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Chief Pleas ‘cannot force people to stand for election’

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SARK’S government cannot force people to stand for election, conseillers have said as they responded to a letter from the UK minister responsible for Crown Dependencies.

Sark's government cannot force people to stand for election, conseillers have said as they responded to a letter from the UK minister responsible for Crown Dependencies. (18097853)

The Policy & Finance Committee has replied in writing to Lord Keen’s letter, which asked for assurances that there had not been a breakdown of good government in the island following last month’s failure to pass the Budget.

Vice-chairman of the committee, Reg Guille, said it had responded to each of Lord Keen’s concerns. ‘The letter has gone back assuring that we have the issues in hand and government is still functioning,’ he said.

Among Lord Keen’s concerns were that the island’s government had enough capacity and access to the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to govern effectively, that government decisions were made in a transparent way, based on objective advice and that proper democratic accountability of the government to the people of the island could be restored, mostly through contested elections.

He said Sark needed a small and professional civil service and criticised the lack of recent contested elections.

Col. Guille said the committee would be bringing a report at the Christmas Chief Pleas meeting to advertise for a replacement senior administrator, following the resignation of Kath Jones.

They would also look to appoint a second civil servant to carry out Treasury duties. It was possible that the roles could be filled on island if the right candidate applied or they would look outside of Sark.

Anyone taking up the roles would have to live on Sark, he added.

In relation to elections, he said the committee had been imploring people to stand for election as well as to vote in December.

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‘People have the choice of standing – the elections are open and free.

‘There is a secret ballot. It is not compulsory to vote and it is not compulsory to stand. We have been imploring people to stand but we can’t march them to the gate to make them stand.’

Conseillers are voluntary roles and Col. Guille believed there should be an incentive to get islanders to put their names forward.

While he did not think they should be paid a wage, he believed expenses and loss of earnings should be paid. ‘We should give the working man an incentive to stand so he doesn’t lose money.’

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Chief Pleas debated the issue of expenses at Easter but the motion lost due to a tied vote.

Col. Guille thought such a motion would return to the House.

Policy & Finance was created last month after the former Finance & Resources committee resigned after Chief Pleas voted out the budget.

The new committee brings together the functions of F&R with the senior committee.

An amended budget was approved by Chief Pleas earlier this week.

Policy & Finance member William Raymond said there was adequate finance to fill the two civil servant posts with ‘good people’.

‘We are focusing on those two roles as we are a small island with relatively small resources because we don’t have high taxation.’

He also questioned how you could force people to stand for election.

He did not think conseillers should be paid.

‘That would hit right at the root of Sark’s voluntary ethic,’ he said.

‘Once we rid of that then a lot of what Sark is and what it’s community is would easily drain away.’

Deputy Al Brouard, Guernsey’s Policy & Resources’ committee member, who leads on Bailiwick relations, said it was the Crown, through the Privy Council, that had a constitutional responsibility in regard to Sark.

‘As a part of the Bailiwick, the States of Guernsey maintains a close working relationship with Sark, particularly through the Bailiwick Council and the Sark Liaison Group.

‘Both of these groups meet at least three times a year and provide a forum to discuss matters of shared interest or individual concerns.

‘These groups also provide a range of advice and assistance to Chief Pleas. Matters are for Sark and its people; it’s not for Guernsey to interfere but to help and advise, if asked.’

Lt-Governor Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder has previously raised concerns about Sark’s government. However, as the island is entering a nomination period for the election in December, he said it would be inappropriate for him to comment further at this time.

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