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Will States force Jersey Gas to rescind price hike?

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ECONOMIC Development Minister Lyndon Farnham says that he has not ruled out seeking States authority to force Jersey Gas to rescind its 6.5% price rise.

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The utility firm imposed the sudden increase after it was deemed ineligible for the government’s coronavirus payroll co-funding scheme.

It claims that it urgently needed the financial assistance after suffering a major drop in revenue when business customers, especially those with commercial kitchens, closed during the lockdown.

Last week, the States rejected a proposition from Deputy Geoff Southern to make the firm eligible, leading the company to say that it had no option but to maintain the price increase.

Jersey Gas has been heavily criticised for imposing such a steep rise at a time when many Islanders are suffering financial hardship.

Senator Farnham said that Jersey Gas – owned by the Isle of Man-based International Energy Group, which is in turn owned by a private equity fund – had not been forthcoming with all the financial information requested by the government when considering an application for funding.

Speaking following the debate, the minister said that a number of options remained open to resolve the issue.

When asked if he would seek to use powers vested in the States to force a price reduction, he replied: ‘Like many of my States Assembly colleagues, I remain very concerned at the imposition of a 6.5% tariff increase at short notice and at a time when many households face other health and financial concerns. I have said before that I am prepared to consider a range of options – including those under the Jersey Gas Company (Jersey) Law 1989 – to support the best interests of Islanders and that remains the case.’

The 1989 law would allow the Assembly to set tariffs.

The Senator added: ‘I will continue to seek an amicable resolution with Jersey Gas and its owners in the coming days and will update further when I consider that to have run its course.’

Under the payroll co-funding scheme the government pays up to 80% of an employee’s wages. The initiative was launched to help companies through the pandemic, but they must meet set criteria to be eligible.

Ed Taylor

By Ed Taylor
Journalist

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