Before we report on this morning’s States proceedings, SOSJ would like to stress we are not against development per se; our problems with the Esplanade development proposals are a number of environmental ones and we are still awaiting several answers. There is a cross-over with people’s economic concerns, so we are mentioning these too.
Once the sitting is over, there will be a replay available here, but here is a summary of this morning’s open questions on the Esplanade to Ministers in the States of Jersey Sitting.
In answer to several questions by States Members this morning resulting from an emergency question put by Deputy Monty Tadier, Treasury Minister Senator Alan Maclean repeated that the ‘200,000 sq ft pledge’ was a mistake made by his predecessor Senator Philip Ozouf and that the figure was related to Harcourt days.
However, the statement was made only last year – most States Members remember it and were reassured by it. Even the most hardened Ministers must be feeling somewhat uncomfortable now, though they are standing by their new Treasury Minister.
But if the Senator doesn’t remember it being repeated and confirmed by his predecessor only last year, where was he? Did they not they communicate about that or the promise about ‘fully pre-let’ buildings we have all heard about from other Ministers? We suggest it was something that he would not miss (or should not have missed) in his new elevated position.
At the time of the Communicare meeting on 20 May 2015, the SoJDC were two days away from signing a legally binding contract with UBS. It was at that meeting that the Minister was asked about the 200,000 sq ft pledge. (He had said it was ‘historic’ in his opening speech.) That rang alarm bells.
Senator Maclean would not answer a question put by a member of the audience who pointed out that both he and others had independently researched Hansard and that the figure was not historic: it was a promise to the States made only last year, and would he honour it?
It should not be up to a member of the public to let the Treasury Minister know what the terms were and when they were promised.
Senator Maclean also said in answer to questions that there would be no public risk as the loan was being arranged by SoJDC from HSBC with the office block as collateral. Many commentators in various media believe if the project went wrong, it would lose the public of Jersey a huge building.
One would have hoped Senator Maclean had listened to Senator Ozouf at the time. It should not have had to be picked up by the media as result of a letter sent to the JEP by SOSJ Coordinator Dave Cabeldu.
The COM (Council of Ministers) should really know what the undertakings were at the start and made sure that they were honoured… or, if they were to be changed, that the States were informed as Senator Ozouf said would be the case.
Deputy Monty Tadier asked several good question and so did others, including the Chair of CSSP Deputy John Le Fondré who is also still chasing the un-redacted BNP Pardis valuation which has been long overdue.
‘Commercially sensitive’ is the phrase always used in these situations but it appears at last the valuation, in a hopefully readable form, is now with the Scrutiny Panel.
Senator Maclean spoke about the risk of international harm Jersey is facing with the bad publicity, including the forthcoming protest this coming Sunday. This would not be the case if the public were not constantly misinformed and commercial decisions are taken privately on their behalf.
The COM are blaming the media and the public for misinformation. Many suggest, however, the misinformation has been emanating from the COM and the SoJDC themselves and it is no wonder that the majority of the public who comment are worried and sick to death of the oft-repeated phrase ‘transparency and accountability’.
We have invited several States Members to come along on Sunday including Deputies Susie Pinel and Simon Brée, the Deputies where SOS Jersey’s HQ is. We hope that they do and that it will be an informative and peaceful afternoon.