Sorry Herm, we make up the rules…
Friday 4th October 2013, 4:00PM BST.
IN A 500-word response to this newspaper, Treasury and Resources attempted to justify its frankly puzzling handling of the Herm lease renewal request.
All it did, however, was to make anyone reading it wonder what on earth the department has against the current tenant of the island.
Given the current States mantra of ‘evidence-based decisions’, T&R’s treatment of a committed, long-term tenant is really rather shabby and ill-becomes its political board.
Clearly extending the lease has value and that value needs to be established. But having identified what it is on two occasions using reputable, independent assessors, is there not a reasonable expectation that this figure will then be used?
Instead, the department reneges and plucks a figure out of the air: £6m. plays the assessors’ £440,000.
Now that T&R has been challenged on it by the media, the best it can do is say, ‘…we believe that the lease for Herm should be measured in more than commercial terms…’
If this was Greece or Spain that would be an invitation for a fat, brown envelope to pass hands. Since it is not, what on earth is T&R playing at?
Clearly the department’s officers or politicians knew they were being silly. The £6m. was subsequently reduced to £2.44m. But it didn’t end there.
Knowing that Herm can cope only with about £150,000-worth of capital projects a year, and then only in the winter season when there are no guests, it demanded that a multi-year investment programme be telescoped into just five years. Why?
In its response, the department also said that lease criteria are ‘about long-term sustainable stewardship for the island’.
Is that covert criticism of the current tenant, whom most would regard as having done an excellent job in maintaining and improving the island as a local amenity and visitor attraction?
The more this is considered, the more baffling it appears. T&R’s initial approach – independent assessment – was logical until it failed to get the answer it wanted and then it became petulant.
Islanders can be forgiven for asking whether there is an element of grudge against the current Herm tenant for showing up the department.