The Chief Minister has declined to confirm whether the Government is negotiating with Condor over the ferry operator receiving emergency funding.
Senator John Le Fondré was asked at an official press conference if the Government was speaking to Condor about how it could support the island’s lifeline sea connections to the UK and France.
The £50m Jersey Special Situations Fund was launched in March to provide support for larger businesses that deliver public goods, serve a “strategic purpose” or are important to the Island’s recovery from covid-19.
Businesses fitting that bill can apply for grants, loans or equity interests over £1m. Requests are supposed to be for under £500,000 but the Government said it would give more than that in special circumstances.
Pictured: Chief Minister John Le Fondré at Thursday's press conference.
So far, the only money drawn down from the fund has been a £10m loan that was given to airline Blue Islands in July.
Last month, Condor said that its income had plummeted by 75% since lockdown and the company – owned by an investment fund and Brittany Ferries – had had to lay off staff and reduce its schedule to survive. It had also been badly affected by a dockers’ strike in St Malo that disrupted sailings over the peak summer period.
Responding to questions from Express, Chief Minister Senator John Le Fondré said: “As you know, we have taken measures with Blue Islands and we have said that for other lifeline matters the Special Situations Fund is there. I wouldn’t comment on whether there were or weren’t discussions going on with Condor because they would obviously be commercially confidential, until such time – if such negotiations were happening – that they were concluded. But the Special Situations Fund is there, and it is there to assist where we can.”
It comes after Economic Development Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham suggested during a press conference last week that support for EasyJet and BA was also under consideration. However, he declined to reveal specifics due to 'commercial sensitivity'.
Asked whether, in the wake of new travel restrictions, now was the time to announce a package of comprehensive support for hospitality, the Chief Minister revealed that the hospitality sector – specifically hotels and guest houses – were soon to receive Government support to ensure their survival over the winter.
“I can say that a support package for the hospitality sector is being worked on,” he said. “We had a session with representatives yesterday, where I reiterated our support for the industry. We are waiting for their feedback on that package and we will work the measures through.
“I can’t give a timescale yet, but we are aware that it has to be treated expeditiously. It won’t be a matter of months; it has to be a matter of weeks, and ideally quicker.”
Jersey Hospitality Association CEO Simon Soar confirmed that a “productive and positive” meeting had been held between the Government and hotel-owning members of the JHA.
Pictured: Jersey Hospitality Association CEO Simon Soar said the industry had held productive talks with the Government.
“We are hoping that something will be in place within days, but we appreciate that some details still need to be finalised,” he said.
“But we have reached a point where both parties support the initial proposal.
“What we are trying to do is establish an appropriate level of support to cover off some of the significant fixed costs that build up in the winter from which hotel and guesthouse owners cannot recover from.
“This is not about lining the pockets of hoteliers; it is about ensuring the survival of the sector over the months ahead. They will still incur debt and lose money, but the support will simply mean that there is enough money left in the spring to open the doors again to visitors.
“We have been grateful for the support of Government through the payroll co-funding scheme and this support scheme will also help us retain staff for the next season.”
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