Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Guest Posting from Save Our Shoreline

A guest posting below from Save Our Shoreline. 

I would add the disquieting news reported in the JEP that the Council of Ministers has not wholly ruled out the States Offices all being relocated to one roof in an office block on the Waterfront, no doubt to "kick start" the project. It's about time the government realized that the "International Finance Centre" is not a magic bullet for the problems caused by 0/10.


The SOS J committee held an Extraordinary General meeting on Liberation Day which was necessary as there were several urgent matters to attend to before our Chairman Michael du Pré returned to the UK..

The committee approved a proposal that ahead of tomorrow's States sitting, Michael write a letter to all States Members individually which he did late last evening and which we copy below:


The International Finance Centre and YOU.
Even if you are an avid supporter of the IFC, we ask you to read on because it is more than likely that you will not be informed about what follows.

This morning, in the light of recent developments, the Save Our Shoreline Jersey Committee held an extraordinary meeting at which it as decided to send you this letter.

You must, like us, be aware of the enormous dissatisfaction throughout the island about the construction of an International Financial Centre on what is a convenient, pleasant and well used car park. These people, representing the majority are people who elected you into the States and whose views you should be representing and it is important that, before letting this massive project proceed, you fully understand all of key issues in order that you can express your fact based views to them.

More importantly, if after reading this, you feel that there should be a pause for further consideration, we ask you to take any immediate appropriate action available to you to bring this about. Why?

We understand, from various sources, that SoJDC, under the growing pressure of public opinion, might well, feel the need to act unilaterally by entering into binding contracts with their clients and contractors so as to precipitate a 'fait accompli' which would be very costly for the States to reverse. What leads us to thinking this?

SoJDC has already shown a complete disregard for the authority of the States Planning Department in order to create a 'fait accompli':

By felling trees, undertaking clearance and building a temporary replacement car park it has since been officially confirmed that it has started the development. Most importantly, it has unilaterally done this without giving the plainly specified 28 days notice it had signed up to with the Planning department.

Furthermore, it deliberately failed to comply with regulatory restrictions covering working with heavy and noisy machinery at weekends. When challenged on this precipitous action by ourselves, SoJDC's CEO openly admitted that, had the company acted according to the rules, there would have been a lot of complaints!

A toothless Planning Department, by taking absolutely no action in either of these cases, have essentially provided SoJDC with encouragement to continue in this manner.

By starting development SoJDC has simply ignored its written obligations and firm commitments to you and your Assembly by your current Assistant Chief Minister (when Treasury Minister) that work would not commence until 180,000 to 200,000 sq.ft. of office space had been pre-let. Such pre-lets were not in place at this time. Furthermore, SoJDC's current negotiations with a bank are understood to be for only 20,000 sq.ft. (10% of the figure above).

We believe that unless you inform yourself properly and speak up urgently, not only will SoJDC continue to disregard you and your Assembly with potentially disastrous consequences for not just your constituents but the island as a whole and that the very credibility of the Chief Minister's vision of an open and honest government will be at stake and the people will lose even more faith in the governing process.

Part of the democratic process of government is based on Scrutiny. The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel has been tasked with a review into the planned Jersey International Finance Centre. Inter alia, it is to assess the commercial viability of, and potential risks pertaining to, the implementation of the IFC development and, in the light of much changed market circumstances since its inception, to provide assurance to the Assembly and the public on these matters.

The fact that a Scrutiny Panel has been tasked with this in the first place is indicative that such scrutiny is necessary and it should be remembered that this is the only means by which the public are protected under the present form of government from highly unpopular precipitous acts being undertaken by Jersey's one party government. 

We understand that the panel will be ready with provisional recommendations in the very near future in advance of its first report in June. We believe that work delivered by the Scrutiny Panel should be reviewed by you prior to any contracts being signed and that not to wait, in view of the sheer size of the construction agreements to be entered into, would be irresponsible. But there are other reasons.

SoJDC has to date shown a total disregard for both you and the authority of your Assembly. It has insulted your intelligence by feeding selected audiences with glossy architect produced brochures (paid for by the taxpayer) accompanied by the very minimum of equally ( if not more) important up to date financial and commercial information as well as that relating to timing, risk evaluation and comparisons with alternative Potentially more beneficial and viable States development projects. Furthermore the information that has been provided is constantly changing.

SoJDC's recently released financial statements for the year 2014 raise a direct question as to its ongoing viability:

  • At its inception 6 years ago, SoJDC was was provided with cash from the States of £20m. 
  • At the commencement of 2014, £7m remained. 
  • During 2014 this sum had decreased to £4m. 

If you were to look at the accounts you might ascertain hat the operating profit of £2.7m reflected the reasonable performance reported in the Chairman's and CEO's report. A closer look reveals that £2.2m was 'achieved' by revaluing property. 

We can well imagine that Deputy Higgin's question in the States on Tuesday next on the subject of employee contracts might be wishing to confirm that bonus payments are not based on revaluations of property and which might also have been provided to the company at peppercorn prices. He is also to ask whether reported 'profit' includes the donation of TTS managed car parks receipts via the States Treasury. (These receipts were, according to the 2011 accounts, to be refunded to the States by way of dividend which amounted to £0.8m in 2013 and 2014)

Finance costs on loans ( in the region of £100m) will shortly be required once construction starts and if such loans are not to be provided out of the States Currency Fund, any third party lender will wish to ensure that it has some form of adequate security; this is no small project and each individual States member should ensure that they really understand the benefits and risks attached to this massive borrowing.

Another clarification is required regarding payments made to staff and external consultants.

Management and staff are paid £0.8m but despite this another £2.6m was paid during the year to outside consultants in order to obtain planning and building consents. Is this acceptable?

In short, the accounts are far from being transparent and clarification of such matters ( and others) are very relevant to you making a judgement as to the company's viability before it starts signing major contracts. They are of particular importance to you in understanding what is really going on because SoJDC is exempted from having to provide you with its budget and medium and long term equivalents of the historic accounts. You should therefore always bear in mind that you are only permitted to review what has happened in the preceding year and not (unlike departmental budgets) to have any say or questions on forward plans presented to you.

There is also current situation regarding the ownership of the land on which the offices are to be built. We had heard that there might still be some doubt about this but our Freedom of Information request on a yes / no basis was rejected. Any doubts about this should of course be put to rest before signing any contracts..

You may have heard or read about the repeated charges by SoJDC that questions on their actions, plans and progress are preventing them from obtaining clients by creating uncertainty. We would respond in stating that, had it dared to make an open and honest up to date proposal to the States members (especially the new members) such questions would have arisen at that point in time and would have helped to inform both the States and the public in arriving at their decision as to whether or not to proceed, rather than leaving uncertainty to later date. We are equally disappointed at the unnecessary situation which has been forced upon us.

For the reasons given above, our Committee have decided to write to all States members to ask them to urge those responsible for progressing this project to prevent SoJDC from 'jumping the gun' by prematurely signing any contracts so that, should it be deemed that should the promised safeguards relating to the project (i.e.the pre-let obligations) be arbitrarily swept aside, everyone is fully informed and in agreement with the potential risk involved and feels able to provide it with their full support .

Yours sincerely,

Michael du Pré
Chairman, Save Our Shoreline

Dave Cabeldu

SOS Jersey

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