Bild: Gemeinde Reinach.
Bild: Gemeinde Reinach.
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Local News Summary of, September 7th

  • MP Hans-Peter Wessels expected to break silence about BVB scandal today
  • Money and praise from Solothurn for University of Applied Sciences
  • Town president and member of Reinach government resign immediately

MP Hans-Peter Wessels expected to break silence about BVB scandal today

The Basel Audit Committee’s report about irregularities within the Basel Transport Services (BVB) left many thunderstruck. However, the city government has so far remained silent about the affair. Today, head of construction, Hans-Peter Wessels, will address the issue for the first time.

It was in the news across Basel: Heavy reproaches against the management of Basel’s Transport Services (BVB) and even a call for government member Hans-Peter Wessels to resign because of a million Swiss francs which should have been transferred to France. The reason for this turmoil was the extension of the tramline 3 to Saint-Louis. At the end of June 2017, Basel’s Audit Committee of the Grand Council listed all of these factors in their report.

As a consequence, Paul Blumenthal, director of the BVB, resigned instantly. The entire government remained silent, however, including Hans-Peter Wessels. They did not address the Committee’s report and pointed to the next Grand Council session on Wednesday instead.

Wessels to speak to media together with BVB managers

But now, Mr Wessels plans to take the topic into his own hands again. On Tuesday, the government released a statement on the report, and today at 2.30pm, Mr Wessels will inform the media together with interim BVB president Kurt Altermatt and vice president Mirjam Ballmer.

The press conference set-up of the BVB management and Mr Wessels suggests a strong reaction from the government’s side. Otherwise, a media statement would have sufficed. The media conference scheduled for today shows that the Committee’s report carries at least some weight. The BVB have been in the focus of politics and workers’ unions for months. Among the topics discussed are heavy workloads at the bases, a poor work climate, staff absences, and overtime.

Money and praise from Solothurn for University of Applied Sciences

The University of Applied Sciences of Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) will receive about 112 million francs from the canton of Solothurn over the next three years. This is almost 0,4 million francs less than for the years 2015 to 2017.

The cantonal council of Solothurn approved the cantonal credit for 2018 with 96:0 Yes-votes. Together with Aargau, Basel-Landschaft, and Basel-Stadt, Solothurn is one of the local cantons and provides 16,63 per cent of the overall budget for the FHNW.

All in all, the FHNW receives 676 million francs from the four cantons for the next three years – about six million francs less than for the past three years. This shows that the university is well on its way in financial terms, commission spokesperson Urs von Lerber of the Social Democrats said. The FHNW therefore needs to finance and generate its growth on its own in the future, he said further.

Balance of accounts criticised

But it was less the financial future of the FHNW that had led to discussions in Solothurn’s cantonal parliament and rather last year’s balance of accounts instead. Several factions criticised the net equity (which had risen to 36 million francs) and the revenue surplus (which had grown by six million francs), even though an expenditure surplus of 5,4 million francs had been budgeted.

Elementary schools need to save costs while the FHNW can invest large sums of money, liberal spokespeople have previously claimed. But education director Remo Ankli from the Liberals clarified the university’s good finances. The cantons wants the FHNW to finance future costs with its own capital resources, he said.

High self-financing factor

Still, the Solothurn cantonal parliament also had lots of praise for the FHNW even though it criticised the annual report for 2016. According to commission spokesperson Urs von Lerber, there were 11,888 enrolled FHNW students last October – 626 more than in 2015. Eleven per cent of the students come from the canton of Solothurn.

Factions applauded the high self-financing factor of 50,4 per cent, a welcome growth in the right sectors, and a development that is also profitable for the economy. There was a call for the FHNW to differentiate itself more clearly from universities.

The cantonal council unanimously approved the report about the performance mandate for 2016 with 94 Yes-votes. The parliaments of the other three local cantons have not yet begun discussions about the annual report and the overall budget.

Town president and member of Reinach government resign immediately

The controversy about a refugee worker’s leave of absence in Reinach (BL) has consequences: Town president Urs Hintermann and government member Silvio Tondi this week announced their immediate resignation.

The two Social Democrats announced their resignations in the local council on Tuesday evening, a statement from the municipality of Reinach stated on Wednesday. According to the statement, Mr Hintermann and Mr Tondi claimed that their decision was down to the “unparalleled smear campaign” by the authorities.

The cause of these developments had been a conflict about a refugee worker who was sacked from her job. The “Basler Zeitung” had published the story in December 2016. Mr Hintermann had been under constant attacks by the “BaZ” since then, he said.

The “BaZ” had accused the community of Reinach of not not acting adequately and trying to cover up the matter. The scandal centred around the refugee worker becoming intimate with an under-age asylum seeker. However, in June the public prosecution concluded that the woman had not committed any crime and closed the case.

Mr Hintermann, who had been town president of Reinach since 2004, also stated that he resigned because of the current political climate in the municipality. There is no longer any chance of a fair, objective, and independent discussion of the events, he added.

Mr Hintermann points his accusations at the Audit Committee by name. It had publicly decided who was guilty and who was innocent even prior to taking up its work, he claimed. Mr Hintermann and Mr Tondi are also unhappy about how they were treated by their own political party. Town vice president Béatrix von Sury d’Aspremont will take over the position of town president ad interim until a new president is nominated.