Tynwald has approved all but one of the recommendations of an inquiry into the government’s bail-out of the Sefton Group.
Controversy surrounded the bail-out deal announced in April last year, in which government approved a £1.3m loan repayable over five years and a £3.2m sale and lease back agreement for the Middlemarch site (on the corner of Lord Street and Walpole Avenue in Douglas).
At the time, Chief Minister Allan Bell said it was designed to prevent the debt-ridden group from going under.
It later emerged the Sefton Group had been given an earlier government loan of £450,000 April 2012 to clear the company’s significant debts.
The Economic Policy Review Committee’s brief was to consider whether government acted within the law and within existing scheme guidelines and codes of practice.
It concluded ‘the government acted in a manner which stretched its powers to the limit – and, we think, beyond’.
There will now be a review of the law to government to support a company which falls foul of the Enterprise Act 2008 over payment of income tax and national insurance, but, where there is no suggestion of dishonesty.
The Financial Assistance Scheme guidelines will be reviewed to set out more clearly the process for handling applications for support by enterprises that are in financial difficulty.
And the Enterprise Act will be re-examined, with a view to creating a better framework for supporting businesses on the island.
A recommendation that Treasury should examine the situation in respect of the Sefton Group and the impact on local businesses who did business with it, on a quarterly basis failed.
The Council of Ministers had argued it would be ‘entirely inappropriate for the Treasury to monitor the many trading relationships of any private sector enterprise, let alone a PLC, with its creditors’.
Douglas South MHK Kate Beecroft (Lib Van) had called for the committee to re-examine the issue, saying there were still ‘loose ends’.
But her amendment failed to get sufficient support.