Friday, 5 June 2015

The Untouchables

"I regard the Masterplan as a living document that must be allowed to evolve and be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances." (Senator Jim Hacker, "Yes Minister")

Philip Ozouf was “mistaken” with his pre-lets figure of 200,000 square feet. That is how Senator Maclean tried to spin away the assurance that was given in February 2014. Apparently, with this kind of mistake, it doesn’t come to light until just after you have one tenant for an office block.

And now Alan Maclean has “clarified” that we didn’t need that condition because it only applied when Harcourt were developing the site, and now the States is doing so in phases, there is not that risk.

Apparently, with this kind of clarification, matters only need to be "clarified" after you have signed one tenant for an office block and decided to send in the bulldozers.

Scrutiny, meanwhile, were given notice by the same Alan Maclean (who was dismissive of commercial risk of the building) that they needed to sign a disclosure agreement making them personally liable for any leaks of commercially sensitive information. Suddenly unique and unprecedented conditions appear like a conjuring trick.

The Greffier, thank goodness, advised them that this would set a very bad precedent. Constable Chris Taylor from Scrutiny was on BBC Radio to explain about it. This is not Reform; these are central standing politicians who are being treated with distrust as if they cannot behave responsibly in accordance with the standards of Scrutiny. And Alan Maclean gets away with this!

And the whole matter is kept from debate in the States. Scrutiny no longer has time to do its job thanks to Senator Maclean’s refusal to hand over documents until it is too late to prevent the bulldozers going in.

If anything, this reminds me of China, where the rulers decided to just bulldoze out a space for the Olympic stadium, regardless of any people living there.

Now there are no people living on the waterfront, but the same arrogance is present. Senator Maclean, of course, stated before the election that this was his last time in the States – unless of course he decides to “clarify” that!

Like a good conjuror, with a glib patter, there is a lot of trickery and smoke and mirrors. So far, he has not decided to saw Senator Ozouf in half, but the day may be coming soon.

Senator Ozouf is becoming unstuck elsewhere. He did not leave a note, as far as we know, saying “there is no money”, but he did give what seemed to me to be a rather contemptuous dismissal of John le Fondre’s claims about a budget shortfall of around £100 million when speaking to a Scutiny panel - pre-election, of course.

Everything was rosy before the election, but now we know that there was indeed a shortfall, possibly as high as £130 million. The Financial Times reports Alan Maclean saying that “80 per cent of households may have to pay more tax next year. An increase in the marginal rate of income tax from 26 per cent to 27 per cent is under consideration for 2016. The move could raise £8m from lower and middle income earners.”

Evidently Senator Ozouf, in both his statement to scrutiny, and his aim to reduce the marginal rate, was again “mistaken”.

And now Jersey’s Health Minister has announced that the island’s new hospital will be built on a single site.

As Channel News reported: “At a meeting this evening, Senator Andrew Green has confirmed two potential sites are being investigated, but they are waiting to put together a costing plan before naming them.”

“It comes after tens of thousands of pounds has been spent on consultants looking at whether the hospital should be spread over one or two sites.”

And how much money was spent producing a report which went to the States suggesting the Hospital should be built on two sites? And who proposed it to the States? Step forth Senator Ozouf. 

"It became very clear that no other option existed that was realistic, affordable and would deliver a hospital within a timeframe, apart from the dual-site option"

He also appointed a "design champion" - a post which he decided did not need advertisement - "We did not advertise it. We needed to make progress. "

Presumably, his plans, promoted as “the solution”, were – what is that word – “mistaken”.

Meanwhile Senator Ozouf remains an Assistant Minister but with a special prerogative of being part of the Council of Ministers – when he is in the Island, of course. There are no reprimands, no blame apportioned to him, and it seems as if his position is secure as ever. He can come and go as he please rather like the Cheshire cat, for this is Wonderland.

And Alan Maclean can just send it the bulldozers regardless of waiting for Scrutiny reporting back. Forget Scrutiny, because evidently when something is to be forced through, Scrutiny is treated as toothless and ignored. Is this a good way to govern?

It appears that whatever mistakes they make, or how appallingly dictatorial they can be Senator Ozouf and Senator Maclean are the modern “untouchables”. The mistakes of one can be "clarified" away by the other, and no one is ever held accountable.

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