Friday, 15 May 2015

Selling off the Family Silver

Selling off the Family Silver (or at lease the silver plated assets)

I’ve been looking at the figures regarding Property Services selling off States owned properties. While not massive amounts, it is still substantial overall. The information comes, by the way, from a Freedom of Information request.

The information given below is on aggregate sales and disposal receipts. The figures include the sale of freehold interests in all three years and the sale of a one third interest in a property bequeathed to the Public in 2014.

In 2012, 31 properties were sold for a total value of £413,250. As this equates to an average of £13,331, clearly some of that was small portions of land, of virtually no value at all. They included:

Railway Walk Marking Store, St Brelade
Chez Marguerite Day Care Centre,3 Elizabeth Place, St Helier

In 2013, the numbers began to increase. 40 properties sold, and a total value of £2,323,361, an average price of £58,084.

But 2014, saw much more substantial inroads into the States property portfolio, with just 16 properties sold at a value of £3,055,848, an average price of £190,991. These probably included:

Chez Marguerite, 3 Elizabeth Place, St. Helier: Sale
Cotil des Vaux, Carteret des Bas, Mont Matthieu, St. Ouen: Sale
24 St. Marks Road (former Adolescent Centre), St. Helier: Sale
9 Chevalier Road, St. Helier: Sale
Timaru, Devonshire Lane, St. Helier: Sale of Share
New Street, St. Helier: Pavement: Sale of part of
La Palloterie, Les Marais Avenue, St. Lawrence: Sale - Assisted House Purchase
Old Mill House, 52 Le Vier Mont, St. Helier: Sale
La Preference Children's Home, La Grande Route de St. Martin, St. Martin: Sale
31 Kensington Place, St. Helier: Sale

Harbour Lights, 4 Le Mont de Gouray, St Martin: Sale

But did not include - Former Jersey College for Girls School: Disposal of site to States of Jersey Development Company - a peppercorn transfer with as much hope of money coming back as from the Jersey International Finance Centre.

Le Catel Fort, La Chemin du Catel, St. Mary: Disposal by Gift to National Trust for Jersey

In total, in just 3 years, the States have sold off public property to the value of approximately £6m - and almost trebling in value each year regardless of the number.

Was this a case of Philip Ozouf desperately scrambling about for money to balance the books? It certainly appears that way. While individual sales appear under Ministerial Decisions (but not values of each individual sale), it is rare that any rationale is given for the decision to sell.

All we get are the bare bones

  • The financial implications of this decision are detailed in the accompanying report.
  • There are no manpower implications in respect of this decision.
  • When the transaction is concluded the fixed asset register and States balance sheet will be amended to account for the transaction (F34L and F34B).
And the “accompanying report” is not in the public domain.

The nearest we get to any explanation is in the States accounts which state:

“The States has a policy of disposing of assets which are surplus to requirements, reducing the States’ property portfolio to a size which is more affordable and efficient, and releasing capital proceeds to fund the States capital investment programme within the MTFP. Larger sites will be transferred to the States of Jersey Development Company for development, subject to the necessary approvals, with Jersey Property Holdings disposing of surplus small sites and parcels of land directly to the market.”

This still tells us little about what makes the asset “surplus to requirements” and it is unclear how “efficiency” is measured!

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