Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Jersey's Black Hole--We are all in it together????

We are all in this together” said the Chief Minister Gorst when explaining how Jersey is to get out of the fiscal “black hole” which is some £145m deep.  Or in simple terms every Jersey resident needs to pay £1,438 to get out of the hole- according to a draft financial plan presented to States Members.

But not to worry we are all in this together says Chief Minister Gorst, but hang on, how did we get in the hole in the first place and what role did Joe Public play in getting into it? We elect States Members to ensure good governance so we don't get into holes. It would seem that Senator Gorst or should I say Senator Ozouf got us into the hole and expects us to get out of it.

It reminded me of the lecturer who was being disturbed by a student’s snoring. He asked the student next to him to wake him up. The student replied; “With respect Sir, you sent him to sleep so you wake him.”

Wouldn't it be great if we could tell Chief Minister Gorst to get out the hole he created but life is not that simple. In fact along with other Ministers he does not accept that we are in hole but the money is needed to maintain the life style we have grown used to and for some to continue, some must make sacrifices.

The sacrificial lambs are the sick, aged and vulnerable who will lose their Christmas bonus and will have to pay for their TV licences. If you have the misfortune to be ill not only will you continue to pay the £40 plus fee to see your doctor but you can be pretty sure that you are going to be charged for any medicine prescribed. If you are in hospital you will be given less on your plate at meal times. It is also ironic that an Island that flush with money now intends is to establish a toilet tax. It could be said that we are really going down the pan.

The Government owned Jersey Telecoms is joining in the kicking and the subsidy that allowed pensioners to get cheaper phone calls and line rentals are next in line for the chop. I should add that the above proposed cuts require States approval but with its inbuilt majority the Council of Ministers should have no difficulty in achieving its goal.

It has been mentioned that apart from taking from the sick, aged and vulnerable there must be belt tightening, greater efficiency, accountability and monitoring of expenditure. Sadly we have heard that message all too often in the past and to bring it out again is just adding salt to the wounds.

However with that in mind perhaps Senator Gorst will explain why four months after the States approved the extra funding for the Committee of Inquiry, neither he nor the COI have complied with paragraph (c) (iii) of the proposition which required the Inquiry and the States to publish jointly on their websites details of their expenditure on a monthly basis. We are already aware of money wasted on lawyers fees and duplication yet there seems to be no haste to rectify the problem. 

Chief Minister Gorst and his Ministers must set examples and practice what they preach. There is still too much fat on too many bones and still too many sacred cows. “If we are all in this together” and pensioners are to be subjected to a belt tightening exercise it will be interesting to see what belt tightening individual States Members will be exercising?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (10)------The Crucial Missing Documents.

The temperature outside the Committee of Inquiry Building has certainly been rising and so too during the present Hearings. Those involved with responsibility for the welfare of young people in our Care Homes have been giving evidence. From the evidence given to date by some witnesses one is left to wonder whether they were actually working in Jersey. This is because some witnesses have claimed that the Homes were extremely well run and no one ever raised a hand or spoke a bad word against any of the young people

However some witnesses have had different experiences and certainly have not been blinkered or worn rose petal spectacles. Not only have they witnessed abuse but when raising concerns they fell on deaf years.

I recently attended a Hearing. I looked into the Press Room from where I am banned and noted the ample room available which says little for the COI Panel’s knee jerk reaction to ban some Bloggers like me.

I was surprised at the number of senior civil servants present who were no doubt attending to give moral support to the witness. However I wonder how many were there in their time and not at the taxpayer’s expense.

I also noted two senior civil servants sitting in privileged seats. I don't know why they were there but I understand that their attendance is regular. I am not only concerned that they are attending at taxpayer’s expense and not doing the job they are paid to do, but someone else is being paid to cover for their absence and possibly charged to the COI.

Given the seniority and of their positions in the Health and Chief Minister’s Department they would be intimidating to any current civil servant who dareS to break ranks and come forward with evidence of malpractice. I have raised my concerns with the COI but am still waiting a reply.

During the Hearing questions were asked about the disappearance around 2002 at La Chene of a number of crucial documents. Almost as expected even those in senior positions have not been able to come up with a suitable answer or even a possible reason for their disappearance.

Around 2002 serious concerns were being raised about overcrowding, abuse and the overall well being of the young people and staff at establishments like La Chene.
An independent inquiry was undertaken by Dr. Kathie Bull, who was seconded from the Office of Standards in Education (Ofsted) for this purpose.  In late 2002 she published her report entitled, “The Principles, Practices and Provision for Children and Young People with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties and Disorders in the Island of Jersey”.  It is commonly known as the “Kathy Bull Report.”

The Report was most revealing and some might say it pulled no punches.  However what is not commonly known is there was a first report which was definitely revealing and Dr Bull pulled no punches. Unfortunately it was unpalatable for many of the people identified in the Report so a watered down version was published. Having seen both reports it cannot be disputed that punches were pulled and the published Report although still revealing made for more comfortable reading. 

I was not aware that a number of crucial documents had disappeared but given the comments in the Bull Report it does not take a genius to work out why they went missing or identifying the small number of people who might have been involved with their removal.