Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Votes in the States

The Fifth Amendment

The Fifth Amendment to the Medium Term Plan was a close run vote, 23 votes pour and 24 contre, scraping in by a whisker.

The importance of this amendment is stated in the pre-amble.

“Part (a)(i) of P.72/2015, Medium Term Financial Plan 2016 – 2019 (MTFP), asks the States to approve approximately £2.9 billion of income for the years 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, as outlined in Summary Table A. This includes a charge of £53 million; £50 million to cover the proposed sustainable funding mechanism for health, and £3 million to fund the payment of rates by the States. No detail has been provided on either of these 2 mechanisms.”

“It is also clear from CSSP hearings with Ministers that no analysis of the impact of any tax or charging increases on Islanders will be forthcoming until the addition to the MTFP is lodged in June 2016, yet the Assembly is being asked to approve the principle of these charges in this MTFP.”

“Accordingly, the Panel strongly believes that Members should have the ability to vote separately on each year of income as identified in Summary Table A, rather than having to vote on all 4 years en bloc.

To put it in layman’s terms, the proposed “health charge” and the “sewage charge” and for that matter any other charges that may be conjured into existence, have absolutely no details given about them, and yet the States are being asked to vote to approve them not knowing what the impact will be on the ordinary man or woman in the street. It's like asking approval for a 4 year budget, with 3 years still having empty spaces, and the words "To Be Advised".

I can’t see a bank providing a mortgage if a business went to them with those kinds of terms, but evidently enough States members thought this was a good idea. That gives us some idea of the quality of economic thinking by the current States. They are so focused on the budget deficit that they will pass a budget which resembles a Gruyère cheese.

The impact of collective responsibility is also beginning to show – Ministers and Assistant Ministers all supporting the plan, and no doubt calling in all the favours they can.

I list them below for the record, as I think it will be worth revisiting at the time of the next election, by which time the said “charges” – really stealth taxes by another name – will have been put into place.

I’d also note for the record that four of the Constables voted for the amendment, and eight against it – proof, if proof were needed, that there is not a “block vote” in place. In fact, there is more of a consensus with the Senators, where most of them consistently follow the party line.


Senator Zoe Ann Cameron, Connétable Alan Simon Crowcroft, Connétable Sadie Anthea Le Sueur-Rennard, Connétable John Edward Le Maistre, Connétable Christopher Hugh Taylor, Deputy Judith Ann Martin, Deputy Geoffrey Peter Southern, Deputy Carolyn Fiona Labey, Deputy Jacqueline Ann Hilton, Deputy John Alexander Nicholas Le Fondré, Deputy Kevin Charles Lewis, Deputy Montfort Tadier, Deputy Michael Roderick Higgins, Deputy Jeremy Martin Maçon, Deputy Samuel Yves Mezec, Deputy Andrew David Lewis, Deputy Louise Mary Catherine Doublet, Deputy Russell Labey, Deputy Scott Michael Wickenden, Deputy Simon Muir Bree, Deputy Terence Alexander McDonald, Deputy Robert David Johnson, Deputy Peter Derek McLinton


Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E., Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf, Senator Alan John Henry Maclean, Senator Ian Joseph Gorst, Senator Lyndon John Farnham, Senator Sir Philip Martin Bailhache, Senator Andrew Kenneth Francis Green M.B.E., Connétable Leonard Norman, Connétable John Martin Refault, Connétable Deidre Wendy Mezbourian, Connétable Juliette Gallichan, Connétable Michael John Paddock, Connétable Stephen William Pallett,

Connétable Michel Philip Sydney Le Troquer, Connétable Philip Bond Le Sueur, Deputy Anne Enid Pryke, Deputy Edward James Noel, Deputy Tracey Anne Vallois, Deputy Susan Jane Pinel, Deputy Stephen George Luce, Deputy Roderick Gordon Bryans, Deputy Kristina Louise Moore, Deputy Murray Julian Norton, Deputy Graham John Truscott

Deputy Richard John Rondel Ill
Deputy Richard John Renouf Excused attendance

The Pensioners Christmas Bonus

I’m rather disappointed in Murray Norton. Back in August 2015, I suggested a compromise suggestion, that it might be capped and means tested. I’m not an advocate of means testing, but I thought at least it could be saved for those most needy.

“I would like to see the pensioners Christmas bonus retained, but agree that it should be targeted. A few years ago, a proposition was brought in to the effect that it should be means tested, but Senator Francis Le Gresley had it retained but reduced - a cost neutral position. I think perhaps the time has come to have it re-assessed, perhaps with a limit of £40,000, to allow for the fact that any means testing will be on GROSS income, and pensioners have other expenses to also take into account - rental, rates, insurance etc.”

Murray replied:

“There is currently some work ongoing on this, in fact I had a 1 hour meeting on just this today with the Minister for Social Security. I will look at your suggestions & revert back.”

Well, I’m still waiting for him to revert back despite a reminder, and I can’t see any sign of any change of policy from Susie Pinel, the Minister for Social Security. If he can come back to me, I’m happy to blog his explanation for the delay, or he could leave it as a comment below.


Dr Mark Egan is to be the new States Greffier, the first time for some time that the post has not been filled internally. It was evidently decided that succession planning was not appropriate for such a position. I have noticed that it rarely is for Chief Officers. 

This time it was advertised abroad, and the best person for the job was someone with absolutely no local knowledge of how things work in Jersey. In the words of Yes Minister, "it needs an open mind, uncluttered", and obviously it was agreed that Dr Egan fitted these qualities perfectly. We are not told how much the wider advertising cost, or whether any agency was involved.

I was looking at the qualities chosen for the post-holder, two of which are listed below

Customer Focus – We put the customer at the heart of everything we do.

This sounds as if it is an advertising slogan devised for a company by a PR firm for retailers. Are the States members really “the customer”? It seems more likely a quick cut and paste job, with a bit of editorial fatigue creeping in.

Political Shrewdness – Applies sound judgement at all times.

I could not but think of Yes Minister, where Sir Arnold is discussing who is to be his successor as Cabinet Secretary with Sir Humphrey. I can see Michael De La Haye and Mark Egan in those roles respectively..

It was reported that there were 16 candidates for the job, including eight from Jersey, but Dr Egan was “the unanimous choice of the panel after full and frank discussion”. Perhaps it went something like this.

Sir Arnold: My successor has to be someone who can be firm with our political masters.
Sir Humphrey: Absolutely. No nonsense with that lot!
Sir Arnold: But tactful...
Sir Humphrey :- Exactly.
Sir Arnold - Suave, charming, emollient...
Sir Humphrey : - And above all, sound.
Sir Arnold : Sound? Oh, yes, sound.

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