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Thursday, 17 January 2013

On the campaign for Option A

It would seem eminently sensible if all supporters of Option A were working together and could agree a single argument which could be put to the public as part of the debate.

It seems a shame to waste the opportunity that this referendum offers to build a more effective States of Jersey and to restore the Parishes their due honour.

If we accept that subsidiarity should be the organising principle of any society; whereby responsibility rests with the lowest competent authority, and wherever possible that is the individual, then de-centralisation should be the watch word for any government.

Let us look at all the positives that arise from returning the Constables and with them hopefully a lot of responsibility back to their parishes, as an example of why subsidiarity is the favoured basis of all organisations from the Catholic Church to the European Union.

A Constable fully focussed on their Parish is the best possible outcome for all the people of Jersey.

Option A is not a vote against the Constables, it is a vote for the superior representation, financial discipline, approachability and indeed for a continued rasion d'etre for Jersey's greatest institutions, the Parishes.


In terms of financial management, the Parish is far ahead of the States of Jersey. Every Constable must face daily scrutiny from not one, but two Procureur du Bien Public, who are entrusted with ensuring that the parishioners money is utilised carefully and correctly. This is a very effective check on the Constable and a great public service which is given free of charge by these truly honorary officials.

Then once per year the Constable has to be ready to answer any questions that any parishioner may have and to ask the assembled parish for funds to pay for any plans he may have and to cover the costs of administration and maintenance.

Given the high degree of interaction with the individuals who make up each parish it is not surprising that Constables are most likely to be elected unopposed.

By comparison the States of Jersey is just one big opportunity for corruption and fraud. Elected officials have to face the public just once every 3 to 6 years and in the mean time are left to get on with whatever they wish. They are not exposed to the inhabitants of the island but only to the small group of senior civil servants who do not necessarily share the same experiences and therefore the same viewpoint as the majority of people in the Island.

The expenditures of the States are given far less public scrutiny and we are not able to overturn a single decision regarding how and where our money is spent, we are not allowed to vote out a single increase in any form of taxation.


The difference in the effectiveness of Parish Welfare as opposed to Income Support is a case which illustrates the superiority of the Parish system over the Civil Service bureaucracy.

Parish welfare was administered by honorary individuals and delivered what was intended; short term financial assistance to those in need. Whilst there is a provision in the Income Support (Jersey) Law for emergency assistance the average delay between applying and receiving a decision is two months. Whereas before one was able to make a representation to the Constable and receive assistance at times of acute need immediately.

For those in need it should not be a matter of a box ticking exercise, it should not be a matter of entitlement or vague legal arguments about whether you fit the right mould or not, but about Christian charity.

In terms of delivering 'customer service', the Parish administration is far superior to the Civil Service bureaucracy.


If the parishes outperform in terms of both financial effectiveness and in terms of customer service, then why have we in Jersey, allowed the States of Jersey to remove so much of the responsibility from these agencies, and therefore from us?

By bringing the Constables into the States, we have burdened these poor individuals with a split role, a lack of focus. And whilst many of our Constables have out-performed many of our other States Members one has to wonder how much more effective the Parishes would be if the Father of the Parish was focussed solely on the area of his responsibility, which already works best for US.

The States of Jersey is increasingly out of touch with the people, direction-less and destined to fail both economically and politically. It is important that something is left behind when this occurs to ensure that what is truly important in our daily lives is provided for fairly and as economically as possible. That role is the future for the Parishes and for that future to occur we need our Constables to be fully focussed on providing those services.