Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Reviewing the Year: March 2015

A strange FOE request in March!

Reviewing the Year: March 2015

As before, I give links with some snippets from the blog postings on news stories which I commented or reported upon.

March 2015 began with open evenings, not terribly well attended, at which members of the public – like myself – could meet Ministers and chat one-to-one.


Paul Routier on Immigration and the need for qualified employees.

Senator Routier seemed unaware that the Accountancy Degree at Highlands which shares the first year with the Financial Services Degree has stopped for one year because of lack of numbers, and the Financial Services Degree itself has only about 10 people in one year. Are these being promoted enough as career choices? With the Finance industry asking for more immigration to meet its needs, it seems obvious that local degree courses could fill the gap, if more students took them up. Perhaps local businesses should also be promoting take up in liaison with Highlands?

Andrew Green on the new hospital, and the timetable back then. 

The reader can judge how wide of the mark his promises were! Quite how much of a "consultation" there will be remains to be seen, but it is clear that the possible choice of "The People's Park" suggests little consensus building and more government by dictat, as can also be seen with the threat of compulsory purchase..

The hospital site (and Kensington Place) remain one option, as does developing Overdale, but he was waiting for the feasibility study to come back to him, hopefully this week, on the costs of the different options.

The next stage would be public consultation, probably in April or May, and also probably involving some meetings in the Parishes, and if lucky, the States might actually debate the preferred solution in July

On prescriptions, he was of the opinion that a charge should be introduced, but that there should be a cap on the amount. He also thought that people with specific life threatening conditions should be protected because they had to have a repeat prescription – I cited the example of a diabetic, and he concurred. This was very different from a one off prescription of a course of antibiotics for an infection.

Rod Bryans on Les Quennevais School and his timetable back then. 

Unlike Andrew Green, he promised and delivered. The consultation was genuinely looking to find what the people thought, and it was very clear that he wanted to move ahead with a public consensus.

My main questions on Les Quennevais School were – where is it going to be built? When is it going to be built? And, given the constraints on States spending, how is this going to be funded?

Property Holdings are providing a feasibility study which should be out within a week, and following this there would be a public consultation on the options at Communicare, a vote in the States, and the development of the option chosen, which should take between 2 – 3 years to complete.


A Guest Posting from former Senator Alan Breckon:
About £100 Million has already been used from other sources to prop-up existing expenditure. This has been “withdrawn” from the Dwelling House Loans Fund, Criminal Offences Confiscation Fund, Car Parks Trading Fund, Health Insurance Fund etc etc …also a sell-back of States held shares to Jersey Telecom, similar proposals for Jersey Water allied to Treasury requests for extra dividends from JT and Jersey Post.

Most of the funds that have been raided, deliberately had a narrow remit – to protect them – however the access changed with Ministerial Government, giving both authority and access to the Treasury Minister and Treasurer of the States. Although Scrutiny or a Review by the Public Accounts Committee could shed some light on how and when funds were siphoned off it won’t bring the money back! I believe it is important to highlight the “withdrawal” of funds and cashing in of shares, mainly because most of this can not be repeated – when it is gone it’s gone! The family silver has been sold! A never to be repeated exercise – or is it?


It was finally settled in March that Scott Wickenden should not face disqualification after one of his nominees was found to live in the wrong St Helier district.

The Parish check was a second set of eyes which he relied upon, proved unreliable, and I would hope that procedures will be improved to ensure this cannot happen again. It would be also helpful to know why it had happened: had the Parish been working from an out of date electoral role? Was there in fact (as happened in St Brelade in a number of instances in 2011) a case of someone moving address, being placed on a new roll, but not removed from the old? That needs to be investigated, but probably won't.


A strange Freedom of Information request by persons unknown.
"Can the states of Jersey confirm if they have zombie attack preparedness plan? If yes, would you kindly release the public guidance that the states of Jersey would give out in the event of a localized, or global zombie outbreak?"


"The States of Jersey do not hold any specific plan with relation to preparing for, or dealing with, a zombie attack. The States of Jersey Emergency Measures Plan provides overarching guidance for Emergency Services and other responders in the event of a major incident affecting the island."

Actually, as I pointed out in the blog, the reply enabled the States to give links to all its policy and procedures and tests for disasters – other, than of course, those caused by Zombies. Or, alternatively, by States Members, some of whom may be mistaken for Zombies.


Some double-thinking over criticism of Guernsey’s considering the telecoms spectrum as something which is a property right attracting a charge. Philip Ozouf said it was a tax, applying the “duck test” : If it looks like a tax, I apply the “duck test”, he said. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. Strangely he argued the opposite about the Long Term Care Contribution which was a “charge” and not a “tax” - payable by taxpayers!


Would Her Majesty be Amused? A question I asked when Queen’s Chaplain (only one, fortunately her majesty has others to call upon) launched a tirade against Islam citing verses that showed it was a violent faith. If he’d troubled to read “The God Delusion”, he would have spotted that Richard Dawkins did the same with the Bible.


Democracy – Now and Then. A threatened boycott of Liberation Day after it was decided pretty well all of it would take place at The People’s Park. Initially the Bailiff and Chief Minister took the view that they knew best – and then backtracked and increased the celebration by the Pomme D’Or.


In the States, a change of venue….

The debate on the continued funding of the Jersey Care Inquiry took place today but has been adjourned. Because of problems with electrics and a fire alarm, it was moved for the first time to the Town Hall.

And unusually – although it has happened in the past – the “speaker” was a States member, and not the Bailiff, who apparently recused himself because of a conflict of interest.

Why not make this practice permanent?

A rotating chairmanship, perhaps for a month or two months, by a number of nominated States members would mean that the House and the electorate were not wholly deprived of a member by being set aside as speaker. States members can already take the helm; it would require but a small change to regularise it.


Eddie Noel’s strategy is to increase parking charges to such a degree – far above the cost of living – to ensure that people leave cars at home and take public transport.

If you live in a relatively inaccessible location, for example – down at Ouaisne – you have a hefty climb to the top of the hill before you stand a chance of catching the bus. The days are long gone when buses – and even the narrower double-decker buses – actually went down to Ouaisne and up before travelling on to St Brelade’s Bay.

Moreoever, any increase in car parking charges, if it effects anyone, will effect the poorest first. I don’t expect any lawyers, top civil servants (if they don’t already have free parking), dentists, doctors, top management etc moving to the bus.

What the Minister is proposing is a very blunt stick, and we haven’t seen any carrots.


An “operational decision” by Susie Pinel

Claimants who get assessed as having their faculties impaired up to a level of 30% have always been expected to have a job or look for work if they want to get Income Support, just like everyone else, but those above that threshold have not been expected to find a job."

"From today, the estimated 100 claimants whose impairment is assessed as between 30% and 35% will also have to get a job or prove they are trying to find one – and the department is aiming to increase that threshold to 50% by the end of 2016, which will affect around 350 people. "

Academic studies show that the kind of work that someone is capable of may depend on the kind of incapacity they have and not just the bare percentage; something which needs additional medical assessment.

I'm also very unhappy with an "operational decision" -unlike a Ministerial decision, which I think this should have been - it was not published on the Gov.Je website. I think it should have been a Ministerial decision.

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