Appeal for unity after new hospital debate

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States Members voted in favour of ministerial proposals for an £804 million budget for the project at Overdale, including borrowing of up to £756m, soon after rejecting a Scrutiny bid to limit the budget to £550m and borrowing to £400m.

Senator Kristina Moore, who fronted the amendment brought by the Future Hospital Review Panel, said yesterday that emotion had dominated the two-day debate and subsequent vote.

‘Emotions overwhelmed the facts and the Assembly has committed our fiscal future on the basis of an unjustified and inadequate business case,’ she said, describing the move as ‘a very significant change in what has been clear fiscal policy for decades, if not centuries’.

Other Members have vowed to continue pressing the government over transparency and the need to ensure the best possible value for taxpayers’ money.

During the closing stages of the debate, Deputy Rob Ward criticised the ‘macho and inappropriate’ style of the government in lobbying Members to vote down the Scrutiny amendment, which was defeated by 26 votes to 22.

‘I’ll be keeping a very close eye on this, and hope those involved won’t play silly political games ahead of the next election,’ he said.

Deputy Ward added that he was concerned that the burden of ministers’ borrowing plans could eventually lead to austerity and the imposition of ‘regressive taxation’ which would have a greater impact on those who were less well-off.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin said he was worried about how the Jersey Care Model would be funded, while Constable Mike Jackson highlighted questions about how people from the west of the Island would access the Overdale site, and Deputy Kirsten Morel criticised the ‘excessive’ amount of car parking included in the plans.

Those who won the day attempted to strike a more conciliatory tone after the final voting, which saw the funding plans passed by 32 votes to 14, with one amendment.

Assistant Treasury Minister Lindsay Ash appealed to Members to ‘get together, put our arms round each other and get this hospital built for the people of the Island’.

Deputy Chief Minister Lyndon Farnham said the debate had included ‘some of the most passionate and thought-provoking speeches that I have ever heard’ and thanked Scrutiny for their patience and for ‘giving us a tough time’.

Senator Farnham also apologised for some failures in communicating the government’s message about the hospital and pledged that lessons would be learned from the debate.

‘We want to be inclusive and keep trying to bring people with us, even though some may not want to be brought,’ he said.

The next stage for the project will be the submission, due by mid-November, of a planning application for the hospital at Overdale.

Senator Farnham added: ‘I would ask those opponents of the project to think about coming onside and to be constructive.

‘This is about the next 40 years, the next ten governments, for future generations and those who depend on our wise choices now to secure their health and their futures.’

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