Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hidden Agendas

Here is a spotlight on all the concealed items, which are the "B" agenda's on the Council of Ministers meetings, so that they are not held in public, and no minutes are made public. I've also added a few comments here and there!

Meeting to be held at 9.30 a.m. on Thursday 7th May 2009

The part 'b' agenda includes the following items of business –

States of Jersey Development Company
This is the extension of the Waterfront Enterprise Board to the whole Island, and involves not just one, but - if it goes ahead - myriads of masterplans all over the place! See my last blog entry on this.

Haut de la Garenne – Building Status Update
Why this needs to be hidden, I do not know. Are there developments afoot (or sale to a developer) that needs to be kept under wraps? Perhaps Don Filleul was right we he suggested this might be on the cards: "An external consultant recently recommended that there should be a super hotel at Gorey."(6)

Will they come in, and what form will they take? Perhaps the sewage charge proposed by Philip Ozouf in a recent JEP - "this is not a stealth tax", as he said, is on the agenda here. Perhaps he should apply the "duck test": If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. Yes, it will be a stealth tax, ostensibly targeted at those not on main drains to be earmarked into sewage and mains drain connection improvements. I remember Terry Le Sueur emailing me a few years ago to say that "ring fenced" taxes, those earmarked for a particular area, were generally out of bounds. I wonder if Philip has changed Terry's mind on that one. And if we can do it for environmental taxes, why not also for road taxes?

Strategic Plan Update
This is the fiasco currently meandering like a drunken glacier through States sittings. When I tuned in today to the live coverage, I could hear the Constable of St Lawrence explaining that the Council of Ministers objected to Mike Higgins amendment of part of the wording in an early section about "diversifying the economy" on the grounds that it was mentioned later on in the document, and that would be duplication of wording. This was the issue at hand in a debate that lasted at least an hour, and was adjourned to be continued tomorrow. If the Council of Ministers can't live with the same issue coming up twice in a document, and political debate has sunk to that level, they should be sectioned by a psychiatrist. I have never heard such idiocy in my life.

Depositor Compensation Scheme
Still under wraps after Guernsey managed to whizz one through, they probably don't want to expose any flaws to Mike Higgins (who already worked on a draft) before they have to. Or perhaps they are re-using his old papers, but have to reword them enough to make it look like they have done some work on the matter.

Meeting to be held at 9.30 a.m. on Thursday 23rd April 2009

Concessionary Bus Travel
This is the stinker of Mike Jackson to take women from 60-64 out of the free bus concession, and stop pensioners using it at peak time. My mother only does that rarely, when she has an early morning out patients appointment at the hospital, and she returns out of peak time. So she may well take her car (the cost from St Brelade for a bus fare is not exactly cheap, compared with the cost of a scratchcard). At least means testing has not come up yet, although - as this is a hidden session - it might!

Civil Partnerships
Why this should be controversial, I have no idea. It seems that it resolves a problem whereby a same sex union that is legal in the UK is suddenly void in Jersey. Perhaps they fear that - as with the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals to that of heterosexuals - some States members like Len Norman (former Education Minister) may say words like "I am content with a difference in age limits for conventional sex between male and female and buggery between 2 males, simply because I know and it is a proven fact, that there are big differences between men and women and boys and girls."(1) or James Reed (now Education Minister) commenting that ""Are we really expected to legitimise what is regarded by many as a totally unnatural and unacceptable act?" (2).

Pay Awards
Well this was the "big freeze" in States employees pay. And note the online statement by the Chief Minister said they would be recommending a pay freeze for States members as well - "Ministers also decided that they would recommend a pay freeze for States members.."(3) Which, as it happens, is an amendment proposed by the Constable of St Peter (4), so it is on the agenda, but is being opposed by Privileges and Procedures on the grounds that his proposal does not follow the proper procedure for States members pay awards (5). So this time it is PPC that is moving towards the twilight zone of sanity.


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