HOPES for the future of Victory Energy were revived a second time after an ‘historic’ alliance between the Portsmouth Conservative and Labour groups.
At full council yesterday the unlikely association amended the budget set by its Liberal Democrat administration to demand the £2.5m that would be lost in the company’s closure become part of council spendings.
It comes after the decision to scrap the council-owned energy company, also known as VESL, was made twice by cabinet last year.
Portsmouth South MP and Councillor Stephen Morgan welcomed the amendment that had been brought forward by Tory Cllr Steve Wemyss and Cllr George Fielding.
Speaking at the meeting he said: ‘Portsmouth would be foolish and demonstrate a lack of ambition and confidence in the future if we let this opportunity to protect our public services go, reduce our carbon footprint, reduce fuel poverty and bring jobs for local people.
‘Our amendment therefore brings back into the budget revenue streams in future financial years and, equally importantly, reinstates the £2.5m that is shown in this budget as a cost to our reserves.’
He was backed by Tory leader Cllr Donna Jones. ‘The great thing about this new company, as well as giving residents great value for money we will be putting the profits of the company back into the local community – new school places, new playgrounds, new museums as well as supporting the most vulnerable are all part of the possible outcomes of Victory Energy,’ she said.
But council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, explained that since the company was put up for sale no bids had been made and the bidding period had been extended to February 20 as a result.
He said: ‘By the close of bidding for Victory Energy not one, zero, zilch, nil bids had been received. No one offered even a tenner.
‘When a report said that this company might produce millions in profits I thought a private sector buyer might offer us millions, and pocket a big profit. But the private sector has had its say.’
He added: ‘All around the country we have seen small energy firms go bust, Bristol Energy are reported to be losing millions and the market leader, Robin Hood Energy may now be in trouble.’
The decision to shut down Victory was made for a second time in November last year despite an independent report that said the company had the potential to bring in £22m to the council after five years, almost ten times the previous estimation of £2.5m.
It has been confirmed that while waiting for a buyer the company will still cost £18,000 a week – and its chief executive Daniel O’Hara will be paid £750 a day.
At full council 21 councillors voted for the amendment and 18 against.
Victory Energy will have to be considered by the cabinet at a future date.