Guernsey Press

Amendment puts development of PEH under threat – claim

The redevelopment of the Princess Elizabeth Hospital could be under threat again – less than five weeks after it was agreed by the States.

(Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 32734166)

Policy & Resources’ treasury lead Mark Helyar has warned that last month’s agreement for funding the project will become unworkable if deputies back a new amendment this week to restrict the senior committee’s freedom on borrowing.

The States defied P&R’s advice on two key votes when it rejected a new goods and services tax and then voted to fund the £120m. PEH redevelopment with up to £90m. from existing health reserves and additional borrowing if necessary.

Scrutiny president Yvonne Burford and former Health president Heidi Soulsby were on opposite sides of that vote, but have worked together on an amendment for this week’s continued Budget debate which proposes removing P&R’s authority to take on another £200m. of debt.

‘The amendment which proposes rescinding the authority to borrow up to £200m. would prevent the committee from being able to fund either the education capital programme or the current agreed option which includes phase two of the hospital,’ said Deputy Helyar.

  • Listen to our latest Politics Podcast featuring Deputies Roffey and Kazantseva-Miller

Deputy Burford, who earlier this term succeeded with an amendment to reduce P&R’s authority to approve capital spending from £568m. to £5m. per project, rejected Deputy Helyar’s claim and urged supporters of the hospital project not to see her amendment as a threat.

‘I don’t agree that my amendment to rescind the 2021 resolution permitting P&R to borrow £200m. will stop the hospital development,’ she said.

‘The £120m. for the hospital is clearly being funded by £90m. from health reserves and an authorisation to P&R to provide the additional £30m., whether by borrowing or otherwise.’

Deputy Soulsby said that Deputy Burford’s amendment would create more transparency about future borrowing and improve the decision-making process, but would not imperil the funding model agreed for the PEH redevelopment, which she voted for last month.

‘Members should support the amendment, which effectively says P&R will need to come back to the States should additional borrowing be required, rather than be able to use delegated authority to borrow up to £200m.’

Deputy John Dyke said he foresaw problems ahead with the PEH project outside of the questions about how to fund the building costs. He called for ‘more thought over staffing and nursing accommodation’ before the works go ahead.

‘We currently have vast use of very expensive agency staffing owing to recruitment problems caused partly by lack of accommodation. We simply are not in a position right now to recruit and accommodate 90 or so more staff.

‘And this is a multi-year project. The bills do not all come in up front but will be spread over six to seven years,’ he said.

  • The States sit next on Wednesday, when they will resume debate on P&R’s draft 2024 Budget, before considering a motion of no confidence in P&R which is being led by Deputy Charles Parkinson.