All posts tagged 'government'

Branson is right to be angry

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Thursday, August 16 2012

Why do I feel instinctively uneasy about Virgin’s Richard Branson losing the West Coast rail franchise?

Is it because he is a well-known entrepreneurial face, giving personality to any brand he runs?

Is it because First Group have no such personality?

Is it because the Virgin services I have used to Birmingham, Manchester and beyond offered a joie de vivre and style that made the travelling experience exciting and fun?

Is it because Virgin Trains had a 91% customer satisfaction rating, compared to 72% for First Group on the Great Western?

Is it because the Government has ignored customer feedback in its assessment?

Is it because Virgin has twice lost bids for rail franchises that resulted in the winners going bust?

Is it because Virgin seems to have a good track record of assessing what a franchise is worth?

Is it because I worry that First Group has over bid and will be forced to quit before the franchise expires, with the service bailed out by the taxpayer?

Is it because I suspect Virgin would have launched the new services promised by First if it thought they would work - and decided they wouldn’t?

Is it because the experience has so bruised Virgin that - disappointingly for passengers - it will no longer enter further rail franchising bids while the existing flawed system remains?

Is it because the Government seems so obsessed with money that it appears to have fallen over backwards to find reasons to accept the highest bid, irrespective of other major considerations such as service quality and customer experience?

Is it because, linked to this week’s extortionate rise in rail fares and season tickets, this Government is forcing rail travel to be the preserve of the rich and the captive commuter?

is it because rail fares are higher in this country than almost anywhere else, yet is a form of transport that is good for the environment and should be subsidised without guilt?

Is it because public transport should be encouraged by lower, not higher fares, because it contributes to economic growth - the Government’s stated aim - and makes us a more civilised society?

And finally, will there be as much customer loyalty and regret if Southeastern loses its own franchise battle?  The lesson for our operator from the unsatisfactory Virgin decision is that under this government to the highest bidder goes the spoils, and that past performance counts for nothing.


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Categories: Business

The LEP hot potato

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Tuesday, November 2 2010

I’m sure the mother of Geoff Miles, owner of Maidstone Studios and chairman of Kent Economic Board, is a lovely lady.

That her son would rather have a cup of tea with her than be part of a talking shop is either a tribute to her, or a stark warning to councillors. Probably the latter.

These Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) sound a bit dry but have turned into a hot potato. They are being given the power, if not the cash, to shape economic priorities across Kent, Essex and East Sussex. The Government sees them as a shrewd move, ridding the scene of New Labour’s regional development agencies, cutting costs, and devolving influence as part of the “big” society.

They are supposed to be business-led, but business will have to work hard to ensure they are. Councils are used to meetings and, despite spending cuts, usually have resources to set up new organisations. Businesses are run by busy people trying to survive recession.

But the early signs in Kent are hopeful. Business representative groups support the enlarged LEP, business people with strategic awareness are also on board. The challenge will be to get smaller and medium enterprises to engage.

That voice was missing in Committee Room 4A in the House of Commons yesterday. (1) The room was packed with council and business chiefs from across the three counties and resonated with warm words, especially from Greg Clark, Tunbridge Wells MP and minister for communities and local government.

Our LEP was “in the vanguard, set the bar, had the opportunity for real economic empowerment.” All good stuff. But the reality is it will have less money and has not yet worked out the rules by which it will play the game. Board members have to be appointed, support staff engaged and priorities determined.

There is plenty of boring but critical governance work to do before the real work can begin. And it is also important to keep Medway and 12 districts sweet. They did not really want a three-county LEP but must now live with it. They need to formally sign up to the new LEP.

After all, it’s the only game in town and there’s no point in whingeing that the Government has chosen the “wrong sort of LEP.” Run well, with imagination and creativity, it has huge potential. It needs to notch up early wins to confound sceptics and show it can deliver.

Business must engage. And if all goes as well as the optimistic scenario outlined in the Lords, businesses and residents could reap benefits in terms of more jobs and greater prosperity. Then they will be glad they took that LEP of faith.

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Categories: Business

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