Let’s prime the pump for Leale’s Yard – P&R boss
POLICY & RESOURCES was yesterday given approval to look into loaning money from the government bond to organisations outside the States – a move that could eventually free money to be used to kickstart the Leale’s Yard development.
The backing followed a debate during which an attempt was made to block this move, and to adhere to rules that were set up when the bond was taken out.
This year’s Budget report revealed that since the bond was issued in late 2014, just £140m. of the £330m. has been used, while the States has agreed to spend a total of £190m.
When the bond was issued, rules were approved that stated only States bodies were able to access it for projects that had an income stream to pay the money back.
But Policy & Resources want the States to consider relaxing the rules.
P&R president Gavin St Pier said that the department could have got on with the work of investigating the idea before bringing back a policy letter for members to debate, since that was within its mandate.
‘It’s clear we cannot make any further loans outside of the very tight regime that this States has provided.’
But things had changed since the bond was issued, and some of the entities that had been targeted for its funds no longer required them, he said.
He cited ‘priming the pump’ for work to start on Leale’s Yard and an approach from the trustees of Le Platon Home as examples of project that could benefit from a loan from the bond.
The trustees had asked P&R if it was possible to provide them with a loan at competitive terms to help fund a planned extension for additional long-term care facilities. Under the existing rules, P&R was unable to do this, but it felt it was reasonable to look into the idea further.
An amendment placed by Deputy St Pier and seconded by Deputy Lyndon Trott sought the Assembly’s permission to press ahead with the investigation.
Deputy Laurie Queripel placed an amendment, seconded by Deputy Emilie Yerby, calling for the original rules to be adhered to or, as an alternative, to ensure that P&R sought the approval of the Assembly before it continued any investigation of making the bond money available to third parties.
He said he was surprised by the reference in the Budget report about P&R looking into making the bond available to bodies that need not be part of, or wholly owned by, the States for projects that support policies in the Policy and Resource plan.
‘It’s a potential game changer,’ he said of the wording used in the report, ‘and rather a casual way to announce an intention that to me is deeply troubling.’
If members rejected his call to stick to the original rules, the second part of the amendment would make sure the Assembly to approve P&R’s investigation.
‘I have always maintained that we do not have a mandate to incur debt on behalf of the public.’
Some members were worried that the money from the bond, if loaned, could lead to funds not being available when they were needed, among them Deputy Chris Green. ‘Will there be enough money left in the pot to use it within the public sector?’ he asked.
‘Where is the balance going to be?’
Deputy Queripel’s amendment was subject of a recorded vote, and was lost by 26 votes to 11, with one abstention. Deputy St Pier’s was approved, however, by 25 votes to 12, with a single abstention.