Isle Of Man / Ellan Vannin

Sefton deal 'angers' Isle of Man business sector

A multi-million pound deal to bail out the Sefton hotel group has "angered" the Isle of Man's business community, says a member of the House of Keys.

Alf Cannan said the move was a "direct interference in the free market and blurs the ground rules for fairness".

The £4.5m rescue package includes a £1.3m loan, plus £3.2m to buy land in Douglas earmarked for development.

Treasury Minister Eddie Teare said the decision was centred on maintaining confidence in the island's economy.

He added: "We are coming through a difficult time and I don't want to run the risk of adversely affecting business and consumer confidence."

The Sefton Group PLC is a Manx company which owns the Sefton and the Palace Hotel Casino on Douglas promenade, along with the Sefton Express hotel near Ronaldsway airport.

'Totally wrong'

It is thought the group, which employs about 300 people, is currently facing debts of about £1.7m - much of which is believed to be owed to a range of island businesses.

"This has made people angry, not least of all because other companies are going through difficult times too," said Mr Cannan.

"I know of company directors who are putting their own homes on the line to try and grow their business - they wouldn't be bailed out, so why should the Sefton Group?

"The company has always been the master of its own destiny and it seems to have been bailed out simply because of its business connections and the names of the directors on the board - it is all totally wrong."

Chief minister Allan Bell said that the intervention was "unusual". He said the public was not notified in advance of the move.

He added: "The council of ministers does recognise the need for proper scrutiny of government's actions in the public interest, and so we are ourselves referring this issue to Tynwald's Economic Policy Review Committee for their consideration."

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