Wednesday, 31 August 2011

A Bid for Chief Minister?

The bizare nature of "unjoined up government" became even more apparent with the announcement by Philip Ozouf that he has put in an amendment to the Business Plan to allocate more funding for the Clinique Pinel Refurbishment.

BBC Radio Jersey notes that:

An "urgent" upgrade of mental health wards is needed at St Saviour's Hospital in Jersey. Treasury and Resources Minister Philip Ozouf has asked the States to approve additional funding of £1.7m. The money will be used to upgrade facilities at the Beech and Cedar Wards at the hospital's Clinique Pinel, which are not up to standard. Clinique Pinel provides assessment and treatment for people over the age of 65 with mental health illnesses. Some £1.1m has already been allocated to refurbish the wards, but Mr Ozouf would now like the States to increase the amount to £2.8m for "health and safety improvements". He said a recent visit to Clinique Pinel had make it apparent the work could not wait and was "absolutely essential" in order to bring conditions for residents up to a minimum standard. "I consider this work to be unavoidable," he said.

Now that part of the budget comes under the purview of the Health Minister, Anne Pryke, who has been asked no difficult questions about why the facility has been let to run down. With Health and hospital facilities, the departmental approach appears to be the same as that for Housing with the States Housing - not to spend money on any essential work until it is absolutely necessary. To paraphrase a saying, the maxim followed by the States appears to be:

"If it ain't broke, don't bother spending any money on maintenance"

Ben Querree, writing in the JEP on "one of the great States myths" notes that "one of central tenets of the 2005 ministerial reforms - that instead of 15 or so States departments pulling in various different directions, what you'd have is ten ministers pulling together, creating 'joined-up government'."

And he is quite right - there seems to have been no consultation over the cutbacks in health between Ministers, and clearly, when money is put back, there is no investigation about why matters were allowed to deteriorate in this fashion. Was the Health Minister, Deputy Pryke aware of the situation? Or was she kept in the dark by her Chief Officer, who was keen to save money at any cost? These are the kinds of questions I would like to have seen raised by the JEP or BBC Radio Jersey, but they were singularly absent. I am reminded of the curious incident of the dog in the night time.

According to the report in the JEP and BBC, this amendment was made after a recent visit by Senator Ozouf to St Saviour's Hospital, prompted by concerns raised by Anita Shepherd. Clearly, Senator Ozouf needs to get out and about more.

Other matters that he might like to consider in the budget proposals (in the Annex to the Business Plan, where all the dead bodies are usually buried) are:

Special Educational Needs and Special Schools - Provide educational support for children with special educational needs. Cut by £67,500

Youth service: Cutbacks £16,700

Grants and Advisory Council: Provide miscellaneous sports grants to support individuals and organisations.Cut Budget by £146,200

Of course, after the Elections this year, comes the election for Chief Minister, and it will not hurt Senator Ozouf to have on his CV such items as:

Provided funds to Durrell from the stability fund in 2011 - when of course, in 2010, there was a cutback to the education budget taking away the Annual Grant to Durrell enabling Primary Schools to take children there. Robbing Peter to pay Paul springs to mind. But the Education Minister had to make the cutback, not Senator Ozouf.

Provided funds to Health for St Saviour - and no difficult questions asked about why such conditions had been left for so long, who was in charge of monitoring the property, and why the Health Minister was not aware of this. Again Senator Ozouf triumphs, but it is not too good for Deputy Pryke.

This way, of course, he can be the harsh task master, reigning in States spending for other States departments, and yet also show himself to be generous and compassionate with his personal largesse - the other Ministers get all the flack, he gets the glory.

Or am I being unduly cynical in thinking he is using what is, after all, taxpayers money to buy popularity for his bid for Chief Minister?


1 comment:

James said...

Why is it, in a government run by accountants, that not one person seems to understand the difference between capital expenditure and running costs; the importance of the latter in reducing the need for the former; the principle of asset depreciation; and the most basic principle of accountability in spending other people's money?

Is this what spending too much time cooking up tax evasion schemes does to their hardwired accountant heads?