While most pundits and their editors were looking at Brexit, events in places like Barcelona, and the continuing shambles that is the Presidency of Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, our own Government has flogged off a public asset to a company known for one business skill above all others - asset stripping. Moreover, they were warned about it months ago. But it was clearly a good time to bury controversial news.
The Green Investment Bank has been sold to Australian group Macquarie, which was confirmed as preferred bidder before the end of last year. An official press release made suitably optimistic noises: “The £2.3 billion deal ensures that all the taxpayer funding invested in GIB since its creation, including set-up costs, has been returned with a gain of approximately £186 million”. And the GIB’s future had been secured.
Macquarie was “an ambitious new owner committed to growing the business”. Moreover, “moving [the GIB] into the private sector now would free it from the constraints of public sector ownership allowing it to increase investment in our green infrastructure as we transition to a green economy. GIB’s independent Board supported the government’s decision to sell the business to Macquarie”. Also, we should not worry.
This was because “The green ‘special share’ held by the Green Purposes Company Limited also comes into force now. Five independent trustees have the power to approve or reject any proposed changes to GIG’s green purposes in the future” and “The government will continue to hold an interest in a portfolio of a small number of GIB’s existing green infrastructure investments”. And then came the but. A big but.
Greenpeace Energy Desk noted that “The UK’s Green Investment Bank has created 14 new companies ahead of its expected privatisation this month … The move has sparked concerns that the bank is being prepared to have its core assets sold off, essentially dissolving the British government’s key mechanism for driving private investment into developing green energy sectors”. And it got worse.
Remember that “special share”? Well, “According to Sepi Golzari-Munro, a GIB expert who analysed the documents, the UK government’s ‘special share’ - designed to ensure the GIB stays fit for purpose - would be rendered moot if there are no assets or investments to keep green”. Macquarie, it is noted, has acquired the nickname of “The Vampire Kangaroo”. Also, “Lord Greg Barker, former Conservative energy minister, has called for the sale to be cancelled, while former business secretary Vince Cable has warned of the dangers of the deal”. But the mainstream press has been largely silent.
That silence included very little reporting of the Urgent Question granted to MP Caroline Lucas, which she used “to highlight serious concerns raised by a number of people, including former Business Secretary Vince Cable, that the company set to buy the GIB is likely to strip it of its assets, leaving it unfit for purpose”.
Taking climate change and green issues seriously does not sit comfortably with flogging off the GIB to a well known group of asset strippers. Creating new companies to make aset stripping that little bit easier looks worse. What you will not read in the right-wing press.