Thursday, 5 January 2017

The King’s Abdication

Canbedone Productions Keith Cavele  and Mike King

The sudden resignation of Mike King was not perhaps a surprise: his position had clearly become untenable, prone to media revelations about profligate spending.

He will certainly become a scapegoat for a few decisions - namely the Innovation Fund, where the decision on Logfiller was, as I understand it, pushed by States member in the Council of Ministers with undue haste, and undue diligence.

While he was extravagant with regard to South Africa, it seems that he was to some extent set up, the information being deliberately leaked to the press. His rugby trips, funded by the tax payer, were another example of flouting the States drive to austerity and cut-backs.

What did indeed emerge from the South African trip that has brought some benefit to the island?

Had he been more frugal, he would have no hostages to ill-fortune, and he certainly seems to have had big finger in the movie that never was (under Alan Maclean's watch). So to some extent he has been the architect of his own downfall.

His position probably became untenable; he may have been persuaded to leave under the possible impact of a disciplinary inquiry, and curtailing of his powers, perhaps his salary, or in the worst instance, dismissal. This way he walks away with some 2017 pay and a pension most of us would envy.

Meanwhile, expect a lot of mucky brown stuff to be thrown in his direction, some deservedly, some less so, as politicians see it as a good opportunity to dump their own mistakes on his reputation.

During his tenure there has been a catalogue of disasters - most of which in one way or another appear to track directly back to him. But his announcement also begs the question as to whether he was caught up in the tangle of 'ministerial decisions’ that resulted in close to £1m being frittered away and poor decisions or is indeed the architect of them. It is probably a bit of both.

Now that he is left, effectively with his silence bought, there are no chance for questions from scrutiny to him had he remained in the post.

And maybe the time is coming to wind down EDD in the same way as Housing - after all, with Event Jersey, Visit Jersey, what's left for it to do?

Both the States Innovation Fund and Digital Jersey are at present administered at arm’s length by Philip Ozouf through the Chief Ministers Office, and the External Relations Ministry deals with foreign business and trade missions to far flung corners of the planet, which used to be EDD’s remit.

Visit Jersey is now a standalone entity, Harbours/Airports and pretty much all else ‘corporatized’ leaving precious little that needs a Minister, 2 Asst. Ministers, a CEO and an army of CS’s.

The two bolt-on’s inherited from Education (sport and culture) hardly need the guidance of a ministerial department either.

That leaves Condor which they have made a pigs ear of anyway - oh and let’s not forget the lottery!

What once was EDD in terms of ‘economic development’ and its relevance has been all but fully absorbed into other departments.

Jeremy Macon is asking if we need a Chief Officer for EDD now, and I tend to agree with him

Sport is set to become a Quango in 2017.

“It is proposed that a fully independent, non-remunerated Board be created to develop the strategy and oversee the implementation of Jersey Sport’s activities”

The recommendations of the Shadow Sports body also mention “CEO recruitment”:

“It is recommended that a competitive recruitment exercise be undertaken simultaneously both on and off island, in order to find a shortlist of high quality candidates likely to be interested in taking on such a challenge.”

Ag and Fish (as was) now falls into more than one Ministry. A lot of its function and certainly legislation falls to other departments, primarily Planning and Environment and DfI - leaving EDD almost in no man’s land - other than what falls under their remit in terms of:

• working closely with partners across all sectors of Jersey’s economy to support their development and diversification

• overseeing Jersey Business to support new and established businesses.

The real question is, do we need all this overblown bureaucracy and duplicity for the island to function? We are just 45 square miles with a population about the same size of Luton! We have lost all idea of perspective.

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