Monday, 23 November 2015

Leading Channel Islanders Unite to Save Struggling Jersey

Leading Channel Islanders Unite to Save Struggling Jersey

An alliance of prominent Channel Islanders are lobbying the UK to step in and help solve “serious“ problems facing the embattled Island of Jersey

They call for a Royal Commission style inquiry to be set up into the future of Jersey. Royal Commissions are public inquiries authorised by the Queen that investigate major issues of concern or contention.

The letter says that “the inconvenient truth” would seem to be that without some form of effective intervention from outside, people and investors in Jersey are unlikely to reach a sound and effective set of solutions to the problems they face.

These include:

1) An inability to reform the composition of the States of Jersey, over many years, despite an Electoral Commission chaired by a former Bailiff and current Senator. The States have simply sabotaged all efforts at reform, and the only solution is an external one: a panel chaired by a genuinely independent person of experience and standing who would be appointed by the UK government.

2) A Royal Commission should also look at and identify and put in place long term solutions to many of the economic and fiscal issues afflicting Jersey, and in particular, the falling revenue and fiscal black hole since the introduction of zero-ten. The economy is weakening, housing prises continue to rise, and Jersey has become a community in which increasing numbers of its sons and daughters no longer see as their future home. 

3) An internal system of Ministers and Scrutiny panels which is failing as Ministers refuse to co-operate in giving information to scrutiny, leading to a culture in which concealment takes precedent over transparency and open government.

4) A Care Inquiry which - despite being promised full support by the Chief Minister - is hampered by the Health department Minister refusing to supply requested information, and using taxpayers money to fund lawyers to defend their action.

Letter ends.

This letter was not written, unlike the recent letter to Sark, but could well have been. The issues stated are as pertinent. The astute reader may notice I've used many of the phrases used to express concern with Sark in the other letter which was written.

It does strike me as extraordinary that the signatories to the letter about Sark can see nothing wrong with the situation in Jersey and want to intervene in another sovereign democracy. And didn’t Senator Gorst suggest a Royal Commission might be the only way forward for Jersey's electoral reform? He has since taken up a Trappist Vow of Silence on the matter.

In the post war election change, a Royal Commission suggested changes, and the Islanders voted on it, and the States honoured that vote. The last ten years have seen a total failure of the States to reform themselves, causing concerns about democracy which don’t seem to have been noticed by those signatories.

Then, of course, at least two signatories were former Chief Ministers, and beneficiaries of the limited changes which did take place, and effectively responsible for keeping them limited.

Privileges and Procedures are, I understand, working on yet another set of suggested reforms to the structure of the States., which, if I were a betting man, would make me rich against if I could get a turf accountant to get me odds against.

Scrutiny, in the meantime, is treated with contempt by the Treasury Minister, who blames them for delays which he has himself caused. Can there be any better argument for a Royal Commission than the contempt the Council of Ministers has for both Scrutiny and the general public?

And in the meantime, Alan Maclean also says the Island should work together on marketing. As long as it is not the Channel Island Air Registry, of course, as he refused to engage with Guernsey (who were there first) unless considerable concessions were made to Jersey.

Fine soundbites of ideals are plentiful but action is negligible. The disconnect between speech and act could seldom be greater than we see whenever the Treasury Minister speaks. Wittgenstein's notion of a "speech-act" could scarcely be better refuted.

And yet the "great and the good" decide to write about Sark's problems. For those of us brought up on Bible lessons, the words of Jesus seem particularly pertinent: "And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?"

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