Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Deputy Daniel Wimberley's New Year Wishes

I make no apologies for posting former Deputy Daniel Wimberley's letter to the JEP from 7 January 2012, as somehow it was one of those which failed to get to the online version of the paper, as indeed, so far, has Ben Querree's article which attacks his integrity.

Of the points which Daniel makes, humility is certainly one which has been singularly lacking. Immediately there is any criticism of the States, the immediate reaction is one of defensiveness. There is still a fortress mentality present.

This can be seen in in the report mentioned by Deputy John Le Fondre which apparently shows significant losses for the Waterfront project, even with a private contractor. What is the position with regard to the States now having the Jersey Development Company (formerly WEB) now running the project themselves?

We have been told that the unpublished report, commissioned by the Treasury, says that taxpayers could end up footing a bill for £50 million in connection with the Esplanade project.

It might be better to own up to a past mistake than to try to bury it.

And the same is true with the golden handshakes to departing Chief Officers, where again information is concealed under the guise of privacy. But as "Yes Minister" says, ""The Official Secrets Act is not to protect secrets, it is to protect officials."

Yet somehow the States accounts will be fudged to conceal these payments, and there seems no desire to investigate who produced the contracts and who signed the contracts, and we are simply told "it will not happen again"!! No one seems to want to pursue this within the Council of Ministers. This is not humility.

On the electoral commission, the States are moving away from Daniel's proposal to a largely "in house" commission, chaired by Sir Philip Bailhache. This will not mean consensus, or something that Islanders want, although it may mean proposals that can be pushed through by enough States members and forced on the Island whether the population want it or not. That is hardly a good start to dealing with electoral apathy.

Daniel's comments that "the media have a role to play here too" is important, because Ben Querree recently impugned his integrity, saying that Daniel would be much less annoyed if the commission was headed by someone from the left. It shows how the media have their own take, and simply have often lost the ability to listen; it says more about Ben Queree's cynicism that he thinks Daniel Wimberley's motivation might be as venal as he imagines it to be.

I work near the Town Park, and the Le Seeleur building is a total disgrace. Boarded up, decaying and no one apart from Simon Crowcroft shows the slightest motivation to do anything about it. In his will the former owner, builder Harold Le Seeleur, left his town workshop to the island decades ago. But it has been lying idle ever since is falling into disrepair.

We are told that the terms of the Trust prevent anything much being done with the property yet that didn't stop the States managing to do something positive with the Howard Davis Farm, despite that being subject to a covenant. Perhaps a Royal Visit to the Town Park would focus minds wonderfully?

Letter from Daniel Wimberley

HERE are my H is for Happy New Year wishes for the States (or should that be, the ministers?). What are yours?

Honesty: about population.

Ask the public genuinely what they want on this most important of issues. Describe the issues fairly and plainly. Reach all parts of the population not just those who shout the loudest. Abandon the mind-set which says: 'my ideology must win at all costs' and the spin and deception which goes with it. The process of trying to reach an honest consensus will lead to better policies and a more united Island. Try it.

More honesty: the other major issue-in our politics is: how much should we spend on our public services? And exactly the same considerations apply as set out above. So we have to be open in saying that our public spending is way below that of all other advanced countries, we have to stop claiming that low public spending leads to poor economic performance, when this is simply untrue, and we have to put real choices to the public instead of heaps of spin..

Humility: a big dose of this, please. It should be OK in 2012 to say: 'I got it wrong, sorry.' And this implies that others have the grace and right spirit to say 'fine, thanks' and resist the temptation to make political capital out of the apology.

The triumphalist 'we never get it wrong' grates on the nerves. Its purpose is to gain political advantage but it only does this by undermining politics itself, leading as it does to unrealistic expectations of our politicians and creating mistrust and apathy when reality does not match the absurd rhetoric.

If people and government are to work together to face our problems we need to understand what is going on, not have spin and propaganda thrown at us. Note: the media have a role to play here too.

Healing: the Committee of Inquiry into Haut de la Garenne must proceed, and in a format which is acceptable to all stakeholders. The results may be painful in parts, but it is the only way forward - for the individuals, agencies and departments involved, for the politicians, for all of us. It will no doubt take honesty and humility (see above).

Honesty again: an Electoral Commission set up to be transparent and independent aiming to achieve a voting
system for Jersey which ensures that, we are all represented in a fair and equal way, and to ensure that the people of the Island have a decisive influence in who ends up with political power (or, if that turns out not to be possible, with decisive influence on the policies pursued).

And finally, let's see some "aiming high", or ambition, instead of just a no-can-do feeling of being tired and
depressed. Some examples:

. We could return Plemont to nature, paying a fair amount of money for a derelict building and lots of bracken and gorse.

. We could get maximum value out of the fantastic asset which is Fort Regent. This will probably take public investment. The waterfront is a lesson to us all in what happens if you set out with Frank Walker's words: 'No public money will be spent on this.' What you get is what you pay for.

. Help a genuine democratic community group to form which would run the Le Seelleur building as the community focus for the new Town Park.

That's enough to be going on with - what's your wish list?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is an outline proposal for the use of the Seeleur building as a community workshop. It would fit well with both the protected and historical status of the building, the nature of the will and the presence of the Town park.

It wont go anywhere because the idea did not come one of the great and the good.