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Joint working needs action not words

Guernsey Press Comment | Published:

JUST over a year ago inter-island working with Jersey was, quite deliberately, put firmly on the agenda.

Policy & Resources president Gavin St Pier outlined his vision while addressing the Jersey Institute of Directors in October. His counterpart, Jersey chief minister Ian Gorst, responded in kind while talking to the Guernsey branch a month later.

It was a scene setter, aiming to be a catalyst to thinking, that would save both islands money – cutting unnecessary bureaucracy and administration in areas where there is already so much spending pressure, such as health care.

Obtainable goals were set out – a joint medical officer of health being probably the most ripe for the picking.

For Deputy St Pier there was not one public service that was not capable of being shared.

So how have we now got to a situation where the States chief executive talks of co-operation having taken a step back in the last few months?

It is a worrying trend given the demands being placed on the islands in the international arena with Brexit and the spending pressures being experienced locally.

But we have been here before.

Each term a new States comes in with great hopes of working more closely together.

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And so far each Assembly has delivered only a fraction of what is achievable.

So, yes, we have the Channel Islands Brussels office, shared data protection commissioners, director of civil aviation, competition regulator and financial services ombudsman,

What is telling is that these are small-scale targeted appointments, primarily based around interpretation of rules and laws.

There is no evidence of transformation of service delivery here that was raised by the P&R president, no evidence that the two islands are even prepared to think that big.

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The concept of joint working is marked by too many failures where there seemed to be obvious synergies, such as waste, or how the joint passenger ferry trail fell apart at Guernsey’s end.

We were told last year that joint working was the exception, not the rule.

That still remains the case.

The fear will be that, for all the fine political words, the intransigence exists within the public sector itself.

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