. Therefore, do you agree that they must fairly facilitate all IOW residents to live, to be able to access vital healthcare and to share equality of opportunity in all aspects of their lives similar to that enjoyed by mainland residents?
- In the past you have used the word “damage” when you describe the ferries poor, unreliable and expensive service provision. Studies have confirmed that damage in terms of individuals access to health, education, employment and in terms of economic damage to the Island economy. Why therefore did you not mention the ferries issue during your recent PMQ intervention concerning an “Island deal” from government?
- You have said that past governments have not handled the sale of the ferries fairly. This has resulted in the ferries enjoying monopolistic commercial control of a critical and essential public service. Do you agree that the only way to ensure that the ferries work fairly for the benefit of the all users is to legislate to secure a Public Service Obligation (PSO) on the ferry companies.
- Although Baroness Vere’s letter to you advised that the Government were not considering any upcoming primary legislation to regulate the ferries, where in terms of your priorities and of the Conservative party do you see the need to secure a PSO to regulate the ferries? What steps will
you take to secure a PSO? Will you directly ask SoS for Transport, Mark Harper? Would you present a Private Member’s Bill? Will you secure a manifesto commitment from Government to bring forward legislation to deliver a PSO very early in the next parliament?
- You said in your recent response published in the County press that “Wightlink as a company represent the unacceptable face of capitalism” What are you doing now to address this? Do you think that given its control of a critical public service, it reasonable that Wightlink enjoys
wide political and policy influence via special relationships with the Chamber of Commerce, Visit IOW etc?
- Do you think that the financial asset stripping, the massive dividends paid to the shareholders and the eye-watering remuneration paid to the senior management are acceptable when viewed against the prohibitive costs of fares which are severely impacting the ability of residents to access the mainland for access to health appointments and employment?
- Is it reasonable that over the last four years over £50million was paid in dividends to Wightlink’s parent company Arca Shipping Ltd and that in 2022, in spite of Covid. £8million was paid out in dividends?
- Wightlink received a Government Lifeline grant of £1.93million over the last three years. Given the high dividends they paid to their shareholders, do you think that they should repay the UK Government grant?
- In 2018 you were concerned that Wightlink paid no Corporation Tax. They still don’t. Do you know why they do not pay any and do you think that this acceptable to the island and to the UK economy?
- Why do you think that Wightlink has such an opaque chain of ownership? Have you ever challenged that?
- In summary, we ask you again, what exactly what do you intend to do and by when? What do you expect to achieve? What will you accept as the minimum acceptable to the IOW residents?