Monday, 6 July 2009

Email on Jersey Heritage

Dear Senator Le Sueur,

I am writing to express my dismay at the remarks - reported in the JEP last night - that Jersey Heritage will have to seek their own solutions to their funding crisis.

Part of the funding crisis can undoubtedly be attributed to the States themselves. I understand - again from the JEP - that the Maritime Museum had to pay harbours around two-thirds to three-quarters of the moneys it raised in admissions to the Harbours department for rent. It seems inconsistent that the States should be funding Jersey heritage on the one hand, and taking away that funding with the other.

The crisis is coming at the worst possible time, and there will also be a significant impact on tourism if the prime sites are closed for the summer months. This will impact on the Island's economy in the worst way, with disgruntled visitors, and bad publicity. Is this prudent? Cultural heritage tourism is both "added-value" for general visitors, and also an opportunity for niche marketing of Jersey as a holiday destination (cf

Moreover is it fair to sell the Island with marketing that promotes sites that the tourist discovers to their dismay have been closed? Surely there is a moral obligation, especially with the tourism season upon us, to provide a better service than the kind of brochure in the 1970s package holidays to exotic destinations where nothing matched the glowing pictures? Surely we cannot sell a lie, and the alternative - to put a disclaimer on the tourism website, or as an inset in the Airport brochures - would be exceedingly damaging.

You were reported as saying in the Evening Post that Jersey Heritage had already had supplementary funding this year, with the implication that the need for more funding comes from poor management of its funds. Would not a sensible approach - with the tourism season upon us - be to ensure that Heritage has emergency funds to tide them over - and then ask the Auditor-General Chris Swinson to conduct a review to ensure that the problems do not stem from poor management? Reports - as the delays reported in Hansard make clear - take a considerable time, and by then the patient may have died. Action is needed now.

The intransigence of the Council of Ministers seems rather myopic, and I hope that on mature reflection, they will see fit to help Jersey Heritage at this time.

I have had a reply from Senator Le Sueur, which I print mainly because he says the JEP provided a misleading representation of what he said, and so in fairness to himself, I think it should be made public so that the record can be put straight:

I would ask you not to accept blindly all that is written in the J.E.P. The States is committed to working WITH the Heritage Trust to find a solution to their funding problems. However as an independently constituted organisation it would not be right for the States to dictate how the Trust should operate.

The 'crisis' (as you call it) has not occurred overnight, nor will the solution be found overnight. Indeed, as your letter suggests, the Trust fulfils a variety of functions, and it may be necessary to prioritise some of these.

Whether the review is carried out by the CAG or any other organisation it does need time, and hence the reason why some emergency funding has been provided. I am confident that the Trustees have the matter well in and and I await the outcome.

Whether or not this means that the museums will now close awaits to be seen. It is not clear whether "emergency funding" refers to early this year, or the present crisis. I do not believe all I read in the JEP, in fact I note that they are prone to selective quotations, and certainly Jersey Heritage has made some bad decisions in the past, with the Puddleducks, for example. But if we wait for endless reports - and I noticed in the last Hansard that there were at least 4 delayed reports due - the patient may have died before anything can be done.

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