Hospital funding debate will go ahead next week
THE funding debate over the Future Hospital project will go ahead next week as scheduled, despite calls for it to be postponed because planning permission for the site has not yet been granted.
Following a series of delays this year, a decision on how the construction of Jersey’s new hospital – which has a £466 million budget – will be funded is due to be made next week by the States, despite it initially being planned to happen in January.
Under current proposals, the hospital would be funded by a £275 million loan, with the remainder to be drawn from the Strategic Reserve, which is nicknamed the ‘Rainy Day Fund’.
This week, however, the Future Hospital Review Panel, which produced a report on the funding proposals, called for the funding debate to be deferred because a public planning inquiry into the project is ongoing and final planning permission is outstanding.
Planning department officials have said that a final decision on planning permission is likely to be made next month by Environment Minister Steve Luce following a recommendation by an independent UK planning inspector who scrutinised the planning application earlier this year.
A statement released by Chief Minister Ian Gorst, Treasury Minister Alan Maclean and Health Minister Andrew Green said, however, that they ‘firmly reject’ the panel’s suggestion that the debate should be put off.
Senator Green said that the debate on funding was ‘not dependent’ on the outcome of the inquiry and planning decision.
‘We know we need a new hospital and we know we need to pay for it,’ he said.
‘The planning inspector’s remit is the outline design of the proposed hospital, not whether we should build one or how we should pay for it.’
He added that consultants Concerto, which advised the review panel, had said that further delay was the ‘biggest short-term risk’ to the Future Hospital project.
‘Concerto have endorsed our project, agreeing that our business case is “fit for purpose” and that our funding proposals “make sense” and are “pragmatic”,’ he said.
‘It is therefore very disappointing that the panel has recommended yet another unnecessary delay to this critical project.’
Treasury Minister Alan Maclean pointed out that the review panel’s advisers had approved his funding proposals in their report and suggested current market conditions should be exploited.
‘When the Panel’s advisers have agreed that our funding proposals “make sense” and that “it would be wise to take advantage of the current market”, what doesn’t make sense is to delay the debate and decision on the funding,’ he said.
‘We need to move forward with this critical project.’
The members of the Future Hospital Review Panel are Deputies Simon Brée, Richard Renouf, John Le Fondré, Terry McDonald and Kevin Lewis, and Senator Sarah Ferguson.
The funding debate is due to take place on 12 December.