Wednesday 2 December 2009

Investing or gambling

It seems that Pembrokeshire County Council's Executive Board, meeting in closed session with the public and press excluded, has decided to convert a loan made to the Bluestone Project into an equity share as part of the restructuring of that company. The precise circumstances leading to this decision remain clouded in doubt, given the way in which the matter has been discussed and the decision reached, but I know that I am not alone in wondering whether the decision is in the best interests of the council taxpayers.

Old Grumpy has expressed his concern over the exclusion of the public and press (see 'Public Interest'), and Cllr Michael Williams, leader of the five-strong Plaid Group on the council has submitted a series of questions to which he is seeking answers.

The company is not traded on the stock exchange, so valuing its shares is not straightforward. In swapping a loan with an agreed rate of interest and agreed repayment terms for shares of an unquantifiable value, have the cabinet reduced the security of the financial commitment made by the taxpayer?

The decision may or may not be the right one for the taxpayer - I currently have serious doubts. But the way in which the decision has been taken gives me real concern about a lack of transparency and scrutiny over a major financial decision made in the name of the public.

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