GP Opinion

Government cannot be one man’s vision

A READER rang the Press offices the other day to complain about Deputy Gavin St Pier. Not that she had anything particularly against the president of Policy & Resources, just that she was tired of seeing his picture in the newspaper. ‘He must be imprinted on our very souls by now,’ the caller grumbled.

Marking Guernsey’s ‘finest hour’

IT HAS been hailed ‘Guernsey’s finest hour’, yet visit the scene of the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry’s most historic battle and there is neither a reminder nor memorial. The local infantry regiment of the British Army, formed in 1916, would a year later fight in the now notorious Battle of Cambrai, defending the small French town of Les Rues Vertes against German counter-attacks. Fated to become a place name ingrained on the island’s memory forever it was the scene of appalling losses, with 40% of the regiment either killed, wounded or missing.

Shining light on an unloved industry

NOISY, grubby and old-school – parts of the light industry sector of Guernsey’s economy lack the shiny new appeal of, say, the digital sector. All angle grinders, blow torches and portable buildings it is an industry that people think they know and understand well, but only value when it goes missing. It is also a sector that, according to the new president of the Committee for Economic Development, has not received enough care in recent years.

Scrutiny is in need of more focus

IT DID not take long for Deputy Paul Le Pelley to remind the Scrutiny committee that he did not want to appear at its public hearing just yet. That came during the first topic for discussion, Education Sport & Culture’s 2017 budget and what it would mean for frontline services. But it is doubtful if Scrutiny had waited until after the Budget debate that it would have extracted any more enlightening answer than was given – broadly Education will try its hardest to meet it, but it will be tough and it does not know where the savings are going to come from. Scrutiny is planning on holding monthly hearings with the committee presidents. At the moment it is still finding its feet. These work best when there is a focused topic to be analysed, as with the waste issue last month. Too often yesterday answers drifted away from the question being asked.

Time to forge ahead on education

FOLLOWERS of the wranglings between the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture and Policy & Resources will be watching with interest today as Education meets the Scrutiny Management Committee. Given the well-publicised in-fighting among deputies and civil servants at Education, the ambiguously worded correspondence which led to the confusion as to whether or not the president of Education was told by the Policy & Resources president and States chief executive to stay away from today’s meeting, and if he would actually appear at the meeting, it is fair to say that the lead-up has been less than illustrious. Whatever the minutiae and the bumpy road that has led to this point, today’s meeting will provide Scrutiny with the chance to demonstrate the value it can add to the political process. As ordinary islanders, we can only sit back and hope Scrutiny does not drop the ball.

Population plans need addressing

IN SIX months’ time every resident of this island will be categorised under the new population regime. It will be a momentous change, discarding a system that has operated, albeit badly, for decades. From my-ancestors-built-the-dolmens locals to guest workers everyone will be assessed according to both their background and, if need be, that of their parents and grandparents.

Vision on

The man with the plan: Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 16353261)

‘Great Today, Better Tomorrow.’ It’s a promising start to the document Horace Camp has dubbed The Gavin Plan, but what about the rest of the vision?

Why family deserve to see justice

ANYONE who has met Kate or Vic Groves, the couple whose only daughter was murdered in Kashmir more than three years ago, cannot fail to be moved by their quiet dignity. Just how they have continued to retain that focus and composure, despite such overwhelming pain and injustice, is impressive and humbling. Faced with the worst news any parent can ever receive, and the shocking, public nature in which it was delivered, it is hard to imagine how any parent could cope.

IDP tests how well the States is engaging

COMMUNITY engagement is one of the big challenges facing this, and indeed any, government. Ensuring that as many people as possible know what is happening, and why, means trust and understanding builds between the States and islanders. The Island Development Plan, debate on which begins today, is going to be a test of that. In the early stages of the process the States was rightly criticised for over-reliance on the internet to publicise the representations that people were making about the plan. The usual momentum that builds behind the public having their say during the planning inquiry was lacking and so the shape of the plan is more reliant on professional, political and civil servant input than its predecessors.

Scrutiny’s role must be respected

ONE of the areas of government most in need of reform before April’s general election was scrutiny. The system used by the last three Assemblies was toothless and pointless and, aside from a brief spark provided by Alderney representative Paul Arditti, was not held in high regard. A report by UK consultant Belinda Crowe concluded that the scrutiny system adopted since 2004 was designed for a different form of government and it was ‘difficult, if not impossible, to have effective scrutiny in Guernsey under the current system’.

A proud moment for all

THERE were tears and there was joy but the enduring emotion was, quite simply, one of overwhelming pride. No one was quite prepared for just how moving the inaugural Guernsey Press Pride of Guernsey Awards on Saturday evening would turn out to be. But by the time the 12th winner had been announced at a transformed Guernsey Press headquarters, there was hardly a dry eye left in the house.

P&R wants to show them the money

FOR all the original intentions of last term’s move to borrow, the path that the States has ended up stumbling down has been very different.

Port move confirms end of an era

ANY lingering ambitions of a ferry operation returning to Weymouth appear to have finally sailed, following news the town is now looking to build a leisure centre on the harbour site instead. The update feels like official confirmation, if any were still needed, that the days of Guernsey’s historic association with the seaside port are over. It is hard not to sympathise with the borough council’s decision, coming as it does after its long, yet fruitless, battle to keep the cross-Channel operation afloat.

Sharpened focus on pre-school

Fresh life will be breathed into the former St Sampson’s Infants School as it again finds itself a centre of learning. Every Child Our Future has been given backing by the new Education, Sport & Culture committee to re-use the buildings, vacated in 2014, to support the most vulnerable children and families through initiatives that will include a supported nursery and pre-school. It is indicative of a welcome drive and sharpened focus on the need to give children the best possible start early in their lives and the clear benefits that has as they move through the education system.

Peace restored after time of conflict

Horace Camp, AKA The Horacle, looks at recent Royal Court appeals against enforcement actions from the GFSC and concludes that although there are challenges in industry’s relationship with the regulator, things are better than they were

Taking stock of our food offering

CELEBRITY chefs aside, the star of this weekend’s International Food Festival was Guernsey and its produce. Living in our islands, it is all too easy to take for granted the wealth of food and expertise literally on our doorstep. Standards of our eateries and food are consistently high – something we can tend to overlook until friends or colleagues visit our shores.

Development plan needs wider focus

IN JUST two-and-a-half weeks’ time this States will be put through its first real test. Before it will be the Island Development Plan, a vast and complicated document that will dictate what can be built and where for the next decade. For all the Development & Planning Authority’s insistence that things can change in that time, experience suggests that any large policy shifts will be almost impossible. It is crucial deputies get it right first time.

Pre-school straitjacket was too tight

AMONG the political bombs going off in the States chamber on Wednesday morning was news of a volte-face on free pre-school education. The flat rate of £5.90 for 15 hours a week paid to each pre-school per pupil was to be replaced by a lower rate of £5 with schools able to charge a top-up rate of 90p if they wanted. For those wedded to the ‘universality’ of the plans it was a massive turnaround which undermined the whole ethos of the plan.

Education president must resign

A PAINFUL extraction of information about the future of secondary education yesterday revealed an Education president at odds with his committee and out of his depth in the role. The inadequacy of Deputy Paul Le Pelley’s opening statement soon became clear as deputy after deputy confessed to being thoroughly flummoxed. It eventually transpired that there had been a change of heart at a meeting of the board on Tuesday and its president was on the losing side.

Aurigny has to be ready to prove itself

THE open letter written by the competition regulator Cicra is addressed to the CEO of Flybe and the chairman of Blue Islands. However, there is a third airline to whom it is just as relevant. When, in January the codeshare agreement between Aurigny and Blue Islands came to an end, passengers, politicians and business groups voiced fears that service levels would deteriorate.

Deputies and officers must work as one

THE worst-kept secret in island politics finally spilled onto the airwaves this weekend as the vice president of Education went public with his grievances about the committee’s civil servants. By the genteel standards of the unspoken relationship between the elected and the professionals it was an extraordinary attack. Unnamed officers are attempting to influence policy by bringing their own opinions to the table and pursuing their own agendas. The committee is making little headway because their policies are not being translated into action.