I am still awaiting the A-Team's detailed study of how the Constables fit into their system. Sam Mezec seems to think that they will have a purely honorary capacity. Simon Crowcroft, who is after all in a better position to know, says that in that case they would certainly need to fund a Chief Executive for St Helier if they did not want to pay the Constable - in other words, there will be a cost element to ratepayers.
I do wonder how blissfully ignorant most people in the A-Team are in relation to Parish affairs; perhaps some more blog posting from Simon could help. He may even decide to retract what he told me at the Town Hall about the need for a paid position; after all, he has changed his mind once. To change it twice, however, reminds me of something Oscar Wilde once said.
In the A team scenario several assumptions have been made, all of which are false; based more on perception than fact. In 2010, Senator Sarah Ferguson did an analysis of the St. Brelade Parish Accounts. Given that the parish is the fourth largest, the figures are quite modest relative to the services and functions the Parish affords to its parishioners.
This analysis was published in La Baguette, and here is an extract:
"Former St. Brelade Deputy, and Public Accounts Committee Chairman Senator Sarah Ferguson explains. There is a considerable amount of detail in the accounts but they are clear and enable all rate payers to understand exactly where their money is spent. They are prepared on a very straightforward basis. Income is mainly recorded when it is actually received - in other words when cheques or cash are in the hands of the Parish Secretary. There are a few exceptions where money owing is recognised as income."
"Expenditure on the other hand is on the accruals basis. This means that all money owed by the Parish is always included in the accounts whether it has been paid or whether it is still owed by the Parish. Because of this the accounts always show the pure unvarnished truth of the state of the affairs of the Parish. In fact the balances in the accounts represent money in the bank."
"The main source of income for the Parish is the rates. The two crucial parts of the rates meeting are the estimates of the expenses for the following year and the decision on the Parish rates. If the forecasts of expenses are too low then the rates could be too low and the Parish would have to levy an additional rate, which would not go down well with Parishioners. If however the expenses are set too high then the Parish would have to set too high a rate which would also upset the Parishioners. Fortunately the Parish has an experienced team who make sensible forecasts."
It is notable too in that article there was mentioned just one dissenter to the rate proposed. That was Deputy Montford Tadier who wanted to increase the rate from 0.87p per quarter to 0.90p per quarter. And he is an A-Team supporter.
While it may be argued that there were (and still are) items seeking funding, it also needs to be remembered that the rates have a direct impact on all households. The prudent stance is therefore to raise the rates as little as possible and look toward other funding sources for non-urgent projects. It needs noting too that Maison St. Brelade as a singular and most urgent expense, had been financed from various sources - not just the Parish.
Income for that year  totalled just under £1.3m, the majority of which was derived from rates. Of that the bulk of expenditure was spent on two items, services and administration. The running of the Parish Hall plus staff wages amounted £469,850 - or roughly one-third of total income.
It can be clearly seen therefore that that if the cost through salary to a Constable at the same level they enjoy by being a States member were part of the St. Brelade equation, the impact on expenditure would be significant - approximately 10% rise. Alternatively, if a Chief Executive was appointed, that would also cost at least the same.
There would also be several hidden costs too.
At times of deputation (such as illness, holiday, funerals etc) whereas at present the Procurer(s) or Chef de Police might temporarily fulfil some of the functions of Connétable. It is clearly far less acceptable that these be provided on a honorary basis if the Connétable himself were drawing a salary from the parish.
It could be further argued that anyone currently deployed in a honorary position may equally take the view that they should also be paid. As it stands, honorary police officers do get a small honorarium but that forms part of the overall policing budget (a separate item) not an administration cost.
The Connétable is not an administrator like the Parish Secretary, but option A pre-supposes that they are and to some extent seeks to re-define their role. They also suggest that there are many people who would 'like' to be Connétable but don't stand because it brings with it a seat in the House with which of course comes a £40k+ per annum salary which presumably they would be happy to give up!
Even supposing that were true, the 'post' of Connétable would only be open to those who could afford to take this philanthropic view - and if anything the incidence of contested elections would be even less than at present, as the workload would undoubtedly mean that it was only open to people with independent means of income, and that it also did not take them away from time spent on that; in other words, it would mean the Constable would be elected on the same kind of basis as States members were before they were being paid. That seems a very retrogressive step, and one which would almost certainly ensure many worthy candidates would simply not stand. It would be reserved to people of substantial means.
The whole purpose of remuneration for States members was that lack of means would not prove a barrier to standing for election. Under the Option A proposals, if the Constable's remuneration is not funded from the ratepayers, then it would mean turning back the clock to the days before remuneration.
I bumped into a curmudgeonly old boy today when conducting a random survey, and he told me that he wished it was still "the good old days when States members didn't get paid". I don't think that was a particularly healthy position; apparently, the A-Team think otherwise with regards to Constables. Do they want to be in that kind of company?
Quite how that position of an honorary Constable is supposed to improve democracy and revitalise the Parish is questionable. I think the trouble is that the A-team have repeated their same mantra so often they have begun to believe it without spelling out in practical terms of costs. "Vote for A - it means a renewed Parish", is just so much flim-flam unless it is costed out thoroughly. Let's have some flesh on the bones, please. Some solid accounting, based on Parish accounts, as has been done in the case of St Brelade.
On the other hand, if A-Team agree that the Constables were to be paid, St. Brelade would face a 10% increase in administration costs just to keep par with current salary, but the lesser populated and largely country parishes would be facing huge increases to match par. It may be the case that smaller Parishes could manage with an honorary position, but an investigation of their finances and workloads would also be needed to provide facts and figures by someone with the requisite accounting skills, like Senator Sarah Ferguson.
Rhetorical flourishes do not constitute sound accounting, and quite honestly the same phrases are about "strengthening the Parish" (coupled with a lack of a detailed accounting and administrative study) is beginning to sound like a record that has got stuck. The devil is very carefully avoiding the details, one might say!
Of course St. Helier would have a far less of a problem - but they would also be seeking to engage a CEO if they didn't pay the Constable - again the impact on the rates would not be insignificant. A CEO for St Helier might actually end up being paid more than the Constable is at present. Simon Crowcroft hinted as much to me.
In summary: A Parish is de facto a business, one that needs to balance to books and deliver dividends to its shareholders (me and you) by way of services which they do more efficiently than the spendthrift States members (or would-be members) who don't appear to understand even the basic principles of running a business - let alone the municipality (of which they don't seem to understand its function) or even the role of the Connétable. Either the rates of the larger Parishes will need to increase for a paid position - CEO / Constable - or it is back to the bad old days when gentlemen of private means could aspire to that office, but ordinary people could not.
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