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Burch eyes savings on GP cars

GP cars: The Government wants to save money on the fleet (File photo by Akil Simmons).

Smaller cars could be on the cards for the Cabinet to cut costs, the public works minister has warned.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that there was no need for the number of full-size sedans run by the Government.

He added that downsizing efforts would not stop at cars — the minister also pledged to reduce the number of public buildings in Bermuda to ease the strain on finances.

Colonel Burch said $2 million, a reduction from last year, was identified for vehicles and equipment. He explained that covered replacement of old GP vehicles including loaders and dumper trucks.

Colonel Burch said he had warned his colleagues that he hoped to downsize some ministerial cars.

He told the House of Assembly on Friday that the present fleet of blue Toyotas was bought to accommodate visiting officials.

The minister said: “We’ve only ever had, I think, an occasion where we’ve had to use five of them, and so there probably is not, there isn’t a need, as far as I’m concerned, to have 13 of them or 12 of them or whatever the case may be.

“We will be looking to downsize the cars that are assigned to ministers and we will be looking at the oldest in the fleet in terms of retiring some of those.”

He was speaking as MPs debated the budget for Colonel Burch’s ministry for the next financial year.

Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow health minister who speaks on finance for the Opposition in the House, highlighted the condition of the wider government fleet of vehicles.

The One Bermuda Alliance member said: “I’ve never seen so many scraped-up cars, or banged-up cars.”

She asked if repairs were carried out in-house.

Ms Gordon-Pamplin added: “The fleet is ageing but there is some really rough driving that’s going on.”

Colonel Burch said afterwards: “I share the Honourable Member’s view about cars being banged up and my own view is there should be some sanction levied when it is their fault.”

He added: “I think that’s part of the process. I think that some people cannot drive and that’s part of the drive ... to go to smaller cars, like the little box Kias.”

Craig Cannonier, the OBA leader, asked if it was possible to ask for assistance from the UK to help fund the upkeep of government buildings.

He added that Sessions House, opened in 1826, was older than the Palace of Westminster, which was rebuilt after a fire destroyed most of the medieval structure in 1834.

Mr Cannonier added that “this is a historical building and I believe that due to some of that historical fact that we should be looking for some finances from the Brits as well”.

Mr Cannonier said problems with mould had been “atrocious” before remedial work was carried out.

Colonel Burch said later that he would look into funding from the UK but warned that Bermuda might have to lose some of its public buildings.

The minister said: “The Government has too many buildings, quite frankly, and we cannot save them all.

“This has to be one that we have no choice in saving, and so we’re going down that road.

“I really would like to put down a marker that some of these buildings are going to have to go.”

Colonel Burch explained later: “First we have to look at the inventory that we have; we have to make realistic decisions about whether we can save all of these.

“I think we made the decision that we cannot save all the buildings — we have to make a decision about the ones that we cannot save and demolish them, so that they’re not a drain on the public purse, either from a security point of view or various other things in terms of having squatters or what have you.

So that process is ongoing, not just for office accommodation but across the board.

“I’ve been periodically getting the appetite of the Cabinet for specific projects and whether there’s a willingness to divest of some of them and in a general sense there is an understanding of the challenges that we face.”

Colonel Burch said that in “almost every case” demolition would have to be approved in Parliament and the future of each building affected would be discussed in the House.