Victory Energy: Portsmouth council ‘marketing’ publicly-owned utilities firm

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THE future of council-owned utilities firm Victory Energy Supply Limited could be clearer in just a week.

Portsmouth City Council is touting the company on the open market hoping to draw in major players who will snap it up.

Portsmouth's Victory Energy is being marketed

Portsmouth's Victory Energy is being marketed

As revealed in The News last week, Victory's chief executive Daniel O'Hara was paid £270,000 in just 17 months.

Around 12 full-time equivalent staff, and Mr O'Hara, are still working on the project and are being paid a combined £18,000-a-week while a buyer is sought.

At the same time, negotiations are ongoing with Southampton City Council’s brand CitizEn Energy, which sells power provided by Nottingham City Council-owned supplier Robin Hood Energy.

If no attractive bids come forward on the open market for Victory Energy, Portsmouth’s council could enter into an agreement to start selling power via CitizEn Energy and cash in on commission.

While this would be less lucrative than running an arms-length municipally-owned company, it could pose a smaller risk to council investment.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s Liberal Democrat cabinet took the decision to axe Victory in August.

But that has since been called in by Conservative and Labour councillors, with a second decision set to be made. There is a range of options possible, running from selling the company to deciding to press on with it in its original form.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson told The News: ‘I wanted the decision weeks ago and I’m pushing very hard to get this meeting as quickly as possible.

‘We need to do it in a responsible manner. 

‘It can’t hang around, that’s why it’s important to know if there’s interest.’

A city council spokesman told the BBC that if it reduced staffing to the point the company was ‘fatally damaged, we would be closing off important options’.

Conservative deputy group leader Luke Stubbs said the council has an £11m overspend and Victory could have brought in cash to protect services.

He said: ‘The administration just burying its head in the sand and pretending it was going to be alright is not going to work.’

He wants the move to axe the company reversed but added: ‘Since the company has been actively marketed for sale it’s pretty obvious the way it’s going to go on this.’

The TaxPayers’ Alliance and independent councillor Claire Udy last week criticised the amount paid to contractors at Victory Energy.

Labour councillor Yahiya Chowdhury supported the call-in to reverse the decision to axe Victory. He called the scheme a ‘good project’.

He said: ‘If it’s profitable for the community and the city then we should continue supporting it but until we go through all the documents at cabinet then I can’t make any more comment.’

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘Ultimately, if taxpayers can receive a return on their investment and energy security, then I see no reason for the Lib Dems’ hastiness in scrapping it. That really would be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

A special cabinet meeting could be convened to discuss the company’s future.