Doncaster’s fury at ‘business snub’

Doncaster Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Fell
Doncaster Chamber of Commerce CEO Dan Fell

The Government has been criticised for its treatment of the business community in Doncaster.

Dan Fell, the chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, claimed the Government was sending out the message that it was not interested in listening to businesses outside the big cities.

His attack came after the Northern Powerhouse Minister Andrew Percy pulled out of a major corporate event at short notice.

In a speech to the Doncaster Business Conference, Mr Fell said he had also been frustrated by the “deafening periods of silence” from the Government about Doncaster’s plans to create a University Technical College (UTC) to help bridge the skills gap.

Mr Fell added: “Regrettably, our frustrations with national Government have only been exacerbated this week, by the unfortunate news that the Northern Powerhouse Minister, Andrew Percy MP, has dropped out of today’s event with little notice and little explanation for why he does not want to engage with the Doncaster business community.”

“This, coupled with the challenges we have encountered with the UTC project, sends the regrettable message that Government is not interested in listening to businesses beyond those in the UK’s core cities.”

He added: “Put simply, this shoddy treatment of the business community is not good enough, and flies in the face of the Government’s own rhetoric about technical education and social mobility.”

Although the “tide is slowly turning” and a dialogue has been opened up with Government, Mr Fell said the UTC will not hit its initial opening date of September 2018.

He added: “Furthermore, this week’s news about the General Election now makes me nervous of promising you that we will deliver the UTC in September 2019 instead.

“However, I can promise you that your chamber is not giving up on this one, and that we will work resolutely with our partners until industry and young people in Doncaster have the quality of technical education available to them that they deserve.”

A spokesman for the Government said Mr Percy was unable to attend the conference due to “diary issues”.

The spokesman said that the Government had engaged with the businesses in Doncaster on many occasions, and it remained very committed to the Doncaster business community and the Northern Powerhouse.

The conference also featured speeches from Dr Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Sir Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, and a panel discussion featuring Caroline Flint, Labour MP for Don Valley.