Thursday, 22 March 2012

Golden Handshakes, Ouch!!!

Having followed the Golden Hand-shake issue I was looking forward to reading the Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report, not just for what he said but what was omitted. As such it did not disappoint.

It is a well known fact the former Chief Executive was a leading player in the unlawful suspension of the former police chief Graham Power but he was never taken to task following the publication of the Napier Report. Following the news of the Chief Executive’s resignation a couple of months later, at the States Sitting on 1st March I asked the Chief Minister whether the Napier finding had any influence on the resignation. In his reply which received a foot stamping response, he said the findings did not directly influence the decision but it was the overall level of personal comments and innuendo on the Chief Executive by a handful of States Members, before, during and after the review that led to the decision. (I don't think he included Senator Ozouf within the handful). However that fact is not to be found in the Report.

Another matter which appears not have been pursued is the claim made by Frank Walker that the Chief Executive was being “Headhunted” and as such a favourable adjustment was required to retain the Officer. A reference to that matter can be found as a footnote on page 11 of the Report. If indeed the adjustment was made because of the claim which now appears to be without substance then surely some one should be held responsible for the decision. It was with this in mind which led me to draft the letter below which I forwarded to the JEP for consideration in its Letters to the Editor Column.

Dear Sir,   

In 1996 the District Auditor for Westminster City Council ruled that the then leader of the Council, Dame Shirley Porter, had spent public funds without lawful authority and she was ordered to repay the Council forty two million pounds from her own assets.  She later settled for a repayment of a mere thirteen million pounds. The legal principle involved in this case is known as "Ultra Vires."  This principle comes into play when a person in political authority exceeds that authority at public cost and thereby becomes liable to reimburse that cost at their own expense.  

Readers may wonder what this has to do with Jersey.  The answer is not a lot until the recent publication of the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General into the "Golden Handshake" of over half a million pounds awarded to the departing Chief Executive Officer to the Council of Ministers, Bill Ogley.

In reading the report it would be easy to become distracted by the fascinating tale of the real workings of the Island's government. The picture painted is of an administration which is tribal, dysfunctional and embroiled in allegations of bullying, poor morale and internal rivalries. Amongst this soap-opera like saga there is a danger that a key point may be lost.

Readers may recall that in a recent public defence of the award, the former Chief Minister, Frank Walker, claimed that the amendment to Ogley’s contract which provided for the generous package was triggered by the said Bill Ogley receiving an offer from a large UK Local Authority which was even more generous than the one he was receiving in Jersey. The investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General indicates that at least one of the former Chief Executive’s colleagues has a recollection that something of the sort was said at the time.  However, in spite of extensive investigations, no evidence of any such job offer has been found.  Nobody can produce the offer and seemingly nobody can say where it came from. Readers of the Report are fully entitled to conclude that the offer simply did not exist and that the mysterious offer from an unknown UK authority was simply a device to justify a decision which was indefensible on any other basis.

The reasons for "justifying" the decision which may still be applicable are set out in the Report.  In brief they revolve around the fact that the Chief Executive, although supported by the then Chief Minister, was conscious that the pending change in Government could lead to him falling from favour and potentially losing his position.  On this basis a "handshake" clause was written into his contract. Before readers become too sympathetic to the plight of this former Chief Officer it might be worth considering what, if anything, was different about his position from that of any other Chief Officer. Senior Public Sector jobs in Jersey are well paid and applicants enter them with their eyes open. All senior positions are vulnerable to the winds of change. In many previous cases matters have been resolved by negotiation and realism. The package awarded to the former Chief Executive is unprecedented in the Jersey public sector and, crucially, the key committee appears to have awarded it on the basis of information which now appears to be false.

So, to return to the saga of the good Dame Shirley Porter and her "Ultra Vires" expenditure when leader of Westminster Council, was the decision to include a "golden handshake" in the contract of Bill Ogley properly taken on the basis of accurate information?   Or could it be that a commitment of over half a million pounds of taxpayers money was made on the basis of inaccurate information provided to some of the decision makers and does that make the legality of the award questionable?   And if the legality of the award is in doubt then is the long suffering Jersey Taxpayer entitled to any compensation for this debacle?

The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General takes us on an interesting journey but it stops short of the key question, namely, in the light of what has now been revealed who pays?   In Westminster Dame Shirley Porter had to pay the cost of her political misdeeds from her own pocket. Can readers think of anyone involved in this decision that might be both liable and able to compensate the Jersey Taxpayer for their substantial losses in this affair?


Jersey Human Rights Group.

The Group meets at 530pm on the last Monday of the month. It is currentlty looking at the issue of Spent Convictions in relation to Disclosure, Data Protection and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Law. It is an interesting subject because sometimes when one is applying for a job the employer requires the applicant to include the existence of Spent Convictions even though the Conviction, according to the Rehabilitation Law, is Spent.

At our meeting this coming Monday 26th March our guest speaker will be Emma Martins, the Data Protection Commissioner who will inform members how the Law should work.

Our meetings are held in the States Building in the Royal Square, but because of security members meet by the statue in the Royal Square just before 530pm and are taken into the Building.

Should anyone be interested in attending next Monday's meeting please could they contact me on or our new Chairman Deputy Monty Tadier on or our Secretary Nick Le Cornu on

Friday, 16 March 2012

St Martin's School

A Law on primary instruction was approved by the States in January 1894 which placed a burden upon the parishes to provide an establishment for education. Three years later on 12th February at an Assembly for St Martin Parishioners, by 22 votes to 12 they agreed to form a committee to look for a suitable site for the Parish School.

In May that year the Parish agreed to buy 3 vergees of land at the cost of £153 plus the cost of erecting a wall which is still standing today. It was to be another two and a half years before the foundation stone was laid. The delay was due to differing opinions as to the design and cost.

The School opened its doors on 1st October 1900 with the first 59 pupils attending all of whom would have walked from the 4 corners of the parish. Unfortunately work on the school had not been completed in time so for the first two weeks lessons were taken in the Public Hall. 

St Martin's like the other schools which were built around the same time is still standing. Over the course of  time the outside toilets and coal fires have been replaced and internally very little is recognisable from my day. Vast sums of money has been spent on modernising the School and no doubt as it is wind and water tight there is no reason why the building will not last for another 100 years.

The School roll has fluctuated over the years. In 1947 when it was an elementary school and when pupils from the Home for Boys began attending there were 309 pupils on roll, this led to a hut being erected to accommodate what was to be class 2 in my day. This was to be Mr Dugue's class for almost 25 years. Children were never turned away and there were times when some classes had up to 40 pupils. In 1982 the roll was down to 89. Today it is a primary school, it is oversubscribed and because of teacher/pupil ratio policies only around 210 pupils can be accommodated.

When schools are constructed today there are guidelines stipulating space standards, however just because some classes in existing schools may not be of the size to meet modern guidelines I submit that it does not mean that they should close. If that is the case then most of the schools built at the turn of the century will have to be replaced.

I do not want to inflict any hardship on teachers or their pupils but if conditions dictate that a particular school is so crampt that it cannot function, then by all means replace it. However if it is to be replaced then like the wise parishioners of a hundred years ago, there should be proper consultation with all the options considered before constructing a building which will meet the needs of any ever increasing population.

I believe there has been an indecent rush to replace St Martin's School but will willingly give my support for it to be replaced provided all the boxes have been ticked before the decision to vacate is made. What is being proposed has all the hallmarks of spend today but regret tomorrow approach.

Although funding has been made available clearly there has not been adequate consultation, this has led to the current Planning Minister Deputy Rob Duhamel wisely calling a halt to the proceedings until the public and interested parties have been consulted. Members of the public have been invited to view the proposed plans and model and to submit their comments. The following is my submission which has also been published in today's Jersey Evening Post.

The proposed plan for St Martin’s School must rank as one of the poorest ever drafted and Deputy Duhamel is to be complimented for seeking the public’s views.

St Martin’s School like most other parish schools was built around 1900. I attended in the 40s/50’s when there were around 35 pupils per class. Understandably there have been considerable alterations since at the cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The reason given for replacing the school is that its facilities are well below the minimum modern education space standards, however on reading the Planning Brief Appendix it appears that the requirements are guidelines and are not statutory. If St Martin’s facilities are well below the minimum modern education space standards one may ask how the space at St Martin’s compares with other schools built around 1900 and will those schools have to be replaced?

Not only has there been no public consultation but it is doubtful whether any thought has been given as to whether the new build will meet the anticipated rise in population in the next 50 plus years. It is proposed to build for a single form entry however it is a known fact that every year St Martin’s is oversubscribed with children being referred to surrounding schools. Has consideration been given for a two form entry school?

Having seen the plans for proposed new school it is apparent that the easy option has been taken to build on the School Field with little thought being given to the loss of a valued amenity. It is also apparent that the proposed recreational facilities will fall far short of the requirements with children having to cross the road to make use of the Village Green. It will also see the loss of the longstanding Parish Football Pitch.

 St Martin’s has been blessed with its school field which is envied Island wide. Not only does it provide a green lung but it allows space for various sporting activities and a playground without the need to cross the road. I would submit that the school field, which also provides a pitch for the Parish Football Club, is too valuable to be lost to provide a quick fix solution for an unsubstantiated want and not a need.

If the present School’s space facilities are so outdated that it must be replaced then the proposed build on the School field is a non starter. It is not large enough to cater for teacher or visitor parking and will not meet recreational needs. I submit that if a new school is required then it should be built away from the present location and be a two form entry to meet the anticipated population increase and be nearer to high density areas such as Maufant but definitely not at St Saviour’s Hospital. 

Should readers wish to submit their comments they are asked to do so without delay.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Turkey Shoot

In my last Blog I said that if Members rejected Deputy Le Herissier's amendment which sought to retain the principle of an independent Electoral Commission in line with the States decision last March, then the matter would soon be done and dusted. We have now had the debate and the vote taken which resulted in Deputy Le Herissier's amendment being rejected by just three votes. The other amendments were also rejected and Senator Bailhache has now been installed to lead us to the Promised Land. However the following observations are worth noting.

Last year when Members debated Daniel Wimberley's proposition 9 Connetables voted against it. Any one of them could have lodged an amendment in line with what PPC was now proposing, however not one of them did so. Therefore it could be argued that if Connetables were against the Commission they would be against any form of Commission unless of course there were strings attached.

This time round there were strings attached because Senator Bailhache had already intimated that he was in favour of the Connetables remaining in the States. I heard Connetable Mezbourian's speech in which she said she felt very uncomfortable because of the assurance given by Senator Bailhache. She was of the view that Connetables were conflicted and as such she was going to abstain from voting.

A few speeches later Connetable Norman spoke and was of the view that Connetables were not conflicted and being States Members they should not be abstaining. It is worth noting that last year Connetable Norman had voted against the proposed Electoral Commission but now as a Member of PPC had supported fellow PPC Member, Senator Bailhache's proposal to ignore the decision taken by the former House and to lodge a proposition proposing that the Commission should comprise of 3 States Members one of whom should be its Chairman.

As mentioned above, Deputy Le Herissier's amendment was defeated by 3 votes. A closer look at the vote reveals that Connetables Crowcroft, Le Troquer and Pallett voted for the amendment with Connetable Mezbourian abstaining. However 8 of the remaining Connetables voted against the amendment. Of the 8,  Connetables Norman, Refault, John and Juliette Gallichan and Murphy had all voted against Daniel Wimberley's original proposition. 12 months ago Phil Rondel when a Deputy voted for the Commission but now a Connetable voted against the amendment.

It has often been said that States Members are like turkeys in that they do not vote for Christmas, readers may be forgiven if they hold that view following the Connetables voting pattern as there could be a degree of truth in that claim.

No matter what folk may say, perception is very important and it could be said that the proposed States run Electoral Commission will not have the same credibility as a truly independent one. However one sobering thought is no matter what recommendations may be forthcoming from either the Electoral Commission or the subsequent referendum, States Members will still asked to agree to them and it’s almost certain that Connetables will not be the only turkeys.

In the meantime, enjoy the Turkey Shoot.

Monday, 5 March 2012

"Second's Out"

As there are only 12 Oral Questions lodged for tomorrow, the States should begin its debate on the Electoral Commission, P5/2012 before lunch.

It was at the States Sitting on March 15th last year that Members by 29 votes to 18, gave its support to former Deputy Daniel Wimberley's proposition requesting PPC to come back to the House with the necessary proposals for the appointment of an independent Commission to undertake the review. It is now a well known fact PPC has decided to move the goal posts and to request the States to appoint three States Members to the Commission, one of whom will be its Chairman.

Of the 29 who gave their support last year, 5 are no longer Members, however of the 18 who voted against, 9 are no longer Members. Of the 6 who not present only 2 are current Members.  It could be said that given the number of votes in support for the original proposition, the number of Members now gone and the support given at the two recent Parish Meetings, Deputy Le Herissier would be entitled to believe that his amendment which calls for a totally independent Commission will win the day.

However nothing should be taken for granted and as one can see from the Procedural note attached at the end of the Order Paper which is reproduced below, should Deputy Le Herissier's amendment fail almost everything will be done and dusted by the end of the day.

The following is the Procedural Note.


If the proposition of the Privileges and Procedures Committee is adopted at this meeting and the first amendment of Deputy R.G. Le Hérissier of St. Saviour (P.5/2012 Amd Parts 1 (a) to (c)) has been adopted, it will fall to the Privileges and Procedures Committee, in a process overseen by the Jersey Appointments Commission, to undertake a recruitment process to identify 7 people who will then be recommended to the States for appointment as Chairman and members of the Electoral Commission.

If the proposition of the Privileges and Procedures Committee is adopted but the first amendment of Deputy R.G. Le Hérissier of St. Saviour (P.5/2012 Amd Parts 1 (a) to (c)) has been rejected, paragraph (b) of the proposition requires the States to proceed immediately to appoint a States member as Chairman and 2 other members to serve on the Commission. Paragraph (b) is in the following terms –

"(b) to agree that the Chairman and 2 States members should be appointed by the States immediately following the adoption of this proposition, with the nomination and ballot procedures for these positions following the process set out in Standing Orders for the selection of the Chairmen and members of scrutiny panels except that –

(i) nominations for the 2 members shall be invited from all members without initial nominations being made by the Chairman; and
(ii) voting for the Chairman and members shall be undertaken by open ballot and not by secret ballot;"

The procedure that will be followed in these circumstances is therefore as follows –

Immediately after the adoption of the proposition the Presiding Officer will invite nominations for the position of Chairman of the Electoral Commission. Each nomination must be seconded. If there is more than one nomination each candidate will speak for up to 10 minutes with a 20 minute question period. The candidates will speak and be questioned in the order in which they have been nominated. Other candidates must withdraw from the Chamber during the speeches and question period.

Following the speeches and question periods an open ballot or ballots will be held until one candidate receives an overall majority of votes cast. Members will be required to write their own name and indicate their vote on ballot papers to enable the manner in which members have voted to be read out after the open ballot.

Following the appointment of the Chairman, the Presiding Officer will invite nominations for 2 members to serve on the Commission. Each nomination must be seconded. There will be no speeches or questions but if more than 2 members are nominated an open ballot will be held. Members be required to write their own name and indicate their vote on ballot papers to enable the manner in which members have voted to be read out after the open ballot. The 2 members receiving the most votes will be elected.

Hopefully Members will not allow themselves to be persuaded by Senator Bailhache who has already stated that the Connetables should remain in the House. Therefore it might be helpful to remind readers why Deputy Le Herissier's task will be not be easy because last year only 2 Connetables voted in support of the independent Commission, 9 were against and former Connetable Yates was absent. Four of the 9 plus Mr Yates are no longer Members so it will be interesting to see which way the new Connetables vote.

What will also be interesting is that should Deputy Le Herissier's amendment be rejected, who will oppose Senator Bailhache who will no doubt have prepared his speech and selected the two Members he wishes to propose for the Commission.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

"What's another year"

On 2nd March last year the States, by 29 votes to 11, approved Senator Le Gresley's proposition   P19/2011 as amended by my amendment P19/2011Amd and Deputy Monty Tadier's amendment to my amendment P19/2011 Amd. to establish a Committee of Inquiry to investigate any issues which remained unresolved in relation to historical abuse in the Island.

It might help readers to take a few steps back to see how the States arrived at its decision.

When the news broke about the alleged abuse in the Island there were calls for a public inquiry to discover how the abuse could have remained "undiscovered" for so many years. In an attempt to placate the concerns, on 27th March 2008 the Council of Ministers lodged R27/2008 which made a commitment to establish a Committee of Inquiry in accordance with Standing Order 146 in order to investigate any issues which remained unresolved in relation to historic abuse in the Island.

At the end of November 2010 the States Police reported that their investigations had been completed. I promptly lodged an Oral question for the States Sitting on 6th December asking the Chief Minister to inform Members of the actions he proposed to take to address the concerns emanating from the Police investigations. In response the Chief Minister made a statement in which he said the Council of Ministers would discuss the matter and would bring forward a report to the States.

On 1st February 2011 the Council of Ministers lodged its report R8/2O11 which in essence informed Members that it considered the matter closed. As a consequence Senator Le Gresley lodged his proposition asking the Council of Ministers to reconsider its decision. I was of the view that the Council of Ministers would be happy to re-consider but would stand by its original decision.

As one can see in R27/2008, the Council of Ministers of the day made a commitment to establish a Committee of Inquiry if a number of matters had not been resolved. In my view the matters had not been resolved and it was incumbent on the present Council of Ministers to establish a Committee of Inquiry to address those matters.  I therefore lodged my proposition which actually called for Committee of Inquiry if Members were not satisfied that the original matters had been addressed. Deputy Tadier added another matter which the States approved along with some of the matters in my amendment.

As can be seen above 27 Members supported the Proposition as amended. Of the 11 who voted against 6 are current Ministers including our now Chief Minister Senator Gorst. It has been a long and torturous road and it is obvious that the "Secrecy Culture" still exists with all sorts of lame excuses being advanced to avoid an open investigation or inquiry. Since last March a number of questions have been asked relating to the progress of the Terms of Reference which will have to come back to the States via a proposition but progress has been extremely slow.

Last year the Chief Minister gave an assurance that those Members who had been closely involved with the matter, which were myself, Senator Le Gresley and Deputy Tadier along with a representative of the Care Leavers Association would have a part to play in drafting the Terms of Reference. Last June it was agreed that Verita would be engaged to bring forward proposals to assist in drafting the Terms of Reference and the subsequent Proposition. In late October Verita forwarded its report to the Council of Ministers and as per the agreement the three States Members were given a copy.

Although the Verita Report is supposed to be confidential, as mentioned in a previous Blog there is nothing controversial in it and I believe it should be made available to the public. Since receiving the Report I understand that the Council of Ministers has not consulted with any of the people who had been assured that their views would be sought.

At the last States Sitting, in answer to a question from Deputy Shona Pitman who had asked for a progress report, Senator Gorst stated that the matter was in hand and he hoped that something would be lodged by the end of March.. Given they way that the proposed Electoral Commission proposition has been hi-jacked one is left to wonder how the proposed Committee of Inquiry will turn out.


A couple of Blogs ago I commented on the golden handshake saga which has been in the public domain for months with little interest shown by the media. Therefore it is amusing reading the JEP whose reporter's have got all exited because somehow they have persuaded Senator Gorst to come clean and admit the done deal. It does seem to be a bit late in the day to be claiming a victory when the battle has been fought by the so called Meddlers. One wonders why the JEP did not support those Members who lodged dozens of questions attempting to get to the bottom of the Police Chief's suspension and the key role played by the recipient of one of the golden handshakes. The recipient as Chief Executive also had oversight of the protracted suspension of the Hospital Consultant which cost the tax payer well over two million pounds, and also the Incinerator Euro debacle which we are told was even more costly.
Now that the JEP has at long last taken in interest in the matter it is hoped that they will be asking more questions such as why no one was taken to task over the mismanagement of the former police chief's suspension particularly as it was against the advice of the Crown Officers and has cost the tax payer well over a million pounds.

I welcome the news that the Auditor General will be investigating the matter and it will be interesting to know whether the Chief Executive Officer's original terms and conditions were amended during his tenure of office and if they were, who authorised it.


At next week's Sitting the States will be asked to approve P4/2012  which is an amendment to the Standing Orders which requires the Greffier of the States to publish the register of interests of elected members on the States Assembly website and permits the Greffier to make further arrangements for publication of the register. The amendment will come into force one month after it is adopted by the States.

On 4th May last year I lodged P69/2011 asking the States to agree that the Register of States interests be published on line. It was a simple request given that it is possible for anyone to call into the States Bookshop and copy the details. However as usual there was dissent from some quarters and PPC was not really jumping up and down with support as one can read in its Comments. Even though its Chairman abstained, my proposition was approved by 35 votes to 9 with 2 abstentions. The necessary drafting has now been completed and hopefully the new House will stand by the decision made in June last year.

One interesting point to come from the debate was the concern that Bloggers may pop into the Bookshop, copy the info and then publish it on line. It is good to note that States Members are becoming aware of the influence that Bloggers are generating and is even influencing their decisions.