The fact that Ben Ainslie Racing’s America’s Cup headquarters is being built in Portsmouth remains, as we have said many times before, a feather in the cap of the city.
It will bring jobs and money into not just Portsmouth but the region, plus the prestige and excitement of having an association with an elite – some would say elitist, admittedly – sport on our doorstep, and we were in total agreement with the city council when it moved quickly this year to ensure the project’s arrival.
However, it now transpires that money paid out by the council for some of the earlier work will not be reimbursed by the government, despite a gentlemen’s agreement to the contrary.
That the government does not contain gentlemen will perhaps not surprise many people, but at a time when we fear savage cuts in the next round of budget setting for the next financial year, an additional £900,000 – which eventually may total £1m – will not be easy to find.
The council will no doubt learn from the experience – making sure agreements such as these are written down would be a start – and we do accept that the financial benefits to the city will outweigh missing out on this cash.
But there is a further twist to this story, which takes it beyond any crude depiction of a provincial council being outwitted by capital city slickers, and it is this.
The arrangement which saw funding agreed with both BAR – the provision of which has been honoured – and the city council was made with the Department for Business.
One of the ministers within this department is Matthew Hancock, who also holds the title of Minister for Portsmouth.
We are somewhat disappointed that a man whose brief includes knowing, in detail, the trouble that has been visited upon Portsmouth – and indeed this corner of Hampshire – by the withdrawal of BAE Systems from the dockyard, is part of a ministry that has, in effect, to a degree, stitched up taxpayers. We hope he is fighting our corner over this.