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Falla "raises some alarm bells" - but P&R boss offers "100% support"

Falla

Thursday 08 September 2022

Falla "raises some alarm bells" - but P&R boss offers "100% support"

Thursday 08 September 2022


Concerns were raised in the States' Assembly yesterday about the appointment of former Deputy Stuart Falla to lead a newly-created States' Development Agency set up to transform the island's east coast.

The President of the Policy & Resources Committee, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, defended the appointment and told States' members they should see Mr Falla as "an able person - not as a threat".

Mr Falla, pictured top, who is in his early 70s and was made a CBE last year, has been a prominent businessman in the island and a member of various States' committees for decades. Some deputies have questioned whether he will bring fresh ideas to the Development Agency.

Concerns have also been expressed about whether Mr Falla's leadership of the Agency - for which he will be paid £25,000 a year - creates conflicts of interest while he remains a voting member of the States' Trading Supervisory Board, which is responsible for the island's harbours as well as the States' commercialised businesses. 

The President of the Committee for Economic Development, Deputy Neil Inder, who sits on an Oversight Group also comprising Deputies Ferbrache and Lindsay de Sausmarez which supervises the Development Agency, revealed that he disagreed with Mr Falla's appointment and "was the dissenting voice on that".

And there were later calls for minutes to be published of the meeting at which Mr Falla was appointed "to ascertain whether the Assembly has been misled" in Committee Presidents' replies to questions about the circumstances of the appointment.

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Pictured: The Development Agency has a wide remit to pursue development of the island's east coast from The Bridge to Havelet. 

Deputies Andrew Taylor and Sam Haskins questioned Deputy Ferbrache about Mr Falla's appointment. Deputy Taylor had expected "someone new" to lead the Development Agency. Deputy Haskins said that some States' members wanted to see "young and fresh blood" and therefore he was "surprised" by the appointment of Mr Falla. They both asked Deputy Ferbrache whether the politicians who made the appointment were unanimously in favour of Mr Falla.

Deputy Ferbrache did not directly answer that question, but he said: "He [Mr Falla] certainly has my 100% unequivocal support. We don't have too many people in Guernsey who have the track record of actually achieving things. Going out with massive projects and doing things. He's one of those people.

"I see Mr Falla is coming under some comment...Can I just say - and I hope I'm speaking for my colleagues [on the Oversight Group for the Development Agency], Deputy [Lindsay] de Sausmarez and Deputy Inder - that we interviewed four [applicants], it was a vigorous process, it lasted a full afternoon, and we made the appointment that we made. I make no apology for making that appointment. I was there; I'm used to making decisions; I have experience of a lifetime of making decisions; and I had two very able colleagues who joined in that process."

Deputy Victoria Oliver asked Deputy Ferbrache whether Mr Falla would be resigning from his role as a voting member of the States' Trading Supervisory Board.

In reply, Deputy Ferbrache said: "That will be a matter in due course for Mr Falla. I don't see any conflict. What we tend to have in this Assembly and in previous Assemblies is that if anybody is able we're worried about them, we see them as a threat - I see him as an able person, not as a threat."

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Pictured (clockwise from left): Deputies Andrew Taylor, Sam Haskins and Victoria Oliver are among States' members who have concerns about various aspects of Stuart Falla's appointment as the first Chair of the States' Development Agency.

After the exchanges in the States' Assembly, Deputy Taylor told Express that his concerns about Mr Falla's appointment remained. 

"It does raise some alarm bells for me," said Deputy Taylor. "I didn’t support the creation of the Development Agency because I thought the appointments would be given to the old guard without any fresh blood being given an opportunity to shape our future on such a monumental piece of work.

"I don’t dispute the accolades of Mr Falla and have the utmost respect for his contribution to the island in the past. But I do believe that the same brains will produce the same ideas. And with Mr Falla being heavily involved in the last harbour development option - which was defeated in the States very recently - I’m concerned that more time will be allocated to a failed scheme.

"Quite simply, I believe we need to get on with the repairs to our existing harbours before we get further carried away with these vanity or legacy projects."

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Pictured: Stuart Falla retired as a deputy in 2008, but he is a voting member of the States' Trading Supervisory Board, which has already seen proposals to redevelop the harbours defeated by the current States.

"My initial interest was surrounding the support, or perhaps lack of support, for the appointment from the remaining members of the Policy & Resources Committee, given Deputy Ferbrache was voting in the Oversight Group with their delegated authority," said Deputy Taylor.

"Further probing brought out some interesting body language from Deputy Inder, which sparked my interest in the confusion over the voting record for the appointment.

"Although it was not stated, my gut feeling is that the remaining members of the Policy & Resources Committee do not support the appointment of Stuart Falla, and there was definitely some confusion in the recollection of the appointment as the replies from both Deputies [Ferbrache and Inder] seemed somewhat caveated."

Deputy Gavin St. Pier also felt there was a lack of clarity about the Committee Presidents' replies to questions about the appointment process and later said that only releasing the minutes of the appointment meeting would address concerns that the Assembly had been misled.

Pictured: Deputy Gavin St. Pier is pressing for minutes of meetings to be released after what he considered to be an unclear version of events was provided to the States' Assembly yesterday.

Mr Falla's appointment to chair the Development Agency was announced in July. The announcement stated that he was appointed "following an open and competitive recruitment process".

"The States agreed earlier this year to establish the Agency as a company which operates at arm's length from government. The purpose of the Agency is to oversee and deliver the development of the seafront on behalf of the States, in line with a strategic direction approved by the States," said the announcement.

"The Chair will lead the recruitment of other members to form a board and establish the Agency's team of employed staff, which will be a small and efficient team, which brings in other local industry expertise at times where needed."

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Pictured (left to right): Deputy Neil Inder said he dissented from his colleagues on the Oversight Group, Deputies Peter Ferbrache and Lindsay de Sausmarez, over the appointment of Stuart Falla to lead the newly-created Development Agency.

The States have agreed a maximum budget of £1million to fund the Development Agency in its first two years. This will fund the cost of three staff and initial analysis of economic, social and environmental opportunities for development.

The intention is that the Development Agency will require no cash funding from States’ general revenue from its third year of operation onwards.

The initial proposals for the Development Agency would have put it outside the States’ Freedom of Information Code. This would have prevented deputies, the media and others from using the Code to obtain information about the work of the Agency.

An amendment from Deputy Yvonne Burford to bring the Agency within the Freedom of Information Code was accepted by the Policy & Resources Committee and approved by the States when they considered proposals to set up the Agency in a 10-hour debate earlier this year.

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