Patricia Hewitt MP is MP for Leicester West, another shoemaking area with an unemployment rate of 13.8% . Equity Shoes was a major local employer until closure in January 2009, with a recent payroll of 200 and a 100 at closure. Like Sanders, it was a tenacious company - Sanders was a family trust and Equity was a staff co-op, so neither closed lightly. Patricia Hewitt had every reason to know about the scheme to put her constituents out of work because she had to sign for it: she was secretary of state for trade and industry (now the department for Business Innovation and Skills) between 2001 and 2005. She could have picked-up the phone during any of those years and asked
"why are we subsidising the competition?".
It is not revealed what she said in the office when she was minister, but a recent freedom of information act request that she did not write a single letter on the subject of Equity Shoes to the department between 2005 and the end of January 2010, even after being tipped-off in November that the question was going being asked.
"We have completed a search of our electronic information management systems and we do not have any record of UK Trade & Investment having received letters from the MPs for Leicester or Rushden on the subject of UK shoe manufacturers. "
Published freedom of information requests & replies on Whatdotheyknow.com describe a scheme that UK Trade and Investment call the International Buyers Programme, funded over roughly four years and still in place.
"since September 2005, UK Trade & Investment have paid British Fashion Council £215,555. This funding is for the international buyers programme for London Fashion week. The aim of the programme is to bring the most significant and influential buyers and press to London Fashion week each season."
London Development Agency quotes "£120k more than budgeted for 2008/9 was spent on LFW support as funding was allocated to support the International Guest Programme to cover reduced funding from UKTI", but it still got "UKTI support during 2008/09" of £33,000. Some of the money may be counted twice as British Fashion Council is also sponsored by the Mayfair Hotel and British Airways "The official airline of London Fashion Week", which are both likely to have catered for these expenses-paid trips: ""The LFW International Guest Programme, supported jointly by LDA and UKTI, saw 60 key, targeted international press and buyers assisted in their visits to LFW, through flight subsidies and accommodation. These visitors are given welcome packs and are accompanied through their stay as they visit the exhibition, catwalk shows and showrooms. Feedback on media coverage generated and orders placed is collected after their visits."
Did the money achieve anything good?
There are attempts to quote outputs on the projects report to the London Development Agency, but the list omits manufacturers. The only figures broken down in any detail are figures of media coverage, reported by an agency paid for by British Fashion Council. And there are anecdotal quotes. It's not often that Vogue is quoted on Indymedia but we may even add to the list of outputs by repeating this quote:
""The Season London Shone" wrote US Vogue's Sarah Mower. "Who'd have thought that London would shine at its brightest during a crisis. London's Designers squared up to the fall with an exceptional out-flowing of creativity and polish ... that made Fall 2009 this city's most dazzling performance for years."
"Record Figures for London Fashion Week"
"AGREEMENT FOR FUNDING RELATING TO CREATIVE
SECTOR SUPPORT - DESIGNER FASHION Parties: LDA / BFC
Ref: 23300 QUARTERLY REPORT 2008/9: Q3&4 [biannual update]"
"Consultation re closed UK shoe factories" information request and reply on Whatdotheyknow.com:
Pictures of Equity Shoes buildings post closure: