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Deputies angered by Blanches overrule welcome new review

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A REVIEW of ‘arm’s length’ bodies has been welcomed by two deputies who were angry at how the planning tribunal handled an appeal against a decision last year.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby at Les Blanches, the controversial development site in St Martin’s. The Development & Planning Authority denied permission, but the Planning Panel allowed it on review. She has welcomed the review into bodies such as the panel. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 20910324)

Rob Prow and Heidi Soulsby were opposed to the proposed development of new homes at Les Blanches in St Martin’s, and after a planning tribunal overturned the Development & Planning Authority’s decision to refuse permission, Deputy Prow said it was ‘perverse’, while Deputy Soulsby called for a judicial review.

Policy & Resources announced last week that a panel would be formed to review the work of bodies such as the planning tribunal, employment tribunal and Police Complaints Commission, as well as other boards and commissions that act at ‘arm’s length’ from the States – although as yet the bodies to be looked at have not been identified.

Deputy Prow said he hoped the review would reinforce the need for bodies such as these to be independent of government and he was interested to see which would be identified as being within the scope of the review.

But he said it looked like being a big job.

‘It seems to me that the reviewing team will have a huge task on its hands,’ he said, adding that these groups often dealt with complex and disparate areas of government, and that the statutory backgrounds, delegated mandates and structure of these groups had a long history.

‘It is important therefore that the States seek assurance and challenge these elements by way of a governance review,’ said Deputy Prow.

‘It is so important that such bodies have the confidence of the public. It is also vital that once identified, they undergo a fitness of purpose test. Have such bodies kept pace with the development of legislation, overarching States policies and strategies?

‘One panel that on the face of it appears to fail this test is the planning panel.’

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Deputy Soulsby said such a review was something she had suggested at the start of this States’ term.

‘The number of such bodies has multiplied over the years, with some having a more important role than others,’ she said.

This had led to a duplication of resources to support some of the functions these bodies provide, at the same time as the States has been subject to cost-savings targets through such things as the Financial Transformation Programme and the Medium Term Financial Plan.

‘We have to ask ourselves whether the benefits of some of these bodies have been outweighed by the costs and whether, in the desire to be seen “to be doing things properly”, we have lost sight of the need to have systems and processes in place that are appropriate and proportionate to the needs of the Bailiwick,’ she said.

Mark Ogier

By Mark Ogier
News reporter

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