Pallett: ‘Spend now – or face huge bills later’
JERSEY’S government must resist the urge to re-distribute cash away from sport after the Covid-19 pandemic, or risk facing higher bills for facility development in the future.
That is the view of Senator Steve Pallett, who has this week vowed to keep the Island’s sports facilities strategy on track amid concerns that the current health crisis could lead to significant delays.
Public spending on sport projects could come under severe scrutiny as the government attempts to limit the health and financial impacts of the coronavirus, but Pallett says putting off planned improvements now would simply be a false economy.
‘When you’re comparing sports facilities with mental health facilities there is only going to be one winner, and rightly so,’ he explained. ‘But what we’ve got to understand is the longer we leave it the more expensive it is going to be and the more difficult it is going to be to get sports projects off the ground.’
The government commissioned an independent analysis of Jersey’s sports facilities in 2018/19 and had been set to act on recommendations this year, as part of its 2020-23 Government Plan. Pallett says the impartial report still holds true but admits the States’ plan, which included an extra £125,000 for venue improvements, could be ripped up and ‘completely rebuilt’.
He added: ‘All the elements in the report relating to what needs replacing and what capacity we need in the future are still relevant. Whether the funding will still be available to take it forward is another issue.
‘Clearly there is going to be pressure on government finances so we need to be realistic. Sport may have to wait a little but from my point of view I will carry on with the pressure, because it’s also about reducing health risks and long-term harm.
‘We all do need to understand that there is a need to upgrade and replace facilities ... I don’t need to go over Fort Regent again – there are clearly issues there – but some other sites like Les Quennevais and Springfield are starting to show their age.
‘We still have hopes of being one of the most physically active communities in the world so we have got to see what money can be made available within the Government Plan to assist Jersey Sport and other bodies in trying to get more people active. It’s not just about competitive sport ... fitness and wellbeing has to be this government’s political priority. We have just got to balance that out against what are going to be extremely difficult fiscal times in Jersey.’
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