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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Fiddling while Rome burns

Persona est homo cum statu quodam consideratus but what rights and duties arise from the status of Minister and how does it affect the proposition of Senator Ferguson of Censure against Senator Ozouf. I am specifically concerned with the following statement.

"Members will have heard the Minister for Treasury and Resources claiming that it is his job to challenge Officers and also to achieve best value for the States."

Well this is not quite true, it is the duty of the Minister, having taken regard of any advice provided by his civil servants, to make decisions regarding policy. He must of course always be mindful that he is a representative of the public and their wishes. Finally it is not to achieve the best value for the States of Jersey but for the taxpayer.

However, Senator Fergusson continues

"We have no problem with this."

Therein lies the problems at the heart of the States of Jersey. Neither the Minister himself, nor his colleagues are aware of the duties and rights which arise from the position of Minister.

You can follow the rest of the proposition and comments from Senator Ozouf, Senator Fergusson and Deputy Le Herrissier at the Team Voice blog.

But let us get to the real nitty-gritty of the problem underlying the symptom of a motion of censure against Senator Ozouf, the question of whether the Civil Service or the Minister should make the decisions.

Property Holdings and WEB have done very little to serve the community, they have spent a lot of money, gone forwards and backwards, doodled, dawdled and delayed whilst being paid exorbitant wages. They are both failing to provide either value or service. Senator Ozouf tried to make changes.

Not the changes I would like to see - which is to make them a private company leasing the properties from the States of Jersey and operating on their own profitability without government financial backing and indeed to make payments in regard of the leases on the properties, but to streamline the departments.

The ridiculous thing is that the States of Jersey have made it virtually impossible for an employer to remove an employee who is not performing at an acceptable level (i.e. earning his keep), this is stymieing job creation in the private sector and is now making it difficult for Ministers to achieve anything once in a position to do so.

The truth is that the Waterfront was supposed to herald a new era for Jersey as a world financial centre, just at the time when the global financial system began its death spiral, the Waterfront will never achieve the vision set out for it now and WEB is just a continuing drain on public resources, one which thanks to their own legislation the States of Jersey cannot free themselves from.

Senator Ozouf has come up against the hidden power that lurks within the States of Jersey, the immovable, irredeemable Civil Service and there are some in the States who are taking the opportunity to exact their vengeance for past slights.

Senator Fergusson finishes

"Misleading the States and the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel when stating that in order to meet £65 million savings a culture change would be required to achieve the necessary organisational changes, even though the Chief Executive made it known that it was not possible to carry out an office strategy at the same time as the Comprehensive Spending Review"

Herein we find the ultimate truth, Senator Fergusson does not say that the Chief Executive 'advised' he simply 'made it known'. A Civil Servant does not make decisions, he merely advises. The servant has become the master.

It seems ludicrous to me to suggest that it was not possible to examine two separate contingencies at the same time, what I suspect is that the Chief Executive was playing for time in order to avoid any cut to his budget or staff which viewers of Yes, Minister will recognise as a time honoured civil service ploy to prevent a minister from making a decision they do not agree with.

I would suggest to both Senator Fergusson and Senator Ozouf that we the people who you are supposedly represent, want above all else to see precisely what the Civil Service do not want - a reduction in the amount spent by, the diminishing of the responsibilities of, and a reduction in the number of people employed by, the Civil Service in Jersey.

These are the departments I would start with - the JFSC, Jersey Finance, JCRA, WEB and Social Security.

The members of the States of Jersey need to put aside this fighting and get on with the serious business of repealing statutes and putting Civil Servants out of what is loosely termed 'work', if they want the States of Jersey to survive what awaits us after this year's US presidential elections. The sooner we start, the better.