Thursday, 14 July 2011

Guernsey Watch

What's been happening in our sister Isle? Some interesting stories.

The schools in Guernsey may be "smartening up". Under the dreadful punning headline "Where the blazers is Education's evidence?", the article notes there could be problems over changes to school uniform as there has been no discussion, only a decision "from on high". It's lucky Jersey doesn't have a high-handed Education Minister who makes unilateral decisions like that, but in James Reed, a Minister who believes in consultation - especially over the school grants to the private sector!

EDUCATION'S decision to change high school uniforms is not sufficiently evidence-based and worries most teachers, a deputy has said. Former teacher Sean McManus (pictured) said the decision to make pupils swap polo shirts and sweatshirts for shirts, ties and blazers, had been made without consulting parents and teachers. 'The lack of comprehensive consultation prior to this shock announcement does strike me as being out of step with current expectations,' he said. (2)
Personally, while I like a tie as a means of being idiosyncratic - anyone who knows me knows I do not go for simple plain or striped ties, but animal motifs, medieval imagery, etc - I do think it has been too uncritically embedded in our culture. It is an absurd accoutrement which serves no purpose, rather like the fantastic wigs worn in the 17th century, or frock coats in the late 19th century - and it is about time its purpose was questioned. Does it make someone looker smarter, or have we largely been culturally conditioned to believe so? I have yet to read any coherent examination of the aesthetic merits of a tie. Jackets or blazers I like, because not having a handbag, I have to stuff all my bits - keys, mobile, wallet, inhaler, sweetener, loose change - somewhere!

Pensioners could have given Alan Maclean a few pointers when he was on BBC Radio Jersey blathering on about the States rejection of free school milk. They said everything was such a rush in the mornings when children were getting ready for school nowadays that quite often they forgot or didn't have breakfast, and so needed that milk for their calcium intake. Is Senator Maclean aware of the "school rush"? His interview on BBC Radio Jersey was virtually a remix of Jim Hacker from Yes Minister - " we would all like.. not the business of Government... there are many calls on the public purse" (the last is from Yes Minister, just so you don't get confused - but it was virtually what he was saying).

And speaking of the elderly, in another report - "Many of collapsed care business's properties are based in Guernsey"

MORE than 40 Guernsey companies will take back their properties after a UK care home operator folded. Darlington-based Southern Cross announced plans to shut down after it revealed it could not afford to pay landlords of its 752 care homes. The company, which cared for around 31,000 people, was one month into a four-month restructuring period following crisis talks with landlords and creditors in June. (4)
The Independent noted that:

Analysis by the GMB union revealed the names of 80 landlords who own 615 of the homes, many of which are subsidiaries of larger companies registered overseas. This makes it much harder to obtain financial information about the companies as rules governing accountability and transparency, especially in "tax havens" such as Jersey, Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands are significantly more lax.
The parent company of Four Seasons Health Care, which owns 400 homes, including 38 run by Southern Cross, is based in Guernsey. RBS, the state-owned bank, became its biggest shareholder earlier this year in exchange for writing off a £300m debt.(5)
In fact a report (6) reveals that the number is 43 for Guernsey - but Jersey is not far behind with 39, which I failed to spot in the JEP. At least the Guernsey press prints the story, even though it is not particularly good news in terms of reputation. May we hope to see some accountability and transparency here that we are always hearing about?

Health features on Guernsey's own review of health, called "2020 vision" (the puns are invading big time!), and it would be interesting to see how much Jersey and Guernsey do actually talk over shared services. After all, a trip across to another Island is cheaper and quicker than to the UK mainland, and easier for relatives in any cases of hospital care over a slightly longer period. Will we ever see more than just talk on these matters?

REVIEWING the contracts of organisations such as the Medical Specialist Group will be a key element of Health and Social Service's 2020 Vision, its new director of finance and performance has said. Tom Niedrum (pictured) was delighted to have been appointed to the new role. 'There are a number of things going on at the moment that I want to be involved in - one of the biggest is obviously the 2020 Vision,' he said.'But my immediate goal is making sure that for 2011 we stay within budget. 'That would be a big achievement for me and the department.' (7)
And finally, Sir Philip Bailhache also gets a mention in the Leader Comment:

Putting paid to widespread speculation, former Jersey Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache has now confirmed that he is to seek election to that island's States as a senator. And it is clear that he feels driven to do so. Not only is he giving up a lucrative position as a part-time judge, he is also standing largely on a single issue ticket. In his view, the States of Jersey has lost its way and constitutional reform is needed urgently. While he believes ministerial government can work, the system has not developed sufficiently and having too many politicians has resulted in high levels of personal animosity and bad blood.(8)
It doesn't however, mention his previous comments on constitutional change, and in particular the fact that he would like an independent Jersey (if not a federation):

AN INDEPENDENT Channel Island federation might serve Guernsey and Jersey better in a tax crisis than remaining linked with the UK, Jersey's Bailiff has suggested. Sir Philip Bailhache, a former member of the States of Jersey, fears further intrusions into the islands' tax rights and rules (9)
GUERNSEY and Jersey need to be ready for the possibility that the Channel Islands might eventually need to be independent. Jersey Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache said there were important constitutional issues about which people need to think and talk. (10)
Jersey's review group, headed by Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache, has estimated the independence route at an initial capital outlay of £3m. and annual running costs of £11.3m. The document is a blueprint outlining what would need to be done if Jersey felt forced into independence (11)
But he has also been rather vague in the local Jersey media as well. Perhaps he is biding his time to explain what he means this time round by "constitutional issues", and what he is proposing that the electoral review now voted for cannot do. It is all rather vague, and acrimony that he criticises in today's States comes in part, whether he likes it or not, from the fact that the Council of Ministers tends to present their policies as a "fait accompli" with no consultation beforehand with other States members, and a largely token system of collecting public responses.

Acting like tin-pot dictators - and James Reed on education is probably the worst example since Guy de Faye left the States (remember the Ministerial "decree" giving utility companies the right to dig through anyone's property) - is not going to promote harmony and goodwill in the States Chamber, and there are only two ways to resolve it - give the executive such powers they can ignore the States - or consult with the other elected members more.

To gain goodwill, you must show you can treat others with goodwill. I'm in favour of more of that - having imbibed C.P. Snow from an early age, I prefer consensus Government any time to confrontation, but consent can't just mean others agreeing with you when you've never bothered to talk to them. The only democracies where that is the rule are those countries called "people's democracies", and I think everyone knows what that means!



Anonymous said...

On the subject of changing names. I managed to do it twice in the UK using a Statutory Declaration. Typed it up myself,read it out in front of a lawyer, one hand on the bible, paid a fiver and Bob's your uncle. Passport, driving licence, house deeds etc all changed no problem. Only hiccup was, yes you've guessed it, the Jersey branch of HSBC who insisted on a deed pole.Closed account after kindly UK branch manager agreed to allow transfer in "old" name!
My advice, move to the UK!!

Tom Gruchy said...

I blogged on Tom Gruchy (linked on this page) re care homes under "Caring and Not Caring in Jersey" on 3 June 2011.

The worrying issue of such businesses being hidden one way or another in tax/regulation havens like Jersey and Guernsey should attract our protests. People in care deserve at least as much attention as whales and it is evident that some of our own care homes are within these groups.
When the collapse comes where shall our elderly and infirm relatives go?
A selfish interest might provoke local action but I doubt it. Business ethics rule here.

Tom Gruchy said...

Why are there so many bloggers in Jersey and so few in Guernsey and the Isle of Man?

Abi Tostevin said...

I'm the sister of the Indy in question (who is now 2 years old and as yet has no problem with his name!) I don't think you actually read the article? He's not named after a 'surf dude' as you put it, my parents wanted a name that would suit our lifestyle, living on Guernsey's best surf beach (portinfer) which we can hardly get him off of! We all love his name and this is the first criticism we have yet encountered. His middle name Zacchaeus comes from my Dad's favourite Bible story (which being 2,000 years old could hardly be described as off the wall) and is more meaningful than naming him something off one of the top 100 baby names for the sake of conformity. I saw this and couldn't help but comment because it's important for you to remember that this is a real child with a real family (likewise with your thoughts and views on the Watson family).

TonyTheProf said...

The Guernsey Press had a headline "Ade in dash to Tash and their baby with the surf-dude name".

I'm glad his thriving and happy with his name. I think I may have misread the headline.

TonyTheProf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TonyTheProf said...

I've amended the blog to remove the reference to your brother and the Watson family.