GP Opinion

A packed summer of spectacle

THIS month’s all-too-brief burst of summer is a welcome reminder that, amid all the uncertainty of Brexit and a lukewarm economy, the islands remain a special place in which to live. At the end of days which topped 30C, many workers had only one thing on their mind as they left offices and building sites: a cool swim at the beach. And within minutes they joined their families on Guernsey’s west coast to watch the sun go down.

The calm before the storm

THERE was a frantic air to the end of the last States term. For one meeting alone there were 1,000 pages of Billet d’Etat for deputies to wade through. Important subjects came thick and fast as departments and ministers struggled to get policies through the Assembly before it was too late. Contrast that with the seemingly becalmed waters of government since April’s general election.

Cutting the cost not the quality

THE size and cost of the public sector has long been a bugbear of States critics, including this newspaper. Despite assurances by government that it runs a tight ship compared to other jurisdictions the FTP savings process left staff costs, the States’ biggest expenditure, unscathed. Even in the last five years, as ministers repeatedly warned islanders that belts needed to be come in by several notches, States pay swelled from 51.7% of total revenue spend to the latest figure of 53.3%. In 2015, that amounted to £213.7m., up by £10.6m. or 5.2% year on year.

Gathering for more musical success

LAUNCHING a music festival of any type in Guernsey is fraught with difficulties, not least the massive financial outlay that private individuals have to put on the line. Some large events have come and quickly gone again when the numbers simply did not add up. But when the organisers of The Gathering reflect on this weekend they can look back on a successful event and hopefully look forward to growing it in the future.

A drawer full of unloved policies

SOMEWHERE in Frossard House there is a dusty filing cabinet where unwanted policies go to die. It has a drawer marked ‘too difficult to handle’ which the appointed civil servants must at times struggle to shut. The latest to get lost in the policy waste bin is a scheme to crack down on cars being sold in coastal car parks.

Plan needs time to be scrutinised

THE impatience of the president of Economic Development to get sight of the inspectors’ report into the Island Development Plan is understandable. The plan is a hugely important document will determine how the island develops over the next decade and more. It will affect not only construction but every island business from light industry through to finance. In difficult and uncertain economic times, the man charged, along with his committee, with creating an environment where businesses flourish, income is generated and jobs secured knows that the IDP will have a major bearing on how successful Economic Development can be in that.

Confidence knocked by cancer delay

FOR a service that everyone agrees is needed to save both lives and money, bowel cancer screening has had a torrid time. The last health department had to be pushed via a requete in the States to move things forward amid claims it was underspending money given to it for the service to help with budget savings. All the time it gave the impression it was fully supportive of the service and was just working on the details.

Project Safe Haven sets out its case

GUERNSEY’S bid to make its quirky position on the periphery of the UK and Europe a strength rather than a weakness continues apace. The promotional wing of the island’s major sector, Guernsey Finance, last week followed up articles entitled ‘Guernsey well placed to minimise impact on Brexit’ and ‘Guernsey is a safe haven amid Brexit uncertainty’ with a handy online guide to the island’s individual status. Taken at face value, and with the island’s interests firmly in mind, ‘Brexit: where are we?’ is a comforting read.

Watson finds success in her smile

ON A glorious day for British sport, Heather Watson’s beaming smile as she looked down from the Royal Box clutching the silver challenge trophy was a life lesson for all. For if there is a common bond Guernsey’s finest shares with singles champion Andy Murray, British Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton, and the respective British winners of the singles and doubles wheelchair titles, Gordon Reid and Jordanne Whiley, it is the ability to take a blow, recover and go again. Watson had a dreadful start to the championship. Wasting three match points, she crashed out of the women’s singles in the first round.

Seeds of change

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The bid to move the war memorial and replace the sunken gardens is just one of the stories Neil Ross’ Emile is sharing with his cousin about this month, as he and his old friends reminisce about Guernsey then and now

Case not yet made to resist more savings

DURING last year’s Budget debate, the Home Department was adamant it could find no more savings. The States disagreed. Now the new Home Affairs president Mary Lowe has kicked back against a new round of savings it is facing by arguing it has already ‘cut to the bone’. With that came the familiar response to spark a little fear in the public – would you have us take police off the streets?

Time to stop squeezing

Squeezing the people has become a habit, but deputies should deliver on their election promises, says our columnist. (Shutterstock)

Despite decade-long promises that spending will be brought under control and we will balance our books, it’s becoming clear that no one in the Assembly believes that any more. The subliminal message is that it’s time for them to squeeze more blood out of the people while failing to attend to public sector spending. Don’t stand for it, says Horace Camp

Party politics solution has its problems

AMONG the solutions to the puzzle of how island-wide voting might operate in Guernsey some campaigners have suggested it can only work with party politics. Splitting the Assembly’s 38 deputies into two or three factions would, it is reasoned, get past the logistical problem of 80 or more candidates each producing manifestos, knocking on thousands of doors and individually addressing hustings. Looking at the post-Brexit parliamentary scene, it is a less than appetising prospect.

Island loses champion for honest values

PERSONALITIES do not come much bigger than Deputy Dave Jones. Straight-talking to a fault, he had a knack for finding the voice of the everyday islander and expressing it clearly and with passion. He rarely took a backward step and relished the opportunity to engage in debate with anyone and everyone.

Sharing the story of Occupation

FROM the brooding bunkers which share our coastline as stark reminders of enemy invasion, to the proud Liberation monument at the harbour – the Occupation is part of the fabric of life here in Guernsey. Despite the passing of now more than seven decades, islanders will never forget the darkest five years in our history. Each May we mark our freeing from the suffering and hardship it brought. Hunger, fear and death was a way of life for those forced to survive under German rule, whilst hundreds of families and futures were changed forever.

Living in the drone age

IF surveillance drones were politicians they’d be up there with Boris and Gove for bad Press right now. Generally not welcomed, apart from by enthusiasts, they are usually greeted with suspicion and hostility – typically viewed as ‘spies in the sky’ by those fearing their more covert side. Equally, domestic versions flown by hobbyists in what is a fast-burgeoning consumer market attract scorn from those irritated by their hovering, ominous presence over property and the potential intrusion on privacy.

Pre-school vision brings market risk

INTERVENING in any free market will always present risks and as the closure of another pre-school business shows this week, it can end in tears. The casualty was Blanchelande’s pre-school facility, following on swiftly from Happy Days’ similar announcement a few days earlier. Clearly it’s an outcome that neither of those schools, nor Education wanted. In fact Education Sport & Culture’s president had held high hopes of a successful collaboration with service providers when it launched its ‘free’ pre-school scheme.

Scene, lights… now, camera & action

SINCE the introduction of zero-10 in 2008 the States has been in part reliant on growing the economy to plug the black hole that was created by a dramatic drop in income. That the deficit is still stubbornly there, it stood at £24.5m. by the end of last year, is being taken by some as a sign that any belief in growth as the magic bullet is now misplaced. Policy & Resources has been told the answer now is about cutting services or significantly raising taxes. Neither route is particularly appetising for the public, but it is clear that efforts over the last eight years have not gone nearly far enough.

Post delivers on pension negotiations

FROM the outside at least, Guernsey Post’s new pension agreement appears a victory in communication. It also seems near miraculous that due to successful negotiations between staff and management, the company has secured a 98% buy-in from its heavily unionised workforce for a defined contribution scheme. The ‘Care’ scheme approach put forward by the States in its own negotiations with public sector staff, which retains an element of defined benefit – when the worker knows what pension he or she is entitled to receive – was never going to be a great option for a utility like Guernsey Post, surviving on its own cash rather than the public purse.

What future for island’s derelict sites?

THE DRAMATIC fire at a derelict former hotel at the weekend has raised the general question about how we deal with disused buildings in the island. There are several properties, both commercial and residential, creating unpleasant blots on our landscape – sad, decaying shells of what have often once been striking, even iconic structures. Along with the cosmetic offence depressing ruins cause for islanders and our tourism ‘shop window’, other problems with vandalism, safety and environmental health are rarely far away.

Teachers’ selection is clear

WHAT was already a tough in-tray for Education to deal with has become an even trickier task with a strong majority of teachers making it clear that they believe selection should go. A survey organised by those in the profession showed 70% supported the States decision last term to move to all-ability secondary schools – this compares with 21% who would support a different form of selection. In electing Deputy Paul Le Pelley as Education, Sport & Culture president, the States put in a man it knew backed an alternative form of selection to the 11-plus.

Life after the EU referendum

TODAY the UK and our islands are waking up to not only a whole new relationship with Europe but also the resignation of the Prime Minister. Following the 52% vote in favour of Brexit in yesterday’s EU referendum, the political landscape, loyalties and tone on both sides of the Channel have been changed forever. Several once robust alliances within and without the UK government have shifted dramatically, with political and social divisions – in some cases yawning chasms – now irrevocably entrenched.

Time to note pride of our islands

AS WE mark the countdown in our search for candidates to crown the ‘Pride of Guernsey’, today’s backing of the inaugural campaign by the island’s Bailiff is welcome, high-level support for the Bailiwick-wide initiative. With now just a week to go to the closing date for nominations, his rallying call for islanders to put forward those they think deserve one of the 12 special accolades is a timely one. Launched by the Guernsey Press in association with our award partners to help fill the large gap left by other tributes, the hunt for names for the Bailiwick’s favourite teacher, neighbour, carer, emergency hero, parish champion and health care ‘angel’ continues until 30 June.