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States members scrum down over rugby ‘freebies’

States members scrum down over rugby ‘freebies’

Wednesday 12 October 2016

States members scrum down over rugby ‘freebies’

Wednesday 12 October 2016

States members had their own ruck and maul in the assembly yesterday after it emerged around £6,000 has been spent of taxpayers’ money on hotels and travel to attend rugby matches since 2012.

Deputy Sam Mezec drop-kicked the spending by the Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture Department into touch, calling it “...jollies that (the) department are serially involved in.”

But Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham insisted the money was well spent, saying he was “extremely proud” of the work done by Locate Jersey, who sponsor Jersey Rugby Club and have been the recipients of a number of tickets for England matches at Twickenham.  

Deputy Mezec said: “Given that this money has been spent by the department since August 2012 on travel and accommodation for civil servants to watch rugby matches, can the Minister advise on what justification there is for such expenditure?”

The Minister replied: “There is a fundamental misconception in the original question because staff do not claim expenses to go out on a jolly and watch rugby matches. They claim expenses because they are working. They are working on what this assembly has asked them to do, above their normal working hours, often at evenings and at weekends. They do that to target Jersey’s inward investment programme. They do that because they believe in Jersey and want Jersey to continue to succeed.

“Tickets for international matches are part of the sponsorship package with Jersey Reds rugby. They are used carefully and specifically to help secure inward investment from individuals and businesses. 

“Inward investment is a key part of the States’ strategic plan and diversification strategy. Locate Jersey is a fully functioning business development agency and carries out important development activities. It was established for this purpose. It brings in income which helps pay for teachers, nurses and the broad range of public services which we deliver to the community.” 

At one stage the Minister asked Deputy Mezec “to stop gurning at me” as the pair clashed.  

Deputy Mezec was not convinced by the Minister and replied: “Can he produce tangible evidence that there has been a specific benefit to Jersey, instead of a weird justification of the jollies that his department are serially involved in? Can he cite a specific study or review that has concluded that endeavours like this do have a tangible benefit? 

“If he cannot find a specific one to cite right now, will he promise to send that study, or report, so that members can see that these trips are of a benefit to taxpayers?”

The Minister said: “I can report to record numbers of people employed and record growth and I don’t think it is necessary to commission, spend money and waste time on producing reports when the facts and figures are already there. The Deputy doesn’t like it because we are being successful.”  

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