Sink or swim? States couldn’t decide in time

How come deputies can faff around for so long when debating their own pay, yet so many of them had no trouble deciding not to take a dip in Belle Greve Bay? Neil Ross’ Emile knows why so many who are perfectly good swimmers have turned down the challenge – they can’t keep their mouths closed for long enough.

Illustration by Peewee

CHER Eugene,

Hang, I can’t believe this is my first letter of the year to you and it’s February already, eh? I suppose it’s still summer on your side of the world, but then again we haven’t really had a bad winter here, us. It’s only the last few weeks it’s been cold, with that bloney east wind.

I suppose that’s one thing about Guernsey you don’t miss, eh? And it always seems to happen when there’s an ormering tide, eh, Eugene?

Talking about the winds and tides, you know the States have spent years discussing a waste strategy and what to do with the sewage, and all that time they’ve just been pumping it out to sea?

Well, there’s been a scientific report now that says if they put a few filters to the Red Lion they can carry on pumping it out into the Little Russel, because the tides and the sun get rid of it all naturally, eh?

The Public Services wanted the States to make this the official waste policy, so I suppose they were saying any money spent on a full treatment plant would be a waste, eh?

The States were supposed to discuss the report in January, but they spent so much time talking about their own pay they didn’t get round to it.

It was typical States, Eugene, they had this report on how much the States members should get paid, done by an independent group, but instead of accepting it they all had to say something about it and suggest amendments and all that.

Then after five hours of talking they decided to accept it after all. So that was five hours wasted – and in the end the meeting went on for three days and they still didn’t finish, eh?

They had to have a special meeting in February to try and catch up, but there’s still a few who aren’t happy with the idea of sewage going into the sea, Eugene.

They’ve even challenged States members to go for a swim to Belle Greve and some have agreed to do it, eh?

Jack Torode said he’d volunteer to be on a guard boat, him. Then he could choose who to haul out of the water and who to leave.

I said the ones who’ve refused can probably swim, but they know they couldn’t keep their mouths closed long enough, eh?

It said on the Press there’s still 37 different policies left to be decided before the election, so even with extra meetings I don’t see much chance of that, mon vieux. Then again, Jack said that’s 37 things they won’t be able to mess up, eh?

They’ve already started building a freight quay to Longue Hougue for all the airport boats and the Public Services will be messing up the harbour and the North Beach soon so they can replace the cranes to St Peter Port Harbour.

They had to apply to the Environment to take 200 parking spaces away to the North Beach, but they got permission, so that’s no surprise, eh?

I suppose they wanted it passed before new deputies got in and asked why they’re spending money on freight facilities to St Peter Port when there’s a new freight jetty being built to Longue Hougue.

I’ll have to ask Mick how they managed to build the New Jetty and the cranes in the old days, when they didn’t have the North Beach car park to put all their stuff on, eh?

And do you know there’s still talk about commercialising the harbour and the airport – and even the waterworks?

Jack said I was being cynical, me, but I wondered if the States were spending taxpayers’ money making the harbour all new just so they could pass it on to a private company.

I wouldn’t put it past them, Eugene – after all, they don’t seem to have learned from when they sold Guernsey Telecoms or commercialised the Electric Board.

You remember, they said it would be more efficient and lead to cheaper prices. But all we got was a utility regulator costing millions of pounds instead and prices still going up.

And you won’t believe the latest, Eugene. That regulator is supposed to give permission before the electric put their prices up, eh? Well, now he’s said they can increase prices without getting approval first, but he’ll look after they’ve done it and if he thinks it’s too too much he’ll make them put them down again and refund the money.

Caw, it’s a good job he’s not in charge of vraic collection off the beach, mon vieux, he’d never get the horse and cart the right way round, eh?

And it’s not just the utility regulator, because now there’s that Public Accounts Committee saying Guernsey should have an auditor-general as well, to look how the States spends money.

But I thought that was their job, Eugene. If we have one of them we won’t need the accounts committee, eh? Hang, if it carries on all the essential services will be run by people outside the States and the deputies won’t have anything to do. Perhaps that’s the idea, now they’ve voted themselves a pay rise, eh?

I said to Jack it should be the government that runs essential services, but he said he’s not so sure, him, after all, they can’t even run their own meetings, eh?

There’s a lot of people asking what the politicians do now, mon vieux. After all the fuss about the Education board, no one seems to know whether the politicians are in charge or whether it’s really the civil servants who run everything.

There was even a court ruling the other day that said the States aren’t responsible for the police. Perhaps when it comes to the election we should be voting for civil servants instead of politicians, eh?

Old Jack said now the politicians get paid, they should remember the old saying, he who pays the piper calls the tune. But I said with the States it sometimes seems the piper hasn’t got an instrument and can’t even read music, eh?

Talking of the police, that new chief, he’s all pleased him because he claims that crime has gone down since he’s been here. Well, you expect him to say that, like you expect the Education to say school results are good, eh?

Jack said perhaps it just means there’s less crime being reported.

Since the police chief stopped cars going into the police station and put a barrier across the entrance to the Town Hospital, people can’t get into the police station to report incidents.

And no one wants to make a phone call to report anything now, in case their neighbourhood gets closed off for hours by armed police with guns and Tasers, eh?

Anyway, I said I’d go down to the slip to see how the lads got on with their ormering and I’ll need to wrap up warm, me, so I’ll finish this letter now and write to you again soon.

A la perchoine,

Your cousin Emile

GP EDITOR’S FOOTNOTE: The States voted this week not to continue investigations into full sewage treatment.

Deputies also approved the merger of Guernsey Water and Guernsey Wastewater, but rejected the idea of making the new body a States trading company.