A cordial meeting between the Trades Unions and SLEP was held last night in Newport. Representative for the L.E.P was Richard Jones, who presented the case for the enterprise partnership and highlighted their policy and activities. Key to this presentation and questions were the attitudes and actions relating to the Isle of Wight within the economic strategy.
The meeting was attended by two well respected members of the Isle of Wight Council, Cllrs Geoff Lumley and Phil Jordan, who contributed well to the discussion. Observations were that the experienced Trades Unionists were well-informed and knowledgable and made extremely salient points. Also that the meeting was both interesting and informative in all aspects.
Also in attendance were Trades Councillors, Steve Butler (Secretary of Ryde and East Wight Trades Council and UNISON) Bob Burton (Secretary Cowes and UCATT), Mike Nobbs (UNITE and SERTUC delegate for IOW) Dave Quigley (Chair of County TUC), Cllr Ken Knapman (Ventnor Councillor and RTUC), Mark Chiverton (Regional Secretary UNISON and RTUC), Valerie Resin (UNITE), Doreen Britton (UNISON Health), Cllr Liam Cumming (GMB and Chale councillor).
Richard Jones elaborated the strategy as part of the, ‘Transforming the Solent’ strategic plan from which he explained the aims, objectives and current activities.
He pointed out the strands of funding and effects of Assisted Area Status, particularly Regional Growth fund, Bridging the Gap and how this affects the Solent particularly for SME’s , through ERDF funding and Marine and Maritime. He also explained how small scale up to £75,000 and large scale above £100,000 funding allocations and funding panels operated. Richard said that he would provide a list of SME’s (commercial areas) and the take up from the Isle of Wight.
Of great concern by representatives from the attendees from the Isle of Wight was the treatment and attitude towards the Isle of Wight. It was reported the difficulties that the Leader of the Council, Ian Stephens, has had when attending L.E.P meetings and it was verified by Steve Butler who had taken part in discussions alongside Ian in the past. Richard Jones said that there was no intention to be biased but would take our concerns back to the L.E.P. It was pointed out that favourable conditions for A.A.S were also quickly applied to Portsmouth under criteria 5, whereas it took a long period for recognition of the Isle of Wight and only led to a small proportion of the island being awarded a place on the map and places like Ventnor excluded. It was also pointed out the population of the Isle of Wight is only half that of the big cities and low paid, as well as high unemployment has created a large pool of labour. It was also highlighted that Portsmouth has its own Minister and also access to the City fund.
Representatives asked for issues to be taken back to the L.E.P so that they would hear and respond to island concerns. Issues like funding Council projects to do with road and transport connectivity like Portsmouth and Southampton as well as funding to fill the gap in Tourism deficit.
With regard to skills training in comparison to Dedalus (Solent Enterprise Zone) on the mainland, the island would like equality in facility at the college and for composite funding for technology and equipment as well as other resource.
In conclusion it was agreed that regular contact and feedback was established between the L.E.P and the Trade Unions. On the one hand a delegate from the Isle of Wight and also return meetings. A forum is to be set up, involving Councillors, Trades councils and possibly the Chamber of Commerce, on a regular basis to monitor concrete progress and issues, was accepted as a way forward.
The Trades Council thanked Richard for his participation and friendly approach as well as the plain speaking and forthright discussion by all participants.
We look forward to the next meeting.