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Should the States spend £1.2 million on a new seaside community facility? Here's what the JEP thinks...

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Comment: What the JEP thinks

THE viability and environmental impact of the Jersey International Finance District has tended to eclipse public concern about the Les Galots saga.

But just a few months ago, a storm erupted over plans to build a new home for the Sea Cadets as part of a public-private-partnership development, which included 18 flats, a restaurant and a community 'maritime hub'.

The fight against the development was spearheaded by Vicky Boarder, whose Fresh Fish Company trades from premises yards to the south of the proposed development site at the base of Mount Bingham.

The fire she lit was fuelled by public anger and frustration over the spending of hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money on failed attempts to build a new headquarters for the cadets.

Today, it is reported that ministers have agreed to give £1.2 million of public funds to pay for a new seaside community centre at the foot of Mount Bingham to include a new home for the Sea Cadets.

Treasury Minister Alan Maclean says that the cash is going to come from 'underspends' in the States capital programme and that this will be a one-off cost. No mention is made of who will meet running and maintenance costs.

The grant has been made when questions remain about the use of public funds in previous attempts to find the Sea Cadets a home – at a time when no one has been held accountable for a deeply unsatisfactory failure to protect taxpayers' money.

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But more than that, against the backdrop of necessary cuts across the public sector and with a budget being debated this week which will clobber pensioners, is a new home for the Sea Cadets a must-have?

The brigade meets twice a week and has around 65 members. That is fewer than a great many sports and activity clubs which provide so many opportunities for young people to learn new skills and about leadership. Many do so on a shoestring, using school halls, classrooms and even other community facilities.

It is argued that the Sea Cadets were promised a new home 20 years ago – and there is no question that their crumbling HQ at Fort Regent is no longer fit for purpose. But at a time of unprecedented budgetary restraint, no one has yet explained why there is such a pressing need to fund this scheme. Is this support for a uniformed organisation an unquestioning adherence to tradition which defies common sense?

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