Tuesday, November 20, 2012
VOTING PATTERNS OF THE STATES OF JERSEY - THE PURCHASE OF PLÉMONT -4
THE VOTING PATTERNS OF THE "STATES OF JERSEY"
THE PURCHASE OF PLÉMONT
WE CONTINUE OUR LOOK AT THE ALMIGHTY U-TURN OF THE TREASURY MINISTER, SENATOR, PHILIP OZOUF.
In the real world Senator Philip Ozouf would not be giving the proposition by Chief Minister Gorst a second glance. Now that planning permission has been granted this is even more apparent. Just what is going on with Senator Ozouf? My guess, for what its worth, is that Senator Philip Bailhache is the puppet master.
Again, I must remind readers of the speech by Senator Ozouf in 2010 when voting against the purchase of the Plémont headland.
7.1.8 Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:
I have been involved, I should say, in a number of the previous planning decisions in respect of this site back in the days of the Environment and Public Services Committee and I recognise, for that reason alone, the difficulty that the Planning Department and the Minister for Planning and Environment has with this whole site and this whole proposition. I did say to him earlier - before the Connétable used his opening remarks to criticise the Treasury - that I thought it was important… and we are still good friends, I am sure. It was important to have this debate. I think it is important for us to have this debate and for us to be realistic. To be realistic and honest with people about expectations, because I do not think we have been entirely realistic with expectations in the past. As I said, the Connétable did criticise me, he criticised the Council of Ministers and I will say to him that it is very easy to criticise on this issue when you do not have to do the difficult thing of priorities. It is very easy to stand up and to promise and to say that there will be a solution to this issue and that somehow we can wash away the existing buildings, we can find a planning solution, we can find alternatives. It is easy to say those things, it is much more difficult to come up with them. In fact, both the Chief Minister and myself are in an almost impossible position. We of course - and I, of course, do, I will not speak for the Chief Minister - but I of course do have a reasonable understanding of the planning process and I have a reasonable understanding of what the site is worth. I understand what the likely probable outcome of a reasonable planning decision, whether it be contested in court, or otherwise, will be. At the same time, I have to be extremely guarded and careful in what I say in relation to value and relation to the planning process, because anything that we say - anything that I say - could influence, potentially, the outcome of discussions - potentially. The only realistic thing, I think, that we can say on the issue of value is that we are talking probably in excess of £5 million of taxpayers’ money and probably a lot more. I do not really want to go into the detail of what we think but we are talking and for the purposes of my remarks I would ask Members to consider the issue as it was an issue of £5 million or more. It is about priorities and I will not bore Members again, as I am going to have to a lot in the next few months, about the difficulties of public finances, the difficulties that we face in terms of balancing the books. But we have to be realistic about would we allocate that £5 million or more to this project, set against other priorities that we have? Whether it be town improvements, whether it be hospital… it is easy to trot out all of the options. Would we do that? I do not believe that, on my conscience, that that is a realistic allocation of £5 million or more of taxpayers’ money. I think that there are going to be other priorities and other more important issues for us to deal with. I do think that the latest plans represent an improvement on previous ones. I will not go any further than that. They do give back, some sites, they do allow public access. This is not a site which is on the escarpment, that is, I think, the other coastal developments which people have spoken about. I think that a reasonable solution can be made and a compromise in terms of some sort of development without pulling on public funds to the extent that which inevitably will be. We cannot even ... if some Members do hold out the hope of purchasing the site, I think the worst of all situations would be to embark upon the unknown process of compulsory purchase. That would be a massive risk, it would be at a massive uncertainty for all parties concerned, for a very significant period of time. With regret, it would be lovely to be able to do these things, it would be lovely to be able to find a compromise or solution or a trade-off. It would be nice to find £5 million or more. But we have to be realistic, we have to be managing expectations realistically. I think now is the time to make that reasonable decision and to allow the planning process and the process for this site to conclude and to be honest with the public and say that we do have other things to spend - urgent issues to spend money on - but to deal with this site. I urge Members to close this issue now, as difficult as it is, manage public expectations, and to reject the proposition.......
Senator Ozouf is not happy about spending 5 million - or compulsory purchase.
So, how does the Treasury Minister go about doing a massive U-Turn to accommodate the wishes of Senator Bailhace?
Let us look at what the Treasury Minister said in the States on the 6th November 2012 during questions without notice. Let us see if what the Treasury Minister says stacks up. Or, is the Bailhache folly making Senator Ozouf look simply stupid.
3.4 Deputy J.H. Young:
In a few weeks’ time, the Assembly will be debating the Council of Ministers’ proposition to acquire Plémont using compulsory purchase powers. Can the Minister advise the Assembly whether he has arranged for expert chartered surveyors’ assessments of value and will he be making sure that the Assembly receives before the debate his assessment or their advice on the range of values and the basis for those valuations, and finally will he also publish his suggestions for land swap as alternatives to the cash settlement?
Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:
I think I can answer the first part of those questions by saying yes, I think there is already work being done and my Assistant Minister, working with the Chief Minister and the Assistant Chief Minister, has done a lot in terms of valuation. Of course, we will be further instructed about that when the Minister for Planning and Environment announces his own conclusion in relation to the application when clearly, as the Deputy will know - I almost called him the Chief Officer there because he and I of course worked with this at that stage a number of years ago - of course he will know what the value is at the crystallisation of the planning application. In terms of the land swap, this of course is a difficult issue. My own view is that we should purchase Plémont but I have made my position perfectly clear, subject to an appropriate valuation, that we should effectively be earmarking a sale of other States property but potentially a sale by S.o.J.D.C. (States of Jersey Development Company) or dividend receivable in order to fund it. It should be paid for and then repaid.
3.4.1 Deputy J.H. Young:
Sometimes it feels as if the clocks have gone back 10 years and obviously the Minister remembers those days very fondly. [Laughter] The comments from the Council of Ministers thus far have put the figure of £8 million into the arena, which has been taken to be the price we have to pay. Is the Minister for Treasury and Resources able to give us any guidance? Is this the upper range of value that he currently puts on that or what is it?
Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:
I am pleased the Deputy enjoyed our time working together. I did too but in relation to the value, I have to say that there is nothing further that I think I can add at this stage. When we know what effectively the Minister for Planning and Environment’s conclusion is, we will be able to confirm on that value, and I share the Deputy’s view that we do not want to effectively write an open-ended cheque, we want to know what that value is. But my position is I think that there is now a strongly publicly supported case for purchasing Plémont, and that we should pay for it by effectively a de facto land swap and pay off it by selling off other States land.
3.7 Deputy S. Power:
Could the Minister give his own view on the proposed Plémont acquisition and perhaps whether he might be minded to support the proposition?
Senator P.F.C. Ozouf:
I have indicated that I am supportive but the condition of that (and of course it is not me that has put a condition but it is what I will represent to the Assembly) is the fact that we need to be long term. I think the public has made a very clear indication about protecting the important coastal areas of Jersey. My view is that development should happen in the brown and white field areas of Jersey where there is development potential and there is huge value in States-owned land that can be taken for that. Overall we are in a better position to protect Plémont but focus development in the areas of Jersey where it should happen: in St. Helier in our commercial land, and particularly if a dividend from S.o.J.D.C. could be made in order to repay that, then I think that is a win-win situation and better overall for the Island.
LET US LOOK AT WHAT SENATOR OZOUF IS SAYING:
"In terms of the land swap, this of course is a difficult issue. My own view is that we should purchase Plémont but I have made my position perfectly clear, subject to an appropriate valuation, that we should effectively be earmarking a sale of other States property but potentially a sale by S.o.J.D.C. (States of Jersey Development Company) or dividend receivable in order to fund it. It should be paid for and then repaid."
Now we can see that the Senator is saying that "we should purchase Plémont" And that we should be earmarking a sale of other States property. Is the Senator saying that Plémont should be purchased and then paid for later by selling of some States property? He is doing so many U-Turns.
What has changed since 2010?
This is what Senator Ozouf says:
"But my position is I think that there is now a strongly publicly supported case for purchasing Plémont, and that we should pay for it by effectively a de facto land swap and pay it off by selling off other States land."
Does the above statement really stack up? How do we know what the public want? I hear you all screaming at me about 7,000 people joining the "Line in the Sand" Well, does that stack up?.
Its a very good argument - or is it?
The Line in the Sand was on the 4th October 2009. You see, 7,000 people came out in 2009, and yet, it wasn't enough to get the Treasury Ministers support for purchasing Plémont in 2010.
What I'm showing you here, is the debacle that is the States of Jersey, and the ones who really hold the power. Senator Ozouf doesn't want to purchase Plemont, he made that quite clear in 2010. He is now wilting because of the pressure asserted by Senator Bailhache. Senator Bailhache knows the proposition is dead in the water without the backing of the Treasury Minister.
Nothing the Treasury Minister says stacks up. I can't wait for the debate. It going to show up the debacle that is the States of Jersey. This sits alongside "Lime Grove & Green Street" mess.
Your views please on this simple issue concerning the almighty U-Turn of the Treasury Minister.
He will not be alone.
We will look at them closer to the debate. Our Media should be nailing him on this. Are we in financial bliss in 2012?
Part Time Investigative Journalist