Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Politicians Twitter On

There have been some interesting tweets recently on Jersey matters. While Rob Duhamel was on air defending his tenure as Minister, there was some criticism about planning for historical buildings on Twitter:

LPerchard @bbcjersey The Historic Building section at Planning are unrealistic. Madness saving all old buildings & features simply because they R old

jimrondel @JLPerchard @bbcjersey Totally right Jim. The perfect example is Zion Temple. When are we going to get on do something? #politicshour

This reminded me of the story in September 2012, when the Methodist Chapel at St Martin was refused a door, ramp and handrail for disabled access by the Planning Department. In the end, the decision was overturned by the Planning Applications Panel, who felt that disabled access should take priority over the historic aspect of the building.

This wasn't the case, of course, with the St Helier Methodist Centre, where any ramps outside were forbidden by Planning some years before. In the end, a solution was found inside, with internal ramps and a lift, preserving the outside look of the building.

It is a planning policy that reminds me of the way Georgian buildings were constructed. The stucco-fronted neoclassicism of the Regency often disguised cheap materials used inside; there would be good quality hard bricks for outer walls, while poorly made "place" bricks which were cheap, including as much ash as clay, were used for the unseen work of walls and partitions within. The facade was what counted.

So too, the Odeon Cinema, probably the ugliest building of its kind (compared to the Art Deco frontage of Wests Cinema, or the fine entrance to the Forum Cinema) has had the insides ripped over and reshaped; it once had one screen alone and a circle and stalls, but all that changed when it became multiplex. But that doesn't matter; what matters is that it looks fine from the outside. As the book of Proverbs says, "Like a coating of glaze over earthenware."

Meanwhile, with the Nurses march over pay, Deputy Tadier suggested that Jersey Finance should come along and do something to support them:

DeputyTadier @jerseyfinance Will Jersey Finance be supporting the nurses at their rally today for fair pay? After all, they take care of your workers

This prompted the fair reply that on the basis of that logic, every industry in the island, from tourism and hospitality to the motor trade should also be supporting the rally:

jerseyrobins @deputytadier Will you be asking the same question of other industry bodies? Or are you just having a pop? @jerseyfinance

GollopGuern @DeputyTadier @jerseyfinance might argue they support CI economy and tax take significantly!

In fact, I suspect a lot of people do support the nurses, even if they couldn't attend the rally. It is difficult to understand really why Deputy Tadier was singling out finance. But it led onto an interesting exchange with BaldTruth - alias Deputy Trevor Pitman and EvilC59 - alias Clive Tomes:

EvilC59:  But are any politicians identifying the funding to pay for a decent rise? Priorities - walk, but do nothing?

BaldTruthJersey: Could start by getting the T&R Minister to keep his word and get some tax from 'foreign' companies.

The main rejoinder of Clive Tomes (alias EvilC59), was not that States members should be critical of Philip Ozouf for not coming up with a solution, but that they should take responsibility themselves for coming up with a viable plan:

EvilC59:  Interesting response as local companies pay no tax! What will YOU do, not who do you blame?

BaldTruthJersey: I'm surprised if you do not conclude the whole zero/ten fiasco to play a part in all of this. It does.

BaldTruthJersey: The Establishment way is to tag any differing as 'blaming' ; as 'wreckers' etc We need to get past that.

This is, of course, coming from someone who virtually compares Sir Philip Bailhache with Joseph Goebbels, in a recent blog posting. Perhaps he needs to get past some of the invective too!

But Clive was back on the case, noting that Trevor Pitman, rather like Michael Howard, was carefully avoiding the question:

EvilC59: Another interesting response, avoiding the challenge (and economic reality) completely. Shame.

EvilC59: Perhaps if you come forward with positive, economically realistic alternatives, who knows?

BaldTruthJersey: I hope you are not going to say we mustn't tax 1 (1) Ks and Finance fairly because 'they'll all leave?'

And again Trevor Pitman says various things, but avoids answering the question. Instead he asks rhetorical questions of Clive, which is another way of evading the question:

EvilC59: I don't believe I've said anything - I've just asked you, and up to now, you haven't answered

And now we have some comments on a Casino, but again Trevor doesn't say clearly that is something he is going to bring as a proposal to the States. His replies are so oblique that it is hard to know what propositions he is going to bring regarding identifying funding to pay for a decent rise for the nurses. He might be bringing a proposal to the States, but there again, he might not.

BaldTruthJersey:  Gambling interesting example. COM want 'on line' but not a casino Why? 4+ mill tax. 30+tourism knock on.

EvilC59: So be positive, gather support and bring forward your proposal - far better than the blame game

BaldTruthJersey:  Agree Which is what I do. I leave the blame/smearing to Bailhache & co. All my propositions 'positive'.

EvilC59:  So do it

To be fair to Trevor Pitman, he is not the only politician to do this. One has only to read the Question Time in Hansard to see how Ministers ramble on and avoid giving answers. Here's an example by the Deputy of Trinity, Anne Pryke. Notice how she avoids any reply to the question about the population figure used for the proposed new hospital. Now that's something pretty obvious; as with for example data storage, it is prudent to plan for future capacity, and in this case, with a hospital, to plan for a future population figure. Instead, we get told what percentage of current hospital is occupied by inpatient numbers. It shows us that a bigger hospital is needed with greater capacity, but gives no information about the population size planned.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: Can the Minister tell us what population figure was used to determine the size of the hospital?  Was it based on the existing 97,000?  Was it based on some projection forward when our population policy fails and we get up to 110,000, or what figure was used to calculate the size of the hospital?

The Deputy of Trinity: As I said, on our 3-year recent data because that is an important figure because we know that there is an increased number - and I will get the inpatient numbers to you - but the present capacity of inpatient numbers is running at 95 to 98 per cent. Sometimes it goes over the 100 per cent which is not right in this day and age because it raises the risk of infection control, and also we know that the hospital with 6 bays to a ward, does not allow the flexibility.  But as I said, I will get that information.

Deputy M.R. Higgins: With respect, the Minister waffled on about something that was not even related to the question.  The question was quite specifically what population figure for the Island did the Minister base the size of the hospital on?

I could help being reminded of Yes Minister by these exchange sin which no direct answers were being given:

"Take Refuge In a Long Pointless Narrative. If you can ramble on for long enough, no one will remember the question and therefore no one can tell if you answered it or not. ...I summed it up...: if you have nothing to say, say nothing. But better, have something to say and say it, no matter what they ask. Pay no attention to the question, make your own statement. If they ask you the same question again, you just say, 'That's not the question' or 'I think the more important question is this:' Then you make another statement of your own. Easy-peasy." (1)

(1)  Yes Prime Minister II, pp. 67-8


James R said...

I think you hit the nail on the head with the Yes Minister quote Tony - T. Pitman, and the Health Minister are not the first and will not be the last elected representative to avoid answering a question, in a lot of circumstances it comes with the territory. In terms of the States Assembly I do not necessarily think avoiding an answer is a problem in itself, however the mechanism we have at the moment where supplementary questions are so limited is unworkable. Previously under the Committee system a member could ask numerous questions until they got an answer whereas now it is almost a facade of accountability.

As an aside I was interested to note your thoughts on the Odeon Cinema, I too feel that is unappealing and having researched it, I was interested to note that it is in fact merely a replica of the Art Deco period, rather than an original. For this reason alone I think it could be developed on because at the moment, as I say, we are merely protecting crumbling replica.

Similarly the stakeholders who are interested in the preservation of the building are not locals at all, but film/building enthusiasts from the UK which leaves me with this question to the Planning Department:

What is more important, the development of the northern side of St Helier to remove the neglect that it has suffered from in favour of the Esplanade, as well as much needed support to our construction industry - OR - satisfying the interests of non-local, non-tax payers?


Nick Palmer said...

Tony, you're being rather unreasonable re the EvilC59 v Baldtruth exchange. EvilC59 asked:

"But are any politicians identifying the funding to pay for a decent rise"

There is an implicit framing in the initial question - it was heavily loaded - so that EvilC59 is demanding that any proffered solution must involve someone else apart from the man with his hands on the levers of power finding funding - presumably he wants politicians not responsible for the black hole to identify money that is just lying about somewhere - and that is all he wants to hear so that is why he pursues his idée fixe by hectoring BaldTruth to extract only the exact answer that he wants.

Quite reasonably Baldtruth points out the major reason why there is not sufficient revenue in the pot to please public workers - it was decisions made by the T. Minister and his economic advisory panel - and suggests that the T. Minster pull his finger out and did what he promised, in which case there would be more revenue. EvilC59 makes a hoohah about not "blaming" others, but those others are responsible; had they not made that policy, or had now started doing what they promised, they wouldn't get blamed. The cause of the lack of funding is not Baldtruth - no doubt he would have voted against 0-10. The lack of funding is caused by the policies planned, instigated and maintained by the T. Minister and his Sir Humphreys.

EvilC59 "What will YOU do, not who do you blame?"

There does seem to be a prevalent sickness in Jersey culture, almost certainly because of the disproportionate number of yuppie type jobs here, with the associated HR policies of not wanting blame to be assigned, particularly for those in the top levels of the hierarchy, which seems to indirectly cover up and prolong systemic and individual failures - indeed, there seems to be a faith based idea that using woo-woo psychology that demands "accentuating the positive and eliminating the negative" attitude is a sensible, rational, effective way to behave.

On the contrary, Anne Pryke was unreasonably avoiding a reasonable, very relevant, unloaded question. We want to know how many more people the inner circle are planning for this over-crowded isle and she was deliberately not saying because, we suspect, the answer would horrify people.

TonyTheProf said...

The Treasury Minister did issue a report or answer to question (I forget which) in which he explained the main problems with work-around 10/0 falling foul of the European Court of Justice regarding tax structures.

I looked at this myself when Philip Ozouf first mentioned he was going to look into it, and you can see the explanations here:

Gibraltar basically tried and failed to get an alternative tax clawback on non-local owned companies trading in the Island, and could not bring the proposed measures.

If Trevor Pitman had bothered to look into this, he'd know how difficult it was, and rather than saying The Treasury minister should do something, why doesn't he come up with a proposal that won't come a cropper in the same way as Gibraltar.

Instead he gives the palpably false impression that because some hidden motives, Philip Ozouf has done nothing. That is not constructive at all.

Actually the rot set in when the Isle of Man decided to go for 0/10, leaving Jersey and Guernsey little room for other options, and I've not come across any alternatives, apart from losing all the old exempt tax/ corporation tax companies to another jurisdiction. But perhaps you and Trevor think that is the way to go?

Of course, I think 0/10 has many flaws, not least that foreign owned trading companies don't pay Jersey tax. But it is very unlikely that a good solution is available. I though that Philip Ozouf would have to admit as much my 2012 posting, and he has done so. I leave an exercise to you to look up the relevant details ; they are somewhere on the States Assembly website.

Can you put your thinking cap on and come up with something?

Incidentally, a year or so ago, with regard to pensioners bonus, Francis Le Gresley came up with an option that didn't disenfranchise a lot of pensioners from a bonus, and was fiscal neutral. So it is quite possible for people to come up with strategies - and in his case, win the argument, rather than just asking the Treasury Minister to give an alternative.

Nick Palmer said...

My comment was not really about whether Ozouf could come up with the goods or not. The whole problem exists because the development of the Jersey economy was linked to the exploitation of the growing deregulated international finance bubble from the 70s to 2008. Characters like Ozouf still think they can re-inflate a burst and shrinking bubble.

My post was rather to highlight the destructive anti-blame positive thinking ideology that has captured the minds of the whole yuppie office environment which lead to the unfair Tweets.

re: "thinking cap".

Well I do have answers but, as Deep Thought almost said, I don't think Jersey is going to like them.

TonyTheProf said...

"Well I do have answers but, as Deep Thought almost said, I don't think Jersey is going to like them"

Let's see them on your blog, please. Don't keep us in suspense!

Or is this a case of "I do have answers but there's not enough room in the margin to write them". What might be called Palmer's Last Theorem!

Let's face it, it is very easy to be critical, very difficult to come up with a constructive alternative.

Nick Palmer said...

The answers involve such changes that conservative (small c) minds would use their full brain power to deny and avoid and not listen.

Moreover their defence mechanisms would cause them to give less credit to those expressing "moderate" ideas in the same ballpark.

TonyTheProf said...

Well you might put up a blog posting on your proposed changes so we can see what is on offer.

At the moment, we are in Wizard of Oz territory, lots of loud bangs, smoke and whistles from you, but nothing concrete.

Don't avoid the challenge.

TonyTheProf said...

Well you might put up a blog posting on your proposed changes so we can see what is on offer.

At the moment, we are in Wizard of Oz territory, lots of loud bangs, smoke and whistles from you, but nothing concrete.

Don't avoid the challenge.

Nick Palmer said...

As you didn't post the magical number of three times, I won't give any details.

Maybe a couple of clues: Think global, act local. Remember that the big countries out there will have to be thinking locally any minute and will be looking to act globally to achieve it. Small fry trying to stay on top of that tiger will be washed away in the flood.

Therefore it makes no sense to give life support to an about to be terminally wounded golden goose. Attempting to resurrect known past glories to return to the so called golden years will be fruitless.

When asset bubbles explode there must follow a period of contraction, consolidation, probably 30s style depression and eventually, in this particular global case in front of us, a transition to a sustainable economy based on living within our various incomes and not based upon the turbo-charged credit bubble creating inherent in fractional reserve private banking.

Nick Palmer said...

Serendipitously, (or was that you just being a clever clogs again?) some claim that the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is actually a metaphor for the late 19th-century debate regarding monetary policy

Political interpretations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz