Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Flying off the Handle

Apparently the funding for the air display from Economic Development has been slashed over the last few years. This is in line with the policy of Senator Alan Maclean, who was threatening cuts back in 2010:

"The financial squeeze in Jersey is likely to mean hard times for events like the Battle of Flowers and the Battle of Britain Air Display. States funding is drying up and Economic Development Minister Alan Maclean says both events should aim to become more commercial - like Jersey Live or the Branchage Film Festival. Neither of those events require States funding." (1)

And the report goes on to mention these forthcoming cuts (in 2010):

"Senator Maclean recently announced that they plan to cut the funding of events like the Battle of Flowers by £138,000 a year. The Chairman of Jersey's Battle of Flowers says the idea of making the event more commercial to cover its costs is easier said than done."

"Cutting the grants would also affect the Air Display, which claims to attract the most tourists and gets a grant of about £100,000." (1)

It is ironic because Senator Maclean had beaten Deputy Mike Higgins in 2008:

"Senator Alan Maclean has been voted as the island's next Economic Development Minister. He beat political new-comer, and organiser of the Jersey International Air Display Deputy Mike Higgins in the States members vote." (2)

Senator Maclean is also the Minister responsible for appointing a full-time representative in China. Apparently, the position in Beijing would cost about £60,000 a year. He's also visited Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 March 2013 to meet senior Israeli Government officials and leading finance and business representatives. He has recently appointed Mr Tim Herbert as chairman of the board that will oversee the Jersey Innovation Fund. The creation of the £5 million fund "is an important element of the States of Jersey's strategy to deliver growth and diversification in the local economy by supporting investment into original projects and business ideas and improving Jersey's international competiveness."

Incidentally, neither the proposition in the States, nor the Ministerial decisions regarding a Chairman that I've looked at seem to mention Mr Herbert's remuneration; as they don't state it is an honorary position, I would imagine that, like the Shadow Tourism Board Chairman, John Henwood, there would be some remuneration, but by some strange oversight it seems to be missing from all the documents relating to its foundation. Even the formal application for a Chairman to apply fails to mention this. Perhaps the good Senator would care to rectify that, especially if it is buried in the minutiae of Ministerial decisions.

Now I'm not criticising the Senator for supporting the finance sector, or the local economy, but he seems to have taken a back seat when it comes to tourism, which apparently needs less and less support from the States. Balancing the budget is a tricky task, but hitting tourism seems to have been a soft option for the Minister's budget.

I've been waiting for any announcement regarding funding for the Air Display, and the shameful record of the Minister's department in cutting grants, but reading his Twitter feed @AlanMacleanJsy, you would be hard pressed to know that an Air Display had taken place. A major tourism event, and he can tweet off around Tim Herbert, but has nothing to remark upon the Air Display at all! It's another example of the Ministerial bias towards Finance and away from Tourism.

Senator Philip Ozouf, who does not have the remit for tourism, manages a tweet on the Air Display that it is raising money for a good cause.

Brendan Brady, writing in the JEP, says:

"There are only two really great events in Jersey, the Battle of Flowers and the Battle of Britain Air Display. Both events attract the largest crowds and visitors from all over the world. Both events should without doubt receive total and absolute support from our government."

"The taxpayer cost for the recent referendum on the vote for an 'A', 'B' or 'C' government was nothing but a joke as we all knew the answer before it started, but £196,000 was wasted there. The £200,000 spent on a possible film that may never happen, is another waste of public money."

"I am sorry but it just goes on and on. Yet our government chooses not to fully support two events in Jersey that actually make this Island stand out in the world by showing what we can do." (4)

Helier Clement comments that:

"Mike Higgins seems to me to have made a damn fine job of organising the event in recent times - I've certainly heard nothing to the contrary - but effectively mortgaging his home in order to guarantee an air display is way above what anyone should reasonably expect from him or anyone else. Has no one learned any lessons at all from the fireworks display that never was?" (5)

Next year seems on surer footing. Mike Higgins had to raise a loan with his house as surety to make good the costs of this year's display, but as the BBC reports:

"Robert Gaines-Cooper, one of the show's main sponsors, paid off the loan. The multimillionaire, who lives in the Seychelles, did his national service in the RAF and has supported the display for 17 years. Mr Higgins said: "Without his money we would never have had an air display for as long as we have and as good as we've got." He said Mr Gaines-Cooper had paid off the loan and pledged additional funding for next year's event." (6)

So this essentially lets Senator Maclean off the hook. But when elections come round next year, just after the 2014 Air Display, let's not forget how he failed to come up with any extra support, despite his Department authorising £200,000 for a movie that may never see the light of day.

And John Henwood, who was appointed Shadow Tourism Board Chairman, back in February 2013, also is conspicuous by his silence. All we had from him at the Institute of Directors lunch on "Tourism and the Economy" seem to have been vague platitudes:

"'Public sentiment leads political direction and it is important that we look at tourism afresh and realise that, though she may not possess that first flush of youth that we fell for all those years ago, she is still very attractive and can do things for us that others can't.'"

People have complained, sometimes with justification, that Deputy Rob Duhamel seems to have a bias more towards environmental matters than planning ones. They should also note that Senator MacLean also has a strong bias towards Finance rather than Tourism.

In the old days when there were separate committees for tourism and business development, there was more of a balance, but now, under Ministerial government, a lot depends on the personal preferences of the Minister in charge, with no circle of Committee members to ensure the balance. But the different departments were all placed under one umbrella, with the maxim "joined up government", and the fanciful notion that somehow things would simply "gell".

It's one of the weaknesses of Ministerial government which I was discussing with Enid Quénault recently, and it will be interesting to see if the review of the machinery of government manages to address this issue.

Links(1)   http://www.channelonline.tv/channelonline_jerseynews/displayarticle.asp?commentstatus=abuse&id=489576&commentid=41433
(2)   http://www.bbc.co.uk/jersey/content/articles/2008/12/11/ministries_economicdevelopment_feature.shtml
(3)   http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2012/P.124-2012.pdf
(4)   http://www.thisisjersey.com/news/comment/2013/09/16/give-the-air-display-full-financial-backing/
(5)   http://www.thisisjersey.com/news/comment/2013/09/16/this-show-lights-up-my-life-%E2%80%93-but-it-comes-at-a-high-price/
(6)   http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-24070677
(7)   http://www.thisisjersey.com/business/2013/09/12/the-island-is-urged-to-rekindle-its-love-affair-with-tourism/


James said...

All we had from him at the Institute of Directors lunch on "Tourism and the Economy" seem to have been vague platitudes

That's untrue and you know it. Hold the real villains to account: the politicians who failed to honour the pledge to put money into the Tourism Development Fund.

TonyTheProf said...

Please give me a citation for his support for the Air Display and its finances.