Headlines: Princess Royal visits on her way South; Assistance for FLH, but only until the end of the year
TRAVELLING at the invitation of the South Georgia Heritage Trust, Her Royal Highness Princess Anne made a brief visit to the Falklands this week before sailing to South Georgia on board Grigory Mihkeev on Wednesday evening.
Princess Anne was accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Timothy Laurence on the two day stopover and will return on April 2, on board MV Pharos before flying out on the next day’s airbridge.
While not a state visit to the Falklands, HRH Princess Anne visited a wide range of government departments and both the Infant and Junior and Community schools on her first day. The new prison and extension to the Police Station was officially opened by Princess Anne on Tuesday morning before she undertook a tour of the new prison and met members of the force and the construction team.
A thorough inspection of the Falklands Islands Defence Force facilities and equipment was first on the agenda after lunch before the Princess visited Cape Pembroke lighthouse and paid her respects at the Atlantic Conveyor memorial. The Princess Royal opted to walk part of the way to Cape Pembroke and was guided by conservationist Sally Blake who described some of the flora and fauna in the area.
HRH was suitably dressed for the nip in the wind in the Falklander sweater that was made especially for and presented to her on her first visit in 1996. In the evening Zoran Zuvic was presented with his Duke of Edinburgh Gold award while the Chief Scout’s Gold Award was presented to 15 year-olds Daniel McGill and Julian Yon.
On Wednesday morning it was off to Port Louis to view a subject close to her heart in the form of a riding demonstration with Welsh ponies at the riding school. Pete and Melanie Gilding also gave a guided tour of the historic settlement. In the afternoon, Power Station manager Glenn Ross gave a tour of the facilities and a brief on the use of wind power.
Chairman of the South Georgia Heritage Trust, former Governor Howard Pearce greeted Princess Anne at FIPASS and escorted her onboard the Grigory Mihkeev on Wednesday evening before the vessel departed at six o’clock, bound for South Georgia.
• More pictures of the visit on page 8.
EXECUTIVE Council (ExCo) has agreed to a £160,000 subsidy requested by Falklands Landholdings to see the government-owned company through to the end of the financial year without facing insolvency, but has turned down a request for a further £140,000 for the year 2009/10.
Councillor Andrea Clausen said the request for extra funding had been made because Falklands Landholdings (FLH) had found themselves unable to accommodate their cash-flow within the £250,000 overdraft facility currently provided.
She said that as shareholders of the company, Government were faced with a decision either not to provide the company with the funds requested and declare the company insolvent, following which it would have had to cease trading and wind-up, or to provide the funds requested to enable the company to continue to trade for the remainder of 2008/09. Cllr Clausen said the situation had become urgent, but that asFLH was a statutory corporation, the Government had a responsibility to the 26 employees on the three farms. She said the subsidy was, “offering a breathing space, but only a little one.” FLH owe local creditors in excess of £70,000 which will now be paid off.
While members agreed to refer this resolution of the company’s short-term cash flow situation to the Standing Finance Committee, ExCo requested that urgent attention should be given to options for the restructure of FLH farms, so that the apparent worsening of the financial position of the company could be resolved without the need for further subsidy. Chairman of the FLH Board, Councillor Ian Hansen, said a wider range of options, than had ever been considered before, were being pursued.
The phasing out of the Stanley office, which including staff, financial and administration expenses is expected to cost £127,000 by the end of this financial year and creating a stand-alone business plan for each of the three farms (North Arm, Goose Green and Fitzroy) are options that will come under close scrutiny.
All options were being considered in conjunction with the Rural Development Strategy, said Cllr Hansen, who was quick to stress that while changes might beon the horizon, nothing would be made public before employees were informed of decisions.
Cllr Andrea Clausen said the FLH Board had been instructed months ago to work on the options presently being considered, as well as others previously considered, adding that the first part of the plan was to go before Executive Council in May. “We want to see options that can work without a subsidy,” she added.
The £250,000 overdraft held by FLH should have been paid off in July if the wool prices and sales had proceeded as predicted, said Cllr Clausen who added that until now, the present Assembly had not, contrary to popular belief, paid any subsidy to FLH.