GP Opinion

Scaled down Samp makes a good start

PERHAPS the greatest disappointment of the last States Assembly was its failure to get to grips with its property portfolio. At a time when the island was desperate for savings – to the point where it was trying to close public toilets – the lack of a coherent strategy for its £2.2 billion property portfolio was unacceptable. The answer was Samp, the Strategic Asset Management Plan, which sought to start making more of the States’ 2,600 properties, selling off some and making others more suited to their task.

IWV feast starts - doubt remains

We were served up the hors d’oeuvres in the feast that is island-wide voting yesterday. In a statement from the States Assembly and Constitution Committee chairman Matt Fallaize and questions that followed, there was a taster of what we can expect from the courses to come. Still the lingering fear remains that the referendum will leave us no closer to an answer about improving the electoral system through island-wide voting than any other debates in the last 40 years.

Still waiting for transport direction

IT FEELS a bit like waiting for Godot at times watching the States. We are promised all sorts of great things that are always on their way or just never arrive. But the pressure for this States to do more than just refresh and tick off the work of its predecessor is mounting.

Predictable price rises are still painful

WHETHER islanders will have the same sanguine reaction as the chief minister to news that inflation is back on the march probably depends on where they figure in the quarterly assessment of earnings, due out on Friday. Those at the sharp end of the economy – the Jams, as the prime minister likes to call them – will look at the growth, or lack of it, in their wages and may conclude that the island’s highest inflation increase in five years just made life that little bit harder. For while Deputy Gavin St Pier is right to point out that the combination of a sharp fall in the value of sterling after the Brexit referendum and a rise in oil prices was bound to push up costs and fuel inflation it does not make the 2.9% RPIX rise any easier to swallow.

A community we can all be proud of

WE ARE rightly proud of the very strong community spirit that exists in the Bailiwick and of the strong charitable outlook of the many local individuals who go above and beyond to help others in need. This has once again been brought to the fore in the case of one 11-year-old local boy, Ernie Backlund-Leale. Five years ago Ernie was diagnosed with leukaemia and has undergone numerous treatments including three years of intensive chemotherapy. Very sadly, it was recently discovered that a bone marrow transplant has been unsuccessful and Ernie is now receiving palliative care.

The pressure rises in policy bottleneck

A YEAR on from Guernsey’s own general election islanders are entitled to look back on the last 12 months and ask what this Assembly has achieved. There have been some big ticket items – the population strategy and new planning law being top of the list – and a few landmarks such as putting States finances into the black and finalising the deal with the MSG. But much of the progress that has been achieved has been ticking off plans that were conceived by the last Assembly, not coming up with fresh ideas and putting them into action.

Lessons to be learned from failed project

HEALTH & Social Care’s commitment to make public a review of the troubled £9.7m. medical records project is to be welcomed as there are many questions that need answers. Chief among them are how much this has cost and how much of the original plan has been delivered. In cost terms, HSC says that it is ‘on budget’ with the exception of an extra £600,000 given in 2014 for extra staff to ensure the successful completion of the project.

Another vital vote we play no part in

FOR the third time in two years, the Bailiwick of Guernsey must stand and watch as a vote of huge significance to its future takes place knowing it has zero ability to influence the result. In 2013, David Cameron made the EU in/out referendum a central plank of his general election campaign. Two years later the gambit paid off and the Conservatives gained an outright victory, crushing their Lib Dem partners and giving Labour a bloody red nose. That 2015 vote set the course for where Mr Cameron, the British Isles and, by extension, the Channel Islands are today.

Multi-choice referendum set for a fall

GIVEN the number of hurdles still to be overcome, island-wide voting will need the staying power of Grand National winner One For Arthur to last the course. Firstly, there is the not insignificant challenge of persuading the States that a multiple choice referendum is a valid interpretation of the amendment passed by 22 votes to 21 in February 2016. The risk of a bad fall is high. A toxic mix of new deputies eager to have their first say on a key issue, old hands who feel the States Assembly & Constitution Committee has exceeded its remit by offering voters too many choices and diehard objectors to the whole idea of island-wide voting could bring the proposal tumbling down.

What will the future of education actually look like?

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A throwaway comment by Education concerning the cohort of 2017 pupils about to enter secondary education as it undergoes the seismic change from a selective to an all-ability system has Horace Camp wondering if he has grasped the wrong end of the stick

Reports don’t make savings, actions do

EIGHTEEN months ago, when the BDO benchmarking report into health costs was published, the headline figure was big news. Huge savings were possible, it said. Up to £24m. over a seven to 10-year period. The report was unequivocal in its view that healthcare in the island was expensive.

Red Arrows absence will pass quickly

THERE are a good many reasons to enjoy the Guernsey Air Display. For some it is nostalgia, the chance to see historic aircraft such as the Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster flying again. For others it is the technological wonder of a jet engine screaming overhead powering tons of metal at hundreds of miles an hour.

It is time to sell the Guernsey story

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Horace Camp, AKA The Horacle, thanks Northern Trust, Unigestion and IBM for their blockchain innovation in Guernsey and especially hails the role played by the States and the Guernsey Financial Services Commission

Scene already being set for savings battle

THERE are signs of a darkening mood when it comes to making further savings in the States. Two of the biggest spending committees have gone on the record in the last fortnight with political comments that are setting the scene for a potential showdown with Policy & Resources about the way forward. Home Affairs and Health & Social Care are in different places when it comes to showing they are providing the taxpayer with value for money.

Multiple choice may not be answer

ALREADY States members are sharpening their pencils to draft amendments. And that is before they and the public really know what is coming from the island-wide voting referendum. The decision-making has been inching around the board table at the States Assembly and Constitution Committee in a meeting uniquely, and welcomingly, open to the media.

Tinkering around the edges of issue

IT IS a time of flux for Aurigny. As the loss-making airline seeks to add an ever more commercial edge to its operations, now charging for drinks and not ruling out doing so for baggage, it risks facing a backlash from islanders who already help pay a hefty subsidy through their taxes to keep it in the air. Is this the end of the ‘friendly airline’ that so many feel an affinity for, or just a small price to pay to help keep the island connected and ticket prices under control?

Staying out of the EU spotlight

AS THE gunboats of Michael Howard’s fevered imagination set sail to defend Gibraltar it is hard to know what to make of the diplomatic dust-up. The Crown Dependencies can be relieved in some ways to see the passion evoked in MPs by the mere suggestion that the rights of one British Overseas Territory might be under threat in the Brexit negotiations. The furore generated is, to continue the maritime analogy, at least a shot across the bows for any members of the UK Brexit team who might have been tempted to trade away these islands’ rights.

Prison fence spend should be more open

HOME Affair’s handling of the prison security project again raises questions about the States’ pledge to be open and transparent. There should be nothing to hide. The committee has decided to overturn its predecessor’s decision to build a second perimeter fence which would have brought the prison in line with UK standards for holding category B prisoners.

Feel for those on wrong side of new law

AFTER almost a decade in the making, the new population law today becomes a reality. It is a huge piece of legislation with the potential to influence the lives of thousands of island residents. It should be remembered, however, that for the vast majority of islanders it will have minimal impact. They will continue to live in the same homes, work in the same jobs as will their friends and family.

Victory is in sight…if we stay strong

Winston Churchill: With his ‘We will fight on the beaches’ speech, he wasn’t afraid to give a warts-and-all description of his country’s dire situation. (PA picture)

Through the adoption of ‘Gavinomics’ and staying strong in the face of economic challenges, Guernsey has come through the worst of the global financial downturn, Horace Camp believes. It’s now time for the private sector to shift into a different gear and think positive

Hurtful words have no place in debate

EMOTIONS were running high in the States yesterday. Perhaps it is to be expected given the subject matter. What could be closer to home than the question of what makes a true local and who can call themselves properly Guernsey? With strong emotions, however, came strong words. Not just passionate but personal.

States uses code to hide information

AS TOP secret documents go, few islanders would classify advice on the masonry at the Maritime Museum as potentially devastating. Nor is it likely that the Guernsey equivalent of whistleblower Edward Snowden is working on exposing the dark secrets of the hospital laundry. Yet reports on both those areas and more than 100 others have been deemed unsuitable for islanders’ eyes and marked as ‘not for publication’ by the States since they started keeping track three years ago.

Performance to make us proud

AS A famous writer once penned, there is nothing new in art – except talent. It is a pronouncement with which those involved with Guernsey’s Eisteddfod would undoubtedly agree as the annual Spring arts showcase, which has just marked its 87th year, draws to a close. Over the decades thousands of talented islanders of all ages and diverse gifts, have shared their artistic abilities with us all.

What would opposition stand for?

IN A major speech – the first half of which was published in these pages yesterday – to the Chamber of Commerce the president of Policy & Resources concluded by issuing a call to arms. He said that the present system for electing 38 independent-minded States members inevitably led to a fragmented government and had to go. However, without party politics, any island-wide system would be a disaster, he said, as the electorate struggled to identify enough deputies they wanted to vote for.