Taxpayers will lose millions if work on the new finance centre does not go ahead immediately, say the Council of Ministers.
With public disquiet mounting about the controversial development – and more than 100 Islanders protesting this morning as Members arrived in the States for a last-minute debate on a short delay – ministers have said that there is no time to wait until the end of the month for an independent Scrutiny report.
And they say that holding off, even for a few weeks, would break legally-binding agreements signed by the States’ development company and give Jersey a reputation as an unreliable partner to do business with.
Their comments come ahead of the debate on Deputy Montfort Tadier’s proposition to stop work ahead of a Scrutiny report – expected by the end of the month – has been published, and until the States give their approval again.
In their comments, the Council of Ministers say: “If we stop the development now, as the proposition asks, the States of Jersey Development Company will suffer significant financial losses. In line with States decisions, they have entered into legally binding agreements to let premises, to borrow money, and to construct Building 4.
“Perhaps even more importantly, our reputation as a reliable partner for business would be fundamentally compromised. We should not place ourselves in a position where the democratically elected Assembly makes decisions, contracts are entered into, and then we have to break those contracts because the Legislature changes its mind."
Last month, it was announced that after years of delays and missed deadlines, work on the Waterfront finance centre was finally due to start after UBS signed a lease for part of the first of a planned six buildings. Local firm Camerons are due to construct the building, which will house UBS’s 200 staff.
But last year States Members and the public were told that work would only start when 200,000 square feet of offices – the equivalent of almost two entire buildings of the six-block development – had been signed up by tenants in secure contracts.
That commitment was originally given in 2009, but was repeated in February 2014 – six months before the last election.
Ministers have since said that the commitment was made by mistake, and that the 200,000 square foot threshold referred to a previous arrangement with private sector developers.
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