Monday, 22 February 2016

Can we have some real figures please?

Reading Between the Lines

Andrew Green responded to Christian May in a letter addressing some of the issues raised.. It is interesting to note what is unsaid as much as what is said, and read between the lines.

"I can confirm that the website was originally conceived in November 2015 at a time when Ministers were planning to engage in a different way. This was based on the fact that the People’s Park appeared to be a strong contender, but this was always subject to compensatory regeneration proposals that were still in development."

So what was the "different way" of engagement? As this is a reply to questions about why the People's Park was the primary image on the new hospital website, and on Twitter, and Facebook, we may safely conclude that the People's Park was not only "a strong contender" but also "the favoured option". The website, then, was designed to promote that at the expense of the other sites. It was biased.

And finally, the Council of Ministers has come out with The People's Park openly, after prevarication by the good Senator. I recall Senator Green on ITV when he stated he was not going to give a preferred option in case it might cause "bias"! And now they have! Why couldn't he be honest about it in the first place?

The Figures that Don't Add Up.

My preferred option for a new hospital is open at the moment, but either the Waterfront or Overdale, probably weighed towards the former.

My blog on costings from industry analysts shows figures across the UK

Having read a few accounts of the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, especially the claim that the development is "luxurious" yet, apparently seeming to offer impressive value compared to Jersey proposals, I would appreciate some sort of explanation for the differences.

While Jersey will be higher, we need a breakdown of costs.

Are fitting out costs being included (which are below the line same for all options)? How much is land purchase? And should the States have to pay for the Waterfront site which is essentially theirs anyway?

Anywhere which is not the People's Park will also have, as Ben Shenton noted, the old hospital site available, either for housing, or as an offset to costs.

We should certainly have some figures which allow us to see where the base cost comes in relation to Turner and Townsend's reports. At the moment all we have is a complete nonsense.

Well it would help if the unknowns were made clearer! I think it is an insult to the public to provide one figure, no breakdown, and hide behind a smokescreen of confidentiality.

The lack of information is why I can't make up my mind between Overdale and the Waterfront. Also the build on existing site doesn't as far as I can tell, involve the purchase of the hotels and Kensington place properties, which is ridiculous when the People's Park option does!

I think Andrew Green has probably got around 90% of support when it comes to needing a new hospital, that argument is not needed. What is needed is a closer look at the sites.

Valuations will be shared with Scrutiny and States members on a confidential basis, but not with the general public.

Part of the problem is a lack of trust and transparency. The Turner and Townsend's reports are an industry analyst report of construction costs of hospitals, including site preparation, and are not to do with land value.

I'd like to see that cost of a hospital build shown separately so we can all see what is base cost of build, and what is extra. That way we could at least see what how the base cost compares on a UK based comparison. As it stands, there is no data at all for comparisons, which has led to a number of people, not surprisingly, finding large hospitals at cheaper builds in the UK.

What I do not understand is the costings which include all kinds of extras over and above bare hospital builds, making any comparison with the UK almost impossible. I find it difficult to make an informed decision when the information is not forthcoming.

I don’t want to be told it is a good valuation, I want to see for myself, and at least have some idea for comparison with the UK. I don't want to be told that Scrutiny will check the figures. I want to see that the figures stack up for myself. Or at the very least, if in confidence, the figures given to people I can trust - Christian May - a lawyer, and Ben Shenton, a former States member with financial acumen.

If this means splitting off figures and giving separate details on basic hospital build, land and compensatory purchases, fitting out costs - at least we would have three figures, one of which would enable us to see value for money. If the figures include moneys raised by borrowing (and include interest payments), we should know that.

Compensation - When is a Promise not a Promise?

At present, we are told to take the figures on trust, and there is precious little of that. Chatting to an acquaintance, he mooted the view that if the People’s Park went ahead, the compensatory schemes might not because that is the point when we would be told the money had run out. There is no trust that they will be delivered, and that is hardly surprising when you consider that the promised Millennium Park was only passed by an oversight in misplacing a ring binder.

So I think is quite a widespread attitude: that the Council of Ministers is not trustworthy. The erosion of trust has come in degrees.

We had empty promises not to raise GST, followed by a GST rise. We had promises to have an inquiry into historical child abuse, followed by an attempt to renege on that promise. We had a Treasury Minister tell the Scrutiny that any talk of a black hole of 100 million was scaremongering, followed by a post election discovery that it was worse than it seemed. Would he have been re-elected had we known?

We have a pre-let promise on the Waterfront explained as a mistake, so that the scheme could go ahead. The way in which Scrutiny had to try to get information about the Jersey International Finance Centre was like pulling teeth. We had Tracy Valois taken into the Treasury Ministry, given nothing to do, but effectively silenced. (Of course once she resigned, suddenly all kinds of projects that were about to be given to her emerged!).

And we have collective responsibility gagging independent free votes. Can we have a free vote in the States on the People's Park? Do the Council of Ministers trust the States enough to allow that? If they don't, why on earth should we trust them?

And the list could certainly be extended, but basically it has meant an loss of faith in the Council of Ministers to be open, transparent, and honest with the public. It is extraordinary that the Chief Minister, acknowledging the unpopularity of the Council of Ministers, suggests that poor communication is the cause, and better PR could turn matters around, rather than being more open and honest!

If that is the case, they had better employ Alistair Campbell to talk the public into the People’s Park, using the dark arts of spin. Or alternatively, they could just try to be more open and honest, and less like politicians whose bedtime reading is obviously Machiavelli’s “The Prince.”


Phil Renouf said...

All valid points. That we have a government so quick to hide behind a cloak of confidentiality is not acceptable. If it is, then we have to conclude that we will never be given the information we need in order to elect our representatives and that the process of democracy is compromised. We do need direct democracy in this island so that no decisions can be made without presentation of all the facts - as it should always be.

Mark Forskitt said...

It may be my failing memory lets me down, but I am not aware we have ever seen any figures for the population and demographic model and assumptions used for determining the size of the new building over its proposed lifetime. Those inputs affect the number of beds and hence size of the building and that influences the choice of posisible locations.