In this posting, I am looking back on a selection of blog postings I made in 2010, which cover a variety of the newsworthy items in the year. I have chosen to pick only one item per month in order to both make this manageable, and also bring a focus on that particular item.
A happy new year to all my readers.
The great majority of the population don't get enough to eat; and, from the time they are born, their chances of life are less than half of ours, These are crude words, but we are talking about crude things, toil, hunger, death. For most of our brother men, this is the social condition. (CP Snow)
This month, I posted in Jersey's lack of gift aid, and BBC Radio Jersey were very quick to pick up and help me. I haven't had a huge success so far, but I am working my way round politicians, trying to get the "one off limit" on a tax reclaimable donation down from £100 to £25, or £50 at least. I will be emailing more politicians this year, particularly when the election is looming, to get some definite commitments.
In the UK, not is there gift aid, but the Government is trying to find ever more inventive ways of getting people to give. Jersey is seriously lagging behind. These are some of the UK ideas. Why are we so lacking in innovation? There is a culture of the status quo, in part not helped by officials at the Jersey Treasury, which needs to be changed, and soon.
People could give to charity every time they use their bank cards at cash machines and the shops, under government proposals announced in its recent 'Giving' green paper. It found that 31% of donors give spontaneously simply because they 'felt like giving' and being able to make impromptu donations would therefore make it easier to give. "We want banks and ATM providers to let us know how we might make this
happen in the UK and whether there are ways we can facilitate this," the paper says. It cites the Columbian model, which, since 1998, allows customers to make a donation every time they withdraw money from an ATM with Servibank. There is now a network of 500 machines with about 100,000 donations a month, averaging $1 a time with a choice of three charities to choose from...The paper is also calling for a National "round-up-the-pound" scheme, which would allow people to donate their change when paying by debit or credit card. The scheme is already run by charity the Pennies Foundation and with first UK retail partner Domino's Pizza, the 'electronic charity box' has raised £20,000 for charities in six weeks. (2)
This saw the publication of the Verita report which exonerated Mr John Day in the tragic case of the death of Mrs Elizabeth Rourke. It also highlighted serious concerns with the management of the hospital. The Amos Group, meeting with the Treasury Minister in November, noted that "Philip Ozouf was critical about the previous oversight of the hospital and noted that there had been some recent changes which should make a substantial difference", but they also commented that "In the absence of any detail, it is not clear how the new management structure will improve on the old one."
What also came to light was that in court, Mr Day had all kind of allegations made against him, and was not called to defend himself against those; a pattern which was repeated later in the collapse of any timetable for disciplinary hearings against Mr Power. While bloggers are often castigated in the JEP for making allegations without giving the person involved a fair hearing, this unfortunately seems to have been the case with at least three people and the States - Mr Day, Mr Power and Ms Huchet.
The question not asked, or even raised by Advocate Sharp, meant that the allegations against Mr Day were unchallenged, and therefore presumed to be true. It would be extremely odd if this mitigation argued for by the defense was not in the minds of the jury when they left to deliberate. Perhaps Advocate Sharp would now like to explain why he did not challenge the evidence, or even perhaps call Mr Day?
Alan Maclean rewrote or edited a supermarket report because it didn't say quite what he wanted it to say; unfortunately the unaltered copy revealed the differences. There was a good deal of pressure for an extra Supermarket chain - and it will be interesting to see if Waitrose makes a difference, or the new Iceland franchise does. I am skeptical, because I remember the past!
There is a myth circulating that a new supermarket would cut prices significantly in Jersey, and now I read Helier Clement has bought into it. Perhaps the consumption of calvados has befuddled his aging memory, because I can very clearly remember when we did have a new supermarket. This was called Safeway, and unlike the supermarket that now bears that name, it was part of the large U.K. chain. Did it mean increased competition and reduced prices? Only on some of its own brand foods, which - as with the Co-Op - were sometimes cheaper than other brands. There were a few different loss leaders, items whose price is positioned deliberately lower to draw people in. But in general, most of the prices were much the same as the other supermarkets, then Le Riches and the Co-Op.
The lack of organisation in States departments, and financial controls comes to light when Sarah Ferguson releases her complete organisation chart for Health and Social Services. The department didn't have anything more than a sketch of the different areas and top levels of management, and couldn't provide her with one. Deputy Daniel Wimberley pestered Terry le Sueur for charts for other States departments only to be fobbed off with being told they were in the business plans; all that was there, of course, was the incomplete précis that Sarah Ferguson showed to be so inadequate, but it was sufficient for Terry Le Sueur to indulge in his usual fudging of issues.
That a large States department has no organisational chart is amazing - when I was working on a business continuity plan at work, one part of the plan was - quite obviously - an organisational chart, giving posts and responsibilities - and that is for a relatively small organisation. Someone at Heath can't be doing their job properly. How the States, with large departments like Health, manage without one is, quite frankly, incredible, because any additions to staff will likely be on an ad hoc basis, dependent purely on small clusters, and will very likely involve duplication, because no one has the big picture to hand.
"There is evidence that there is too much administration - for some departments within the Hospital there are eight or nine levels of management from the front line to the Health Minister. " (Sarah Ferguson)
"Any competent organisation can extract information from the computerised ledgers and identify exactly what has been spent on what. The States ledgers were in such an appalling state that it was not possible to undertake more than very approximate analyses." (Sarah Ferguson)
The election in the UK brought about a coalition, and the need for political opponents to work together rather than polarize against each other. Sadly in Jersey, Alan Breckon's proposals for a reform of the polarity between the Council of Ministers and Scrutiny failed, despite being backed by Terry Le Sueur, and Philip Ozouf saying that he approved and wanted to implement some of the changes as soon as possible. Later Senator Ozouf backtracked, and voted against what he saw as a return to Committee government. Alan Breckon was concerned about how effective politicians were being excluded from any participation in the process of government, and languished outside it.
Reading Barak Obama's "Audacity to Hope" recently, I was struck by the distinction which he makes between those politicians who want to win
arguments, and those who want to solve problems. Obama notes that often the paradigm for political confrontation is that of the law court, where winning arguments is more important, but that in politics, solving problems is far better.
"I wish the country had fewer lawyers and more engineers. Lawyers win arguments, engineers solve problems."(Obama)
It is notable also that Ernest Bevin (Labour) successfully achieved mobilization of Britain's workforce and became one of the most significant
members of Churchill's war cabinet. Sometimes coalitions can bring to the fore effective people who would otherwise have languished on opposition benches.
Stuart Syvret returned to Jersey, was arrested, released on bail, and fought an election which failed to see him elected again a Senator. Geoff Southern, in what appeared to be a show of egoism, decided to run for Senator, even though he was already in the States, and both terms would expire next year; this split the JDA, reducing it to a rump of just Mr Southern in the States. So far, nothing has happened with Mr Le Gresley's progressive taxes, although he did secure (albeit reduced) the Christmas bonus to all pensioners.
My first surprise of the evening was the almost absolute runaway success of Francis Le Gresley, being beaten only in one Parish, the home of Patrick Ryan who beat him by 12 votes in St John. I'll be interested to see if anything comes of his "progressive taxes" - he mentions capital gains tax in his manifesto, and I've always been of the opinion that the French model (where it is reduced to zero after x years) rather than the English one is the better way of justly curbing property speculators - who sometimes buy and sell new houses in a matter of months without even living in them - and so inflating prices of property.
The St Helier "surge" effect pushed Stuart Syvret into second place, after being behind Patrick Ryan in third place for most of the other Parishes. Yes this was not consistent - Stuart also came second in St Brelade, St Clement, St Peter and St Saviour. As Deputy Roy Le Hérissier pointed out, capturing about 1/5 of the vote, and coming a good second indicates a level of dissatisfaction with the Council of Ministers that they would be wise to acknowledge, otherwise, as he put it on BBC Radio last night, there might well be a "bloodbath" at the next election.
Jim Hacker: You can get them from the Public Records Office under the 30-year rule.
Alex Andrews from the Mail: Yes, I thought you'd say that, but I want a guarantee that I will get ALL of them. You made a manifesto commitment
saying you'd tell voters the facts. This is a test case. I want your guarantee that no papers will be removed from the file before it's opened.
Jim Hacker: I don't see why not. No skin off my nose.
Alex Andrews: Is that a promise? A REAL promise, not the sort you put in
(Yes Minister, The Skeleton in the Cupboard)
Any disciplinary hearings against suspended Chief of Police Mr Power were abandoned, and Senator Le Marquand decided to reveal the Wiltshire report, showing the "whole truth", except it was severely cut, and a firm promise for a much less chopped up version was given for September, and has now slipped into 2011. I wonder if it will take as long to be released mostly in full as the original report - and shouldn't Jersey have its own version of the UK's 30 year rule, to allow historians to see the whole picture, and those "in camera" minutes?
On the positive side, indications are given where names or sentences are removed. On the negative side, a lot of text is removed! The only document which appears to be intact is the reports by BDO Alto on finances and use of resources seems to have escaped the textual equivalent of a Beeching axe. In one of the reports, which is 109 pages long, page 9 to 89 are completely missing and the notice says "Text Redacted". How one can judge a document where 75% is missing is beyond me. It may be argued that it is not significant, but how do we know? Who judged that it was not significant, and are they right or not? With one of the other reports, we have 118 pages of a 383 document, which is around 30% of the total - 70% of the pages are missing.
This month saw Terry Le Main in a tussle with the Courts, and refusing to admit he had not anything wrong or unwise, but also being forced to resign. But I've chosen to focus on the benefits of farm shops, which I took up this month both in my blog and in the letters to the JEP.
The key factor in so-called quality control which cause supermarkets to reject some local produce is summed up in that little phrase " product uniformity". This means that potatoes have to be of a similar size, that the look and shape of carrots, green beans, and other vegetables is given an importance which is really beyond significance -- a good proportion of the food which does not meet the standards is nonetheless fresh, tasty, a nutritious -- it does just not meet what is an arbitrary aesthetic judgement. Supermarkets say that they're responding to what the customer wants, but to some degree they are also educating the customer into making an aesthetic judgement on the quality of food which makes no real sense at all. Not all supermarkets do this to the same degree, and some also provide containers of loose vegetables and potatoes from which the customer can make their own selection rather than being given the prepackaged washed "blemish
free" containerised food.
Against this, most of the food in farm shops that is local is provided loose for the customer to select with no peculiar artificial selection on what is blemish free or not. One might call this the "That's Life" test, after the television programme presented by Esther Rantzen in which all manner of peculiar and sometimes quite rude looking vegetables made their way before the public's view. There is absolutely nothing wrong with vegetables that have an odd shape because nature does not produce straight bananas, potatoes of uniform size and roundness, and sober shaped carrots (however much the late Mary Whitehouse might have desired it).
If there was no outlet for this kind of produce, it would simply go to waste. And we simply cannot afford these throwaway mentality of the 1960s
Returning again to farm shops, and also more allotments coming available, I considered the need for both of these as a counter-cultural movement, a return to roots and against the existential alienation resulting from a more urban existence which also throws up more social problems.
If we look at the Romantic movement before, we see the god Pan coming to the foreground in the literature of the time. As Ronald Hutton has explained, Pan was a rural god, a village yokel, and contrasted with Zeus and the Olympian pantheon of urban and civilised deities. Pan had long languished in obscurity, while English scholars extolled the virtues of Ancient Greece, and retold the Greek legends, but as the Industrial revolution moved into high gear, enclosure of fields shifted people who were drawn to the industrialised cities rather than remaining working on the land, and now the Romantic movement found in Pan the god of the woods. Pan was thereby a reaction to the alienation of modern society from its rural roots, and is, of course, still popular in Neopaganism today as a result.
That alienation is with us today. Many people live in flats with no gardens, and some find increasing solace in cyberspace, in Second Life, where they can live out vicariously the world they cannot find in the everyday. We live in a society of clocks, not rhythms of day and night, of calendars, not seasons, and the acceleration of this pattern of change can be seen most clearly in the harvest festival, where once a farming community brought grown food, but now, if fruit and vegetables remain a part of the festival, most of the congregation source it from supermarkets and farm shops. Even the seasonality of food, still present when I was young, has diminished, as a result of forced growing to create longer seasons of crops, and importations from far abroad. Counter-cultural movements, such as allotments and farm shops are increasingly popular because people are aware of what has been lost.
This saw the publication of the long awaited Napier report, as Bob Hill almost lost his temper at the endless delays while Terry Le Sueur dithered over any legal and disciplinary matters. In the end, Bill Ogley, the Chief Advisor, was disciplined, but this was "internal" and Terry Le Sueur refused to give any details of what that entailed. It was pure Yes Minister!
I have found no evidence of a "conspiracy" to oust Mr Power for some improper reason. (Napier Report)
But look at the words carefully - "to frustrate police investigation in Jersey" and "some improper reason". What does Brian Napier understand by "conspiracy", in these phrases? He clearly means some kind of cover up of dark secrets, a kind of murky world not unlike that described in a recent play on Radio 4, "The Conspiracy of the Illuminati". There was some kind of devilish plot to get at Mr Power, and destroy the child abuse enquiry. I know some suggestions have been made of that.
But there are conspiracies of many sorts, and there is clear evidence that certain individuals were conferring together, behind Mr Power's back (and hence in secret) , and while this may have been from the highest motives, they were definitely intending to remove him from office, and were preparing the ground for this. This emerges again in the Napier report.
GST proposals abounded from staying at 3% to 4%, 5%, 5% with exemptions, and 6% with exemptions. In the end the 5% with no exemptions won the day, after Philip Ozouf was forced to apologise for saying he would fight to keep it at 3% and it wouldn't increase while he was in charge. Philip Ozouf told the Amos group in November that "he is of the opinion that 5% is the absolute threshold at which we can't bring in exemptions, but that if we sort out our finances, we should not have to go above 5%." It will be interesting to see if he changes his mind again on this.
The argument is that while GST goes up, targeted assistance is provided to lower-income families. The trouble with this is threefold:
(1) deciding the amount of assistance is problematic, and can fall below the threshold of what is really needed because it is extremely complex to assess the needs of individual families, and consequently the analysis of needs works from a simplified model;
(2) there are always people at the margins, who are hit by GST, but who are just above the level at which they could claim for assistance. While the GST bonus scheme can address some of this, there still seem to be marginal cases, just above various thresholds for claiming support, who are penalised and find it more difficult. It is particularly areas such as food costs and domestic fuel that they have to struggle with. The Parish Welfare system was very good at proactively identifying cases of hardship, but this seems a weakness of the more simplified and centralised income support system, which increases in GST will only exacerbate
(3) rapid changes in market prices, such as a large increase in domestic fuel (which does occur), for example, will invariable not be offset by
immediate increases in the amount of assistance; there is a time lag in reviewing the figures, and taking decisions, which increases the chances that the targeted aid will simply not be sufficient.
I can see the merit of some of Philip Ozouf's arguments, but I can also see the problems at the lower end of the scale, and I remain unconvinced that targeted assistant works efficiently enough, either at its thresholds, or if economic situations (as with fuel) change rapidly. Given that GST will probably have to increase yet again - the experience of Singapore and New Zealand suggests that it will do so - I think that the GST at 6% with exemptions on food and domestic fuel is the wisest option.
Stuart Syvret was tried, fined, imprisoned, but released on bail pending appeal after a dispute between the Jersey authorities, such as Bridget Shaw who did not think he could have bail, and the UK judge, who took quite a different and independent line. It was clear from transcripts of the trial that were available that there appeared to outsiders to be a degree of animosity between the Magistrate and Mr Syvret, and the conflict over bail was notable for highlighting this.
But the story I have chosen to close on is not Mr Syvret's plight, but that of a pensioner, which demonstrated the hardship already faced by those on the margins of income support, and the failings in Jersey's system of welfare.
A PENSIONER was found stranded on his kitchen floor after falling while trying to keep himself warm in front of his oven. (JEP)
In the days of Parish Welfare, the disadvantage was that the system was not on a universal Island wide statutory level, but the advantage was that Parish officials were employed to proactively seek claimants who - perhaps like the pensioner in question - may have a need but had little or no idea how to go
First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.
Ebenezer: Is there no income support?
First Collector: Plenty of income support for those who can access it. Although it barely supplies enough to keep off the cold, and little enough for food.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop it in their useful course. I'm very glad to hear it.
First Collector: I don't think you quite understand us, sir. A few of us are endeavoring to buy the poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth.
First Collector: Because it is at Christmastime that want is most keenly felt, and abundance rejoices. Now what can I put you down for?
Ebenezer: Huh! Nothing!
Second Collector: You wish to be anonymous?
Ebenezer: [firmly, but calmly] I wish to be left alone. Since you ask me what I wish sir, that is my answer. I help to support the establishment I have named; there is income support, and forms to complete, and those those who are badly off must go there.
First Collector: Many can't go there. They are not eligible.
Second Collector: And some don't know that they can, and would die.
Dans'sie - Dancing - Traditional dance meet-up today 6-7pm at Saint John's Parish Hall (£2 contribution per adult please, children free, to cover hire of hall)
4 hours ago