Saturday, 19 January 2019

Songs of the Night Sky





Inspired by Carl Sagan's Cosmos, a mood poem about the night sky, and the forthcoming lunar eclipse.

Songs of the Night Sky

Comes the blood moon, all-glorious above,
The goddess Selene, with blessings and love
A sign in the night sky, from ancient of days
Wonder and adore her, give her your praise

The stars in their courses, with majesty, grace
Diadems in the heavens, in backdrop of space
Deep nebula glow, as the stars come to form
Black hole at our centre, with gravity’s storm

The moon is for poets, for tongue to recite
And perigree comes, so bright with its light
It shines on the hills, and over the plain
And between the clouds, that bring us the rain

The vastness of space, we are so small, frail
So quick are our lives, a heartbeat to fail
Stars shine above, at our birth and our end
And moonbeams caress, in night sky our friend

In darkness came light, it blazes with love
The planetary spirits bright shining above
The Milky Way galaxy, with glory ablaze,
Stars twinkle in darkness, singing with praise!

Friday, 18 January 2019

Les Quennevais School 1966 - Part 3

Here is the next part of the 1966 booklet produced on Les Quennevais School.

Since the first post went up, a few comments have appeared. Not all was sweet and light. Carmen wrote:

"I went to Les Q in sept in 1977 & the bullying was horrific! I was traumatised and desperately wanted to move to Hautlieu for exams but thankfully got a place @ Beaulieu Convent where I found sanctuary."

Les Quennevais School 1966 - Part 3



French - Mr. Poingdestre using Credif tapes and film strips with a first year class.













Social Studies - third year boys take readings from the school weather station.



Certtain other subjects occur as options in the fourth year, as do Business Studies. Here fourth year pupils work-with Miss August.






















Every pupil learns a variety of crafts, finding out how to combine them to make things of practical value.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Letter from Kevin Keen



Back last year, the JSPCA appointed a volunteer CEO to temporarily take charge amid “extremely challenging” financial difficulties. In this letter, he responds to recent criticisms in a letter to the JEP.

I would also note that he is a "volunteer CEO", as some remarks on Social Media have asked what he is getting paid as CEO. The clue is in the word "volunteer"

And finally if all Islanders make a donation, even a one off, although regular would be preferred, we can help get the JSPCA back on its feet. Kevin can't do it all, but together we can make a difference.

The JSPCA Animals’ Shelter provides a large range of services in the field of animal care and welfare, offering help and advice for all members of the public. These services include:

  • 24 hour ambulance service
  • Lost and found service
  • Rehoming
  • Welfare Clinic Scheme
  • Foster Animal Scheme
  • Boarding for Cats
  • Rescue and Rehabilitation of injured wildlife
  • Education
  • Jersey Pet Cemetery
Letter from Kevin Keen

Sir

I am responding to comments made by Jason Cronin in a letter published on 11th January.

Although the audit of our 2017 accounts is not yet complete, an unaudited version was shared with members last May. Mr Cronin claims he has seen these accounts but has made some elementary errors in his analysis. 
The income from boarding animals of was actually £170,896, not the £300,000 Mr Cronin alleges. In addition approximately half of this was from the boarding of cats which we are continuing. 

Your correspondent also forgets to mention the cost of our boarding business, which in 2017 was £347,077, leaving a loss from what is really a business activity of some £176,000. This loss was lower than in previous years but clearly still substantial. 

After careful consideration we concluded deficits at such a level were unsustainable and our location not really suitable for commercial dog boarding either. We will however continue providing boarding services for cats which we believe can be made to produce profits to support our charitable activities.

I can assure Mr Cronin & Islanders that providing shelter to animals who are homeless continues and we will carry on rescuing animals including strays. The activities are true to our original charitable purpose and service a need the private sector cannot.

Mr Cronin speculates that that our real intention for ceasing dog boarding was to facilitate property development on our site, that is not the case. We certainly do have to find ways to to reduce our £1 million of debts and making the most of our substantial property assets will be part of that, but the reason for stopping commercial dog boarding was because it was loss making.

I can also put Mr. Cronin’s mind at rest regarding our application for registration under the Charities (Jersey) Law 2014, this was made in good time for the 31st December 2018 deadline and we will therefore benefit from the transitional relief provided by the Commissioner whilst he considers our application.

Finally, although for some reason Mr Cronin is not supportive of what we are trying to do, he appears to be very much in the minority because many islanders and local organisations have stepped forward to support us. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, they have been an inspiration. We clearly have a long way to go, but the generosity and kindness we have received gives me considerable optimism for the future of the JSPCA.

Yours faithfully

Kevin C Keen

Chief Executive (Interim)
JSPCA

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

A Little Clarity over Pay















January 2019: FOI Request:

With regard to the recent proposed strike action, a States spokesperson said: ‘We are disappointed at the unions’ decision to call for limited strike action among civil servants. We will consider the implications for the potential impact on public services, alongside confirming the contingency plans that are in place to minimise those impacts."

This doesn't give much regarding the chain of responsibility for the statement.

1.     Which States members were involved in producing / agreeing this statement for release?

2.     Were the Council of Ministers members all involved/consulted in deciding/agreeing to this statement?

Response

This statement was provided on behalf of the States Employment Board and was approved by the Chair and Vice Chair of the States Employment Board.

Comment

On 10th January, one month after Tracey Valois resigned as Chair of the States Employment Board, Bailiwick Express noted:

Senior members of the States Employment Board “don’t feel there’s any pressure” to appoint a new leader in the face of escalating civil service strikes and mounting challenges from other public sector workers over pension rates and pay reversals, it has emerged.

In the meantime, the Chief Minister, John Le Fondre, is acting Chair.

The SEB's Vice Chair, Constable Richard Buchanan, said yesterday that he and the Chief Minister are not actively looking to appoint another politician to steer the body responsible for setting States workers' pay, terms and conditions.

Currently, the SEB consists of:

Senator John Le Fondre, Chief Minister
Connétable R.A. Buchanan, Assistant Chief Minister
Deputy S.J. Pinel, Minister for Treasury and Resources
Connétable D.W. Mezbourian of St. Lawrence
Deputy G.J. Truscott of St. Brelade.

The curious wording “provided on behalf of” doesn’t actually clarify a great deal about who drafted the Statement, although all members agreed with it. 

When the States Employment Board is making a statement, I do think it would be more honest for them to take responsibility than to hide behind “a States spokesperson” and “the States said...”, especially as it is likely that not all of the Council of Ministers are in agreement with said policy.

On the matter of transparency, I note:

“The States of Jersey is today publishing a table of civil service pay grades to aid transparency and understanding of the pay rates for civil servants, in light of current industrial action. The table also reveals the number of civil servants in each pay bracket, as well as examples of the kinds of roles, and shows that at each grade the majority of employees are paid at the top of their pay scale.”

For “The States of Jersey” read “The States Employment Board”, and note, by the way, this only covers pay rates for civil servants below £100,000. Of course, those above have been frozen, it is true, but then they are likely to face less pressure from the rising cost of living and rental costs.

In the interests of transparency, I have asked for a similar breakdown to be given for those above £100,000 – and it will be interesting to see, especially as we have just found out that the temporary head of Health is being paid £27,000 per month, which amounts to some £324,000 per annum. No wonder the nurses can’t get an adequate pay rise!

John Le Fondre, defending this, said it was only a temporary position while a new post holder was found and such temporary appointments always cost more. But that appointment was made on 19th June - for 6 months! It has clearly been extended, although the SEB has been surprisingly reticent for how long - another 6 months? Not much transparency there.

Kenny McNeil, of the RCN, said that constantly hearing how highly paid States executives were was the main reason that nurses chose to reject their pay offers:

“We have rejected our pay offer and the situation is that our members keep being told that there is no money but then keep hearing about directors getting huge payouts. ‘We think that if they can pay people that sort of money, then they should also pay well and respect the hard-working staff on the frontline. If they can find that sort of money to pay interim directors, then it shows that the money is there.”

It was understandable that Reform should support the strike action, but heartening to see both Steve Luce and Steve Pallett agree that enough was enough, and the SEB should climb down from its autocratic pedestal and seek some kind of compromise. They both said that there was money, but it needed to be diverted from other matters.

In that regard, remember that just before Christmas, Senator John Le Fondré, has now said he is committed to releasing funding for court appeals for CICRA under the next Medium Term Financial Plan. The Magic Money Tree has some money, it seems, if your face fits.

It’s a pity the same commitment hasn’t been made for the next MTFP to rectify the long term below cost of living pay for civil servants, nurses and teachers, which is certainly far more urgent. Why not come out and make that commitment now?

Monday, 14 January 2019

Some Late Expenses Submissions in 2008











Some Late Expenses Submissions in 2008

Back in 2008, there were elections for Deputies and Senators.

In April 2009, a good five months after the Deputy elections, Deputy Trevor Pitman asked the question:

"Will H.M. Attorney General explain what legal action, if any, can be taken against a number of candidates (successful and unsuccessful but all ‘independents’) in the 2008 Deputies elections who, well into 2009, had still not supplied details to the Judicial Greffe, as required by law, of their electoral campaign expenses? "

The law at that time came under the Public Elections (Expenditure and Donations) (Jersey) Regulations, 2008. This was replaced in 2014 by the Public Elections (Expenditure and Donations) (Jersey) Law 2014.

The wording was remarkably similar in respect of election expenses:

“A candidate who fails, without reasonable excuse, to deliver a declaration, or further declaration, in accordance with this Regulation is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine."

That is identical to current wording. Also identical - the regulations also specified the same 15 days for submitting expenses – or facing a fine.

But there was a significant difference. Guilty of an offense meant liable to a fine, but it did not mean automatic disqualification from office – that came only in the 2014 regulations under article 18 which was linked to submissions as well as breaches of expenses - indeed everywhere the phrase "guilty of offense" was stated in the old regulations and taken to the new..

Article 18 of those regulations specified that anyone guilty of an offense, if elected, would automatically be disqualified, although they could stand again if they wanted to. Looking at the Hansard of the States sitting at the time, the focus of discussion was entirely on breaching expense guidelines, not late submission of expenses.

No one queried the additional penalty under that article would also apply to the late submission, and considerably change its legal meaning. Why should they? For all intents and purpose, the article read the same - and was probably understood by members voting on it as meaning the same – namely that a late submission was an offense which would be liable to a fine.

That is how the law had read, and no one, even Jeremy Macon who was proposing it, highlighted that it had now changed. All he said was:

“Article 18 contains important new provision about the consequences of conviction. This provision could not be included in the Triennial Regulations but is included in this draft law. As can be seen, a person who has been elected but who is convicted of an offence of breaching this law will be disqualified from office.“

Roy Le Herrissier spoke against Article 18, but only on the grounds of its giving a second change

“Well, you can get another chance and put yourself forward to see whether the public feel, as some kind of quasi-jury, you are okay to run again.” I think is very wrong and I think we should be up front with people and say one way or the other and not lead to this, quite frankly, excruciating public kind of debate.”

When the matter came up about people being charged for breaking the law, it was clear that Jeremy Macon had breaching expenses in mind alone: “Why charge them? Again, because we discussed this and if you were to leave some sort of discretionary amount, say for example there would be a discretion of perhaps plus 10 per cent, then the new threshold will just become plus 10 per cent, and therefore all you are doing is increasing the overall amount.”

He didn’t consider the paragraph on late submission at all, although clearly it is mentioned in Article 18!

The Attorney-General noted in his reply to Trevor Pitman in April 2009:

“The legal – as opposed to political - enforcement mechanism for these Regulations lies in the bringing of a criminal prosecution. Such a prosecution will be considered in cases where a file is prepared by the police and passed to the Law Officers’ Department, or alternatively to a Centenier, for a decision as to whether or not to prosecute.”

“The lodging of this question last week led me to make some enquiries of the Judicial Greffier. I understand there are two candidates from the Deputies’ elections, neither of whom were elected, who have not yet filed a note of their election expenses as the Regulations require. I believe the Greffier is pursuing that matter to the extent he can. As far as I am aware, the Law Officers Department have as yet received no such police files for consideration in relation to the 2008 Deputies’ elections.”

The Deputies elections took place in October, so there was a significant gap, but no action was taken.

Later, in 2011, Deputy Pitman asked the new Attorney-General the following:

“Would the Attorney General advise whether any of the 2008 election candidates, successful or otherwise, failed to comply with the Public Elections (Expenditure and Donations) (Jersey) Regulations 2008 requiring that they provide full details of their campaign expenses, and if so, would he specify which roles they were standing for (e.g. Senator, Deputy or Connétable), who the candidates were and what sanctions they faced, having failed to comply? If none, what was the reason for this?”

This gave rise to the following extra information:

“In relation to the current question I have made further inquiries and am informed by the Deputy Judicial Greffier that one expenses return remains outstanding and that the candidate, who was unsuccessful, had left the island shortly after the election and remains outside the jurisdiction. As a result no investigation could be concluded and it accordingly remains the case that no investigation files have been received by my department.”

Clearly, although there was a late submission by at least one candidate for Deputy – although an unsuccessful one – no action was taken, no prosecution brought, no fine levied.

The grounds for the delay are not stated, but evidently it was taken that the intent of the law – as opposed to the letter of the law – was to ensure expenses declarations were received in a timely manner, and clearly once they had been submitted in the case of one candidate still in Jersey, it was deemed not in the public interest to pursue the matter further.

So why should this case of Deputies Wickenden, Raymond and Mr Manning be different? After all, they all submitted their expenses, albeit outside of the 15 days requirement.

What needs to be answered is why a late submission was not deemed liable to prosecution and a fine in 2008 – when it was eventually received – and yet it is now?

It seems wholly unfair that some slack was given in the public interest in 2008 which is not given now. Legal decisions should show some degree of consistency with precedent, and if they do not, it should be explained why the precedent should be overturned.

And while the law has changed since 2008, part of the penalties remain identical - the fine for late submission - so if that was not pursued then, one wonders if any documentation or minutes were made of that decision. I suspect it was not deemed in the public interest, but unless someone from the Judicial Greffe checks, we shall not know.

And finally, why wait all this time before bringing a case? This is surely one of the oddest aspects. It is not as if there is any leeway in the strict letter of the law, so why the delay? That does not look good as far as justice is concerned, and it looks ever more like someone deciding to make a point, rather than just applying the law once it was broken. 

Saturday, 12 January 2019

January Blues


















A mood poem for January, a time of cold wind, dark days, and winter illness!

January Blues
Cold month, and sneeze and cold
Signs of getting grey and old
It takes longer to defeat the bug
Accepting illness with a shrug
And decorations all stacked away
Christmas gone, such a bleak day
The tree came down, packed up
I sip warm soup, a welcome cup
And rest my weary bones again
Growing old, this slow amen
The trees are bare against the sky
As even nature comes to die
We wait for spring, we wait in hope
The dark mornings, hard to cope
But day by day, an early dawn
And Venus shining in the morn
I wait, wrap up, keeping warm
And fearful of the winter storm
And ice and snow, not yet to come
It’s feeling down, and feeling numb
And cold and darkness stretch out long
I wait, and pray, for Springtime song

Friday, 11 January 2019

Les Quennevais School 1966 - Part 2

Here is the next part of the 1966 booklet produced on Les Quennevais School.

Since the first post went up, a few comments have appeared and you may find them interesting!

Dianah noted that the first post showed a picture of the young Dianah sitting at the table in the library!!

Trevor B: Some of the original teachers were still there when I went in 1975. Although it’s a while ago now, the following I remember:

MRS. S. WEBB (Senior Mistress)
A. L. HARRIS (Head of Art Department)
C. S. M. HILL (Careers Master and Technical Drawing)
W. J. HORN (Head of Science Department)
O. LARBALESTIER (Science)
MRS. D. PICKERING (Needlework)
F. H. POINGDESTRE (Modern Languages)
B. SLOUS (Technical Department)
W. L. M. SMALL (Mathematics)
R. STONIER (Head of English Department)

In terms of memories, I remember Brian Slous being very serious and seemed to have no sense of humour..my metalwork was horrendous to be fair and also Mr Stonier had a goaty beard and suffered from gout. The favourite though was Mr Labalestier whose nickname was “Bolly” and we used to sing a very unsavoury song about him in Chemistry!!! I think he retired is c1976.

Stephen Regal (of Regal Construction) notes that "The first job that I worked on!" and of course with Rok-Regal, his company is now involved in building the new school, which seems right and proper.

Janine B: I was in the first intake of students. Lovely school after we had all came from the parish schools, with coal fires etc. Particularly remember Miss August and her Morris minor car with the split windscreen. She would cart us around in it, this would never happen now.

Carole D: I too was there on day one, absolutely loved the school. We had a school reunion when we all turned 40!!! with some of the teaching staff.

And now some more photos and captions. Please share any more memories that I can put up next time.

Les Quennevais School 1966 - Part 2


Each morning the pupils and staff assemble either with the Headmaster as seen here, or in Year Groups with the Year Teachers.

The Hall will seat five hundred. - Note that back in 1966, that could mean all the school, but not now!



The Choir and Orchestra, seen here rehearsing with Mr.Ward, take part regularly in the assemblies.



Throughout the five year course at the school, certain subjects feature at all levels.

These include Mathematics - here a first year class works in the Maths Room



... and English - Miss Greenwood takes a second year class (which, incidentally, has made the puppets to use in the little theatre set up in their room by senior boys).