GP Opinion

Deputies have been put on notice

At the start of the last States meeting members were given what can be described as a friendly dressing down and timely reminder of how they should be behaving in debate. It follows the observations from more experienced hands of how standards were slipping with the new intake. Delivered in good humour, it was a rare if not unprecedented reminder by the Bailiff who had been asked, presumably by the States Assembly and Constitution Committee, to step in.

States risk farce on ‘referendum’

So Guernsey will have a ‘referendum’ on whether to move to some form of island-wide voting. But after the States decided it will not be bound by the result in any way, the question remains how many people will now go to the trouble of heading to the polls. The message from the 19 deputies that tipped the debate was that, after a decade of indecision, we need your guidance – but not that much.

Hidden story to capital spending

ONE of the key debates to be had as the island looks to its future is the level of States investment in infrastructure. It has been a recurring theme in recent years as spending in this area is cut to help move towards a balanced budget. That is unsustainable in the medium to long term. To see just how far things have gone, go back to 2012 when the States spent £61.7m. on projects which included the runway work and Les Beaucamps High School.

Time to think about sentences

AS one deputy calls for a review on whether short-term prison sentences are time well spent, there will be some who fear it is a sign of the island going soft on crime. After all, one of the Bailiwick’s key distinctions is its low crime rate. Part of that comes from a commitment to protecting the status quo, where crime – not least drugs and violence – are met with a zero-tolerance approach. Our sentencing policy echoes that stance and largely acts as a successful deterrent. Yet it does inevitably lead to many short-term sentences – those lasting less than a year – being handed down.

Ringing the changes on mobiles

THE watchdog’s move to open up Guernsey’s mobile phone market to other operators will ring welcome bells with many islanders. As our story yesterday revealed, the boss of the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities, combined regulator for Guernsey and Jersey, has branded the existing situation on phone contracts ‘unsustainable’. If the move comes into force it could potentially transform the local pricing model overnight. And surely even the telcos here must think it is only a matter of time before things change, after Thursday’s EU ban on roaming charges.

Live stream could turn into a flood

THOSE who ‘tuned in’ to the States’ first experiment with live streaming showed an appetite for political engagement that deputies would be foolish to ignore. While two dozen or so islanders made the effort to go to Les Cotils on Thursday evening to hear the States Assembly and Constitution Committee explain the value of a referendum on island-wide voting, they were joined by scores of others online. In total, the webcast has been viewed almost 2,000 times.

Was there not a better way than poison?

SEVERAL questions spring to mind when considering the matter of poison being laid around the airport, the most pertinent of which has to be ‘who on earth thought this was a good idea?’ A plan to quell the vole population, hatched in consultation with various bodies, including animal welfare organisations, environmental groups and Guernsey Water, has led to the distribution of thousands of sachets of rat poison in the area. While the risk of a bird strike may be legitimate, tackling it in this way – even if nothing had gone wrong – smacks of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Do not expect ideas to take flight soon

BEFORE we all get excited about the prospect of cheaper fares, more flights on busy days and paying fewer taxes to support Aurigny a note of caution. As with everything about the island’s government, nothing is going anywhere fast, especially on an issue about which everyone has a view. A timeline for this week’s strategic review should enlighten anyone hoping for rapid change.

Good review grounded by division

THERE is a great deal of common sense in the strategic review of Aurigny. What a pity that it has been presented so badly. After a long delay islanders are left playing spot the difference between two reports totalling 20,000 words. The danger is that the good work done by the six panel members will be undermined because they could not hammer out enough compromises to present a single vision. Division creates doubt and weakens arguments.

Scrutiny duty rests with all deputies

A HEARTFELT plea went out from the president of the Scrutiny Management Committee to deputies last week. Deputy Chris Green challenged them to take more responsibility for government, and in particular its effective scrutiny. It was not good enough for members to wash their hands of the uncomfortable business of critical observation and leave examination of the States solely to Scrutiny Management.

Election result leaves us hanging

ANOTHER vote, another night of turmoil. As islanders tuned in bleary-eyed this morning to the certainty of a hung parliament the realisation dawned that the period of political uncertainty kicked off by the Brexit vote a year ago is only just beginning. With Theresa May’s reputation in tatters and her authority undermined to the point where the UK could shortly get a new prime minister, the Brexit negotiations upon which the islands’ futures depend just got even more difficult.

Election watching from afar

TODAY as the UK goes to the polls there is an uncomfortable air of powerlessness over on this side of the Channel. There is also a sense of deja-vu. In recent months we have grown used to being disenfranchised in a key process enjoyed by our neighbours, yet which nonetheless holds a legitimate interest for our future… just cast your mind back to the EU referendum last June. But voting cards or not, many islanders will still be watching closely today’s events in Westminster and around the country. And, with one of the most turbulent and unpredictable campaigns in recent memory unfolding daily, we would be forgiven for feeling more uneasy than ever.

Silver bullets miss their target

THE metal may change but the metaphor remains remarkably consistent. Three times in the past few weeks ministers have insisted that there is no silver/golden bullet to kill off key problems. The first to reach for their guns was the chief minister. Seeking to play down expectations after two upbeat financial statements Deputy St Pier employed a range of images. First two swallows did not make a summer then the island had not found a silver bullet to kill off its long-term financial woes. An ageing population, welfare reform, capital investment, the costs of Brexit and data protection. The list of fundamental issues was long.

Islands must be ready for a polling shock

NINETEEN days ago, when Theresa May shocked the UK and announced a snap general election, the result seemed a foregone conclusion. Pundits and pollsters agreed that it was not a question of whether the Conservatives would win, just a matter of by how much. The prime minister was miles ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in leadership ratings and her MPs couldn’t wait to ram home their message of ‘strong but stable’ government.

Timing is everything in school debate

EDUCATION’S staged approach to releasing information about the transformation of the secondary school system will buy it time to draw up detailed plans. However, until the full picture is put together at the end of the year, parents, pupils and teachers cannot be sure what the future looks like. The first bit of the jigsaw to come into view will be the proposals for how to transform the education estate to set up all-ability teaching in a three-school model.

Marking the time of those who marched

THIS weekend’s RGLI commemorations will be a landmark moment of remembrance and pride for the Bailiwick. Our island will officially note the contribution made by the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry during the First World War, particularly its role at the Battle of Cambrai and Les Rues Vertes. This year marks the centenary of the November 1917 conflict, which left hundreds of Guernseymen dead and many more wounded or missing.

Change needs evidence of improvement

IT IS a world where dramatic change is required in the public sector. But the evidence from the Joint Emergency Services Control Centre, now some £500,000 overspent and rising, and projects such as SAP before it, shows that change does not always come easily to the States. Two years in and Home Affairs has decided that more staff and a bigger budget is the answer at the control centre, while we remain none the wiser as to whether what has been installed is better than what went before.

States must slay the beast of staff costs

IF THERE is an Achilles’ heel to States finances it is, as ever, in staff costs. While the turnaround from an overall deficit of £24.5m. in 2015 to a surplus of £24.9m. just a year on is a big feather in the cap of States committees – especially when coupled with the first freeze in annual spend for a decade – it has to be tempered by the knowledge that the biggest beast is yet to be slain. As the States gets better at curbing its expenditure elsewhere, the cost of staffing is becoming an increasingly obvious blot on its copy book.

Stop-start States in need of a fourth C

MUCH is made in the referendum proposals for island-wide voting of the three Cs – choice, clarity and certainty. The States Assembly & Constitution Committee believes that a multi-question referendum gives islanders the chance to choose their electoral system and bring clarity to an issue that has dogged the island for decades. And by slipping in a 40% threshold above which the States would be honour bound to act, islanders will expect that their vote will decide the matter once and for all.

Plan presents the vision from six silos

ANYONE looking for a cohesive vision of where this States is going in the next few years will find it hard, if not impossible, to find it in the latest stage of the Policy & Resource plan. What they will discover is a document which is a product of the system that created it – committees locked in their silos with no one brave enough to stand in judgement over all their priorities and pull it together to stand as a ‘manifesto’ for this Assembly. Each committee has interpreted what is needed of them in a different way – which is no surprise as P&R gave only the loosest of guidance.

The St Pier Plan delivers... but for how long?

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The 2016 Assembly has a four-year mandate and, rather than bonfires, its first priority should have been a four-year plan. Relying on timescales directed by previous incumbents to feed the civil service sausage machine leads to a Billet-led system, not one guided by policy. And it’s no longer fit for purpose, says Horace Camp

Standing strong with Manchester

MANY islanders will have watched the news coverage of the terrible scenes that have unfolded in Manchester in recent days and pulled their loved ones that little bit closer. What was supposed to be a fun night out for thousands of children and teenagers who gathered to watch a show in the city starring pop singer Ariana Grande suddenly turned into panic and tragedy as a suicide bomber detonated a device in their midst. There are hundreds of families for whom life will never be the same, their loved ones left dead or injured as a result of the Manchester Arena blast.

Plan does not help shift silo spending

THE elimination of wasted effort and prioritisation of workload is a mantra that runs through the Policy & Resource plan like a stick of rock. From the executive summary to its ninth appendix – devoted to the culling of redundant States resolutions that committees say are no longer needed – the drive is towards focused government. In the new streamlined States there is no place for such things as vestigial resolutions – some of which date from a decade back – clogging up the works.

Black hole still casts a long shadow

IT WILL be some time before even a fraction of the ramifications of the triple whammy of States reports released yesterday is understood. At 350 pages and 100,000 words it is a formidable document that outlines upcoming spending plans and identifies some big projects of the future. The ambition for the Policy & Resource plan was to be ‘reasonably straightforward, flexible and un-bureaucratic’.