Future of Victory Energy to be decided by Lib Dem councillors

Portsmouth City Council could move into the power supply business
Portsmouth City Council could move into the power supply business

THE future of a Portsmouth City Council energy company that will cost millions of pounds to set up will be decided tomorrow by the city's Lib Dems.

After council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson raised fears that Victory Energy would not be financially viable he called for PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to review the company independently.

Although the company has not yet been launched it has already cost taxpayers £1m, with a further £12m loan required to fully set it up.

PwC concluded that the company could be profitable and stated in the report: 'There is a strong financial case for continuing the council's investment into Victory Energy Supply Limited (VESL) but, as with any commercial opportunity it is not without risk.'

At a special cabinet meeting on Friday councillors will decide on one of the four recommended options for the company.

PwC suggested that Victory can either continue as it is, continue with 'robust oversight and governance' with funding each year subject to approval by PCC, it could be scrapped, which could lead to up to £3.5m lost,  or it could enter into a 'white label' agreement with an existing fully licensed energy supplier.

A 'white label' agreement would entail another company providing the energy to Victory which it would then sell on. This option could also lose the council up to £3.5m.

Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has arranged a briefing today for all councillors to attend. He said: ‘It is important that if we carry on with Victory Energy it is with everyone agreeing and supporting it. 

'It is right that we look at it again and decide if this is what the council should be doing. There is a lot of public money at risk. What has happened with small energy companies is that they have tended to go bust because they have not got enough money.

'There are four options that I have put forward to the council and all four are real options. What I am hoping for is some sort of steer from the council across all parties.

'Council officers told us this had to be decided at a cabinet meeting which is why I'm holding a briefing the day before. Those ideas will be taken to the cabinet meeting and we will reflect on the feedback we have had.

'On one hand there is potential to make profit and on the other hand there is a risk of making losses. It is about trying to work out what is the best route for the council.’