On Tuesday 24th January 2010, I attended the Chamber of Commerce Meeting at 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Portsmouth, the former IBM Building, happening to arrive, in the car park, at about the same time as Maureen Frost, Chief Executive of Portsmouth and South East Hampshire Chamber of Commerce.
The Meeting was on one of the upper floors of the building and well attended, as usual, plus numerous people and organisations with stands.
One of the stands was, inevitably, occupied by Business Link Hampshire Stand. The two representatives of Business Link Hampshire, to whom I spoke were Susan Obbard and Madeleine Morton, though, principally, principally Susan Obbard. I had met Susan Obbard before, during a similar Chamber of Commerce meeting held at Fratton Park, home of Portsmouth Football Club. On that occasion I had asked for business assistance and gave Susan Obbard my business card but heard nothing thereafter. I wondered if she would remember, half thought of using another name, but then decided to go ahead, using my own name, see what happened, then chronicle everything on the Internet as well as advising others I had spoken to at Business Link South East (outside Hampshire), County Councillors and others.
It was during that conversation that Madeleine Morton said she thought she had met me before, at a Business Breakfast at Cams hall Golf Club. That had been a long time before, though I also remembered Madeleine from an East Hampshire Chamber of Commerce meeting at the east Hampshire Council Offices in Petersfield.
What I learned from Susan Obbard was what I had always thought about Business links and the helped that they should offer.
Like anyone else, I was entitled to on-to-one business counselling and support, up to four meetings per year, each of one hour to an hour and a half duration.
At such a meeting, certainly the first one, the topics that would be gone over were:
People and skills
There would be telephone support and support on the Business Link website.
There would be one-to-one support with advisors.
Susan Obbard said that Jenny Oakley was very good at her job.
I asked Susan Obbard if there should be feedback from each of the on-to-one meetings and she confirmed that was the case. Similar, I checked my understanding, from what she had said and what I had understood from other sources
When I asked her how long it might be before I heard from them she said that Business Link Hampshire’s turnaround time was within twenty-four hours and that I should hear from them on the following day, Wednesday.
The above is what I understood Business Links should provide in terms of help. Watch these pages and my Blogs to see if it transpires, this time. My easy prediction is that it will not and business Link Hampshire will continue to discriminate against me and that will be at the behest of a senior manager without he courage to come out in the open,
I did not hear from Business Link Hampshire on the Wednesday but that would have been a ratherrapid reaction, so left ti to see what would transpire.
On Friday 27th January I had a dental appointment early in the morning, in Havant. Everything turned out to be alright and no treatment was needed.
When I arrived home I learned there had been a ‘phone call for me from Sarah at Business Link Hampshire.
I ‘phoned Sarah back, at 12.34 p.m., at Business Link Hampshire, before leaving for my afternoon business appointed. Sarah thanked me for calling back and set about arranging an appointment for me to see the Business Link Advisor, Jenny Oakley.
There were possible appointments on Monday 15th January in Havant, or Tuesday 23rd January in Emsworth, with a third possibility being on Tuesday 9th February at Brambles Farm Business Centre, Waterlooville. Some of the available times clashed with my already arranged appointments.
The appointment in Havant would have been at the Civic Offices in Havant, Havant Borough Council Offices, where I had met Jenny Oakley in June 2008 and got absolutely nowhere; I gained nothing from the meeting and never heard from her again, let alone being provided with another three meetings over the following twelve months, all with assistance to develop my business, etc. I had no doubt, then, that Jenny Oakley was under instruction not to help me and that is what transpired; hence asking detailed questions of Susan Obbard at the Chamber of Commerce Meeting to make doubly sure that I was entirely correct in what I understood business Link assistance should actually be.
Of course, I mentioned none of the foregoing to Sarah, during our telephone conversation, simply making the appointment to see what would happen, though, this time, intending to follow through and put everything on the Internet.
Similarly, I mentioned nothing of the letter from Jonathan Morris, the Chief Executive of Business Link Hampshire, which, in passing, alluded to my supposed request, never to contacted by Business Link Hampshire again, a request I had never made, having only asked them for assistance, many times, over several years but never received any.
In the end, the appointment was made for a meeting with Jenny Oakley at 10.45 a.m. at the Pastoral Centre, Emsworth (http://www.findachurch.co.uk/churches/su/su70/emsworthmc/). I told Sarah that I was not sure where the Pastoral Centre was, not being able to place it at the time. Sarah said that she would provide details of the location of the Pastoral Centre in the E-mail she would send me. I wondered I that would happen, or whether someone would catch up with my request for the meeting and block it, the E-mail from Sarah not then being sent; that was later to transpire, the E-mail never arrived.
The prediction, based on previous experience, is, of course, that Business Link Hampshire will continue to discriminate against me. Developments, in whatever direction, will be published on the Internet, as will reactions from other people I contact, including County Councillors, Borough Councillors, people I have spoken to within Business Link South East, though outside of Hampshire, etc., though not necessarily with their names.