The dawn of a new politics of action

IT LOOKS as though Guernsey politics is being done differently in 2022 than it has done for the last 100-plus years.

Whether the Policy & Resources Committee and the States itself brings in even greater change by the time of the next general election in 2025, only time will tell. But the direction of travel and enthusiasm for change appear pretty clear.

Some of this emerged during last week’s questioning of the top committee by the new Scrutiny Committee review panel for the Government Work Plan.

Scrutiny has not always served the States of Guernsey to best effect.When it was first introduced at the time of the fairly sweeping political changes introduced in 2004, it seemed that nobody really understood its function and it was either bogged down in minutiae – there was a famous dispute over who should sit where at a hearing – or on passive reflection of long-gone events. But after a fairly sleepy start on Wednesday, this Scrutiny hearing caught fire. Testing questioning across the committee’s wide mandate and a four political members meaning all bases could be properly covered.

A lot of the talk focused, understandably, on the committee’s intentions for its property portfolio, and whether the details published so far were the thoughts of Deputy David Mahoney, or the committee’s solid policy.

Most everyone has a view on whether it is one-bedroomed or five-bedroomed houses we need on States land, and indeed whether green fields – ‘cunningly disguised’ as being part of the Castel Hospital site – are the place to put them.

Should States land only be used for Guernsey Housing Association developments? Even the GHA says the island needs more than one and two-bed homes. The States hasn’t built to sell for 30 years, is that the right approach for today? Has the committee actually formally signed off on this policy? Members said they saw and agreed Deputy Mahoney's statement... but more detail is expected.

Were these thoughts intended to stimulate debate? ‘Proposals’ dressed up to look like action? Or, genuinely, a new way of formulating policy, announced through articles in the media rather than policy letter. Amended as we go, rather than enabling amendment by fellow deputies.

An argument is developing over whether apparent action justifies a new way of doing politics. Ultimately this new politics wants to see results, but at this rate there will be a fair bit of process unpicked before we know if it was justified.

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