GP Opinion - page 2

All of States promises to end selection

IN ONE of the most bizarre political twists the States yesterday turned on its head. When all the votes were counted, a committee steadfast in its commitment to bring in all-ability schools was kept in power by 18 staunch exponents of selection. In a debate that was supposedly about integrity, commitment and ability – and nothing to do with the merits of selection – only four out of 38 deputies changed sides from the 21-19 vote on the 11-plus. Five abstained and the rest voted along party lines.

Marking the cost of free education

COUNTING the cost of the free pre-school scheme is easy. Determining its value is much harder. At first glance, the cost of £1.2m. a year seems high, especially when Education explains that, even before the scheme started, only 12% of 3- and 4-year-olds had never attended pre-school before going to primary school. That’s 64 out of 550. If those 64 were the only target it would make the cost per pupil a mighty £20,000 each.

Moving towards a solution

A CAUTIOUS optimism may be beginning to build around a potential new home for Fontaine Vinery’s ‘Freds in the Sheds’ yet, understandably, no one is getting too carried away. The quest to help relocate the 11 small businesses now on notice to leave the St Sampson’s land has proved an interminable dilemma – not just for the light-industrial firms involved but the States too, which had envisaged it as a temporary solution as far back as 2007. Earmarked for social housing for 20 years, the site’s embattled tenants have long faced uncertainty of where they and their compounds could end up shifting to next.

Growing fitter to face the future

IT MAY make a snappy headline, but the ‘Fat Man of Europe’ tag that haunts the UK is far from a good look for our mainland neighbour. Recent Government figures there, mercilessly delivered just days after Christmas, show eight in 10 middle-aged adults as being dangerous unhealthy due to diet, alcohol, a desk-bound work culture and family pressures. Yet our own vital statistics have not escaped this creeping fallout of modern living, with public health bosses rating Guernsey’s health figures as ‘broadly similar’.

Health to be called to account

Health & Social Care needs to deliver if the States is ever to get its spending under control. There has been a shift in expectations in recent years with the purse strings being loosened for its budget and more confidence that the team in place will be able to make the multi-million savings in the future that have been identified. It is fast becoming time to come good on those expectations.

Mont Cuet reaches its tipping point

THERE have been many predictions about the likely lifespan of the Mont Cuet tip. Most have proven to be wildly inaccurate. Often the figure was a guesstimate designed to suit the argument of whichever political body was in charge at the time. Usually, it was a failed attempt to apply some urgency to the debate about what to do when the tip is full.

Information code needs to be spurred on

WITHOUT fresh impetus, Guernsey’s information code will remain little more than tokenism. Passed with some fanfare early last term as a sign of a commitment to openness and transparency, and importantly as a driver to change, its slow-burn implementation is symptomatic of the malaise that has set in. It was imperfect when it was introduced and its operation has proven painfully slow at times, one request from this newspaper took more than a year to respond to, making the information largely irrelevant in terms of accountability, while others remain unanswered after several months.

A lottery cap that would fit nicely

IT IS tempting to think of the Channel Islands lottery as one long success story. Forty-one years after its inception it is still pouring hundreds of thousands of pounds into charities and generating huge interest in both Bailiwicks. But it has not been a smooth ride. The National Lottery, in particular, hit sales hard in the mid-1990s and it was only by bringing in scratch cards and then a professional gaming company that the lottery got back on track.

Brexit pushes islands into arms of WTO

IN THE six months since the EU referendum it has become clear that the ramifications of the Leave vote are far-reaching and often branch off in unexpected directions. Who knew, for example, that one of the by-products of the UK leaving one international trade body would be that the Bailiwick of Guernsey would have to join another? The Channel Islands have never felt the need to join the World Trade Organisation. The UK did so just after the Second World War, when it was known as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but over the intervening decades Guernsey and Jersey decided to let the opportunity pass.

Select few hold their own on Brexit

AS Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley and BHS boss Sir Philip Green will testify, it is never wise to underestimate a select committee appearance. While yesterday’s questioning of the chief ministers of Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man could be characterised more as a gentle warming than a full-on grilling there are few people who would welcome the prospect of 90 minutes’ interrogation by 15 peers of the realm. And no matter how well-briefed the islands’ leaders are, it is hard to sound confident and candid when the topic is Brexit and the uncertain future of the Crown Dependencies in a post-EU world.

Unholy alliance over Education

WHY do they care so much? It is the nagging question undermining the defiant words of those opposed to a vote of no confidence in the Education board. If, as president Paul Le Pelley insists, the board is going to enact to the letter the States’ anti-selection resolution and speedily bring in all-ability schools, how does that help those who are campaigning so fiercely for the committee to be allowed to get on and ‘do its job’.

Why jobs scheme is working

BEING out of work long-term can be a devastating experience for those who have been in that position. And though Guernsey can count itself among the few places with unemployment of around 1%, for those affected, getting back on track can be a daunting prospect. For many of us, going to work is about much more than clocking in and out, our jobs very often define the way in which we see ourselves. Aside from the obvious economic benefit, it provides us with a purpose, structure, a reason to get up in the morning, the opportunity to take pride in a job well done. Take the job away and for some it can be all too easy to feel worthless and unsure of where to turn for help.

Transparency must be the focus

AS PART of a wider remit, a survey will soon take an independent look at the ‘prevailing culture’ at Health & Social Care. The news is welcome, following as it does damning findings in March by the team reviewing the then HSSD’s handling of the case involving Alderney GP Dr Rory Lyons. Nine recommendations were made by the Good Governance Institute after Health’s failure to establish an ‘objective, properly-documented and auditable evidence base’ about the nature and scale of the professional and public safety concerns it sought to address.

EDUCATION, Sport & Culture has passed on the opportunity to have a quick and clean resolution to its future. That is a mistake that means a cloud will continue to hang over crucial work on which quick and clear progress needs to be made. It discussed the impending motion of no-confidence yesterday morning and, while not commenting publicly, it told deputies it will get on with the work to move to an all-ability secondary system – inviting them all to a workshop at the end of January to discuss what to do.

A centre of community for 40 years

SEEING many roll back the years at Guernsey’s 40-year-old leisure centre this weekend helped exercise the mind as to what would have happened had the facility never been built. As has been well-documented, the island’s only community centre almost didn’t open its doors in December 1976. Despite widespread public excitement about a scheme mooted 10 years before, when Guernsey’s Sports Council was formed, there was much vocal opposition about its affordability along the way.