GP Opinion

Making new friends in high places

IF THERE is a silver lining to the constitutional upheaval the Crown Dependencies are undergoing following the UK’s decision to leave the EU it is that the bond between government and the islands has rarely been stronger.

Opportunity knocks for States reform

CHANGE does not come easily in the public sector. As the States chief executive essentially acknowledged on Monday, it is difficult to do things quickly. But change must happen. It is only by controlling staff costs that you keep a lid on the spending of the public’s money.

Reform along with justice needed

JUSTICE delayed is justice denied. With that basic legal principle in mind the three States members accused of breaching the code of conduct deserve as speedy an investigation as possible. Just as they are required by the code to co-operate ‘fully and promptly’ with the investigation, it must be incumbent on the conduct panel to come to as timely a conclusion as possible.

Guernsey's Finest Hour: A lasting tribute to the finest

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AS A tiny community on the global map, Guernsey often punches well above its weight on the international stage. Yet one moment in our history for which no one could deny us our national pride was a battle in 1917 in a corner of Northern France. While the bitter and bloody Great War raged throughout Europe, the Royal Guernsey Light Infantry was playing its part in the conflict and defending the freedom we all enjoy today.

States must clear a path out of woods

IT HAS taken eight years but the States is Back in Black, earning more than it spends for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. Fans of Aussie rockers AC/DC might, however, want to wait a bit before reaching for their favourite album in celebration. As the president of Policy & Resources puts it, ‘We are not out of the woods yet’. For it’s not every year that the millions of pounds in reserves invested by the island will bring in returns of 14%. And piggy banks owned by committees such as Education and States Trading cannot be smashed and raided in this way every year.

Green-plated proposals will be a hard sell

AFTER countless reports and millions of pounds thrown away on failed proposals there is a sense that today’s States meeting marks if not the end of the waste saga, then the beginning of the end. More than two decades of aimless wandering has led deputies to the end of a long road and a three-point turn now looks both difficult and dangerous to execute. Given its grimy history, the tone of today’s States meeting will be interesting. Comments from the proposing committees suggest that they will try to tough it out and claim that the cost was only ever an estimate and the tens of millions extra is no real surprise.

June feast will give plenty to chew on

APART from a few notable exceptions left over from previous Assemblies such as the 11-plus, the Island Development Plan and, tomorrow, the waste strategy, this has been a slow start to the political term. A year after the election there has been a shortage of fresh ideas to generate political debate and little outward sign of a productive government. It is an inevitable consequence of the new political system where everything hinges on the development of the Policy and Resource Plan, a blueprint for change that will define this Assembly.

Other options remain in waste debate

IT’S a nervous time for those behind the latest incarnation of the waste strategy. It goes to the States on Wednesday with warnings that there is now no other option, but many will remember how other bids have been steaming forward only to come unstuck at the 11th hour. The costs remain enormous and the other impacts on islanders’ lives will only really become apparent as all the elements come into action.

New Joey plan makes ‘plane sense’

WHEN it comes to Bailiwick popularity contests, few could compete with the public’s adoration for an iconic local hero with a shiny red nose. Joey, the little yellow plane with the permanent grin, has long been a favourite with thousands of islanders young and old, whether they have travelled on the inter-island aircraft or not. Tears were, quite literally, shed at Aurigny’s announcement that its Trislander ‘G-JOEY’ would be grounded in 2015 after 40 years of loyal service.

Cramp sets in as health deal stalls

FOR months, there has been an expectation that the contract between the Medical Specialist Group and the States will be signed off. Both sides report that this vital step forward in secondary healthcare is imminent – yet the fountain pen has been hovering above the paper for so long that cramp must be setting in. Until the ink is dried there is an understandable nervousness about what system will be in operation from 1 January when the contract runs out.

Teachers’ questions are hard to answer

IT IS perhaps not surprising that many teachers are unhappy with their lot. The question is what can be done about it? Areas of concern in a recent survey by the NASUWT union range far and wide. Excessive workload, inconsistent performance management, poor pay progression, lack of faith that the system will improve. The list is fairly comprehensive. What positives there are – in much the same way as with nurses – are to be found in satisfaction at the way teachers interact with parents. Eight out of 10 said their work was valued by parents and 74% felt respected by parents as professionals.

Island must be ready for great reform

IF THERE was a key point to take from the half-hour spent by the Lord’s EU Select Committee with Robin Walker, the Under Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, it was that the UK can only do so much to prepare the Channel Islands for Brexit. While making all the right noises about the UK representing its ‘family’ of Crown Dependencies and oversea territories, Mr Walker was keen to stress that the considerable legislative changes that the UK will enact through the Great Reform Bill will ultimately have to be matched at some level by the governments of Guernsey, Jersey, the Isle of Man and presumably Sark and Alderney.

Watching on as our fate is decided

IN AN image that Emperor Nero would warm to, the States spent much of Wednesday fiddling around with bonfires while MPs in London argued over a matter of much more burning importance to these islands. It will be some years before anyone understands the full consequences of the UK parliament’s overwhelming vote to trigger Article 50 and break from the EU but it was painfully clear this week in which Assembly the islands’ fate was being decided. If there was frustration at the amount of time spent by Guernsey’s elected representatives on an issue as lacking in sparkle as when bonfires can be lit it was at least mitigated by a full statement on Brexit by the chief minister.

Reports are rich in facts not targets

PEERING through the fog of facts and figures about household income and poverty indicators released this week it pays to differentiate between the interesting and the important. While it is fun to look at which parish has most of the top-earning islanders (Torteval or St Peter’s, depending on how you calculate it) and which parish the least (St Sampson’s) it is hard to find those stats truly surprising or obviously useful. That there is a difference of more than £20,000 a year in the average earnings of the top and bottom parishes is a little more startling, but still of limited practical value.

MSG contract talks a chance to open up

AS PENS are poised ready to sign off a new secondary healthcare contract, it offers the chance to usher in a new era of transparency. The current deal with the MSG has been criticised for being out of date, inflexible, and based around targets that are not wide-ranging enough. That is all, we are told, about to be fixed.

Scrutiny to free regulator from ties

IN A clear case of ‘justice delayed being justice denied’ any hope of learning the truth behind allegations of a dodgy States contract ended this week. Without a full investigation by the competition regulator into the multi-million pound contract islanders will never know whether the ‘significant market abuse’ complaint had any substance. At present, even the names of the parties involved (including the States department) and the precise allegation are locked away in Cicra’s files.

The party is over

THE announcement that the Jersey Live music festival has come to an end will come as a blow to fans of live music. Launched in 2004, the event has evolved from a one-day festival that saw 2,000 people come through the gate to a two-day boutique festival that could compete on an equal footing with any of the same ilk staged in Europe. Over the years the headline acts became more famous and performers such as Ed Sheeran, Ellie Goulding and The Prodigy have all at some point topped the bill.

A snapshot that missed the picture

IT is hard not to empathise with those businesses who feel forgotten or undervalued after being initially overlooked in an island-wide survey on the local economy. While an audit to discover what our firms need in terms of land and commercial premises is a laudable, important move, surely the initiative is only worthwhile if they are all canvassed as part of the findings? For Economic Development to leave out some relevant companies from its market research is an embarrassing own goal for the committee charged with championing local industry.

Banking on more closures

WITH more than 1,000 bank branches closed across Britain in the last two years the loss of the NatWest in St Peter’s Village is a small part of a growing issue. HSBC alone announced this week that it was to close 62 more outlets as it shrinks its network of branches by a third. From the banks’ point of view the closures are a pragmatic response to the changing way in which many people save and spend.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

POLITICIANS the world over have become skilled at the non-apology apology. They say sorry ‘for any offence caused’, which leaves doubt as to whether any offence has been taken, or ‘to anyone who has taken offence’, which implies that only a sensitive few souls have taken umbrage while reasonable people are quite happy. Or they just apologise for the ‘unfortunate consequences’, which leaves room for the right actions leading to unfortunate, and unforeseeable, events.

Alderney service in need of help

AS AN exercise in taking the temperature of the people of Alderney, the University of Aberdeen independent report fulfils its remit. Trust for the health service, and Guernsey’s health department in particular, is shown to be chronically poor and in need of immediate care. The Rory Lyons episode has exposed a gulf in confidence and expectation which is much wider than the few miles between Guernsey and its northern cousin. But that lack of trust is not just about the handling of one doctor. The report paints a worrying picture of overworked doctors and antiquated systems which was on its knees long before the police arrived on Dr Lyons’ doorstep.

Island needs international voice heard

CONSTITUTIONAL change is usually somewhat geological, marked by barely perceptible progress. But even on the geological clock there are sudden shocks. With the European and global political tectonic plates shifting rapidly in the last year, from Brexit to Trump, Guernsey and the other Crown Dependencies need to be ready for a new landscape. Is now the time for the dependencies to unite like never before to find their voice on the international stage, or to stand alone fighting from their individual corners? It is a delicate balancing act.