Meet the Ministers – Part 1
The evening began with a presentation of the main strategy of the Council of Ministers outlined by John Le Fondré, Chief Minister, followed by a video clip, in which every Minister had something to say on their part of the collective vision and its importance to Islanders.
Tony Pike asked a question as to how recycling could be increased from 6%, and what was being done to encourage people to recycle more and away from single use plastics.
John Young, with his Environmental Minister’s hat, said this was important, but what was needed as a coordinated approach – currently different Parishes do different things regarding recycling. Part of waste recycling and destruction came under the purview of the Department of Infrastructure, but now the different departments were in the same place, they were engaged with the Department of the Environment to improve matters.
There was a question as to the media reporting the Ministers saying they didn’t know what their budgets were, or what cuts there were in the case of education.
John Young explained that he had in fact now got a budget, but part of the delay was the fact that the new structure crossed old boundaries, for instance with “Children, Young people, Education and Skills”, “Growth, Housing and Environment” which cut across the traditional boundaries, so that the budgets needed to be reprovisioned for the Ministerial responsibilities, which now straddled the boundaries of the new structure. This was now in place, and he had a detailed budget.
Tracy Valois said she had not heard of proposed savings before that was announced, and internal communications needed to be improved, as well as getting the detailed budget in a timely manner, although she accepted that there were teething problems with the massive changes.
Council of Ministers
How was the Council of Ministers working out? The media suggested disarray.
Richard Renouf answered that collective responsibility which had been in place had not worked. It tended to exacerbate internal struggles, cause deep seated rifts within the Council of Ministers, and paralyse decision making, all of which was just hidden behind the facade of collective responsibility.
The new Council of Ministers could be more open in discussions and disagreements, and members were more accepting of differences because they agreed on the main goals, even if not on all the ways forward.
John Le Fondré added that the Council of Ministers was certainly not in disarray, despite what the media might say, and was making significant progress, but the new structures and a new Council of Ministers would take a little while to bed down.
Arts, culture and heritage
The strategic vision mentioned Islanders benefitting from arts, culture and heritage, which would not be too good if the Opera House or Arts Centre closed.
Lyndon Farnham said that £200,000 extra additional funding had been agreed to help the Arts, including the Arts Centre and Opera House. The main problem was maintenance of their properties. This had not been adequately funded or implemented by the States, with the result that they were having to spend their operating budgets not on actually running the venues but on a legacy of lack of work being done for maintenance.
Given that Steve Pallett had said that he could not progress further with Fort Regent, what was going to happen with it?
Lyndon Farnham said that the last Council of Ministers failed to find a resolution, and again maintenance was left for many years. A new group would be meeting to look at the ways forward, but part of the problem was always the money. He was keen to find some kind of public / private partnership to bring the Fort back to use.
John le Fondré said there were two work streams looking at the way forward for the Fort but what he didn’t want to do was commission yet another consultants report which would take time and end up being filed. The recent history of the Fort is littered with plans on paper that never got off the ground. There was a bin-load of such plans.
Two things that needed to be considered where (1) how to bring back the Fort to where it should be (2) the logistics of doing this while still having it as a live venue, hence working around existing use.
And in conclusion on part 1, the Vibrant awards of the evening go to John Le Fondré, Lyndon Farnham, Ian Gorst (on a video clip and Judy Martin. Each had one “vibrant” so there is no clear all out winner. I am so, so tempted to get that old musical instrument, the triangle, and take it to these meetings, and "ting" it every time someone says "vibrant".
It has so much entered the zeitgeist that I have been tempted to reach for it in sentences, but I make a conscious effort to avoid being sucked into the abyss of fuzzy meaningless words. For why Vibrant is a "bad thing" (in the words of 1066 And All That), I refer to:http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2018/04/the-future-is-vibrant.html