Wednesday 30 July 2014

Jersey's Dean-- The True financial cost-- A "Very Expensive Mess???"

I was aware that at the recent General Synod held in York the Dean of Portsmouth the Very Reverend David Bindley had asked a question regarding the costs incurred following the fall out between the Bishop of Winchester and Jersey’s Dean. I applied for the actual written question and answer and have now received it. By coincidence it also coincided with leaked details of costs to BBC Radio Jersey who have kindly made them available to me.

The following is Rev. Bindley’s question:  

“What have been the Episcopal legal costs borne by the Church Commissioners in relation to the recent discussions between the Diocese of Winchester and the Channel Islands about safeguarding issues and Episcopal oversight?”

Mr Andreas Whittam Smith as First Church Estates Commissioner gave the following answer: 

“The Church Commissioners agreed with the diocese of Winchester we would pay 50% of the costs of the Steel investigation and the Gladwin visitation, both of which relate to safeguarding, though not to Episcopal oversight.  To date this has amounted to about £95,000 including all professional fees and expenses.  Further costs are expected to be incurred before the Steel report is published and the Gladwin visitation is concluded. The Commissioners have not paid any costs associated with the arrangements for Episcopal oversight in the Channel Islands.”

I seem to recall that at the outset of the investigations the sum of around £500k was being banded about as the likely cost, therefore the sum of £95k must have been a figure plucked from the air or paid at the early stage of proceedings because they do not in any way relate to the estimated cost or to the figures leaked to BBC Radio Jersey which are as follows: 

Church Commissioner Support to Winchester Diocese (Matched funding) £195K

Winchester direct expenditure £200k

 Gladwin Report fees (estimated) £ 50K. Steel Report fees (estimated) £ 50K,

 Dean’s legal fees £150K

 Estimated total £645K 

Bishop Dakin had been invited by Radio Jersey to comment on the figures but he declined, however Bishop Wilmot was interviewed. He promptly disputed the figures but declined to give the actual cost which seems self defeating.

The one thing we can all agree on is that lawyers do not come cheap so to claim that £95,000 covers all professional fees and expenses does raise eyebrows and I am far from convinced that the £95k will be anywhere near the final total.

It interesting to note that the Dean’s legal fees are estimated to be £150,000, which seems to be extortionate, hopefully they are wildly exaggerated but leads one to ask who should pay for the Dean’s legal fees, particularly as it was his handling of the abuse complaint which led to the very expensive events that followed.

When the former Police Chief Graham Power was suspended he received no financial assistance to challenge the decision or defending the allegations that followed. I am not advocating that the Dean should be placed in the same position but ask who is responsible for paying his legal expenses and is there a capping policy because the system is open to abuse.

I hope that when the final bill is paid a breakdown of the costs will be published because in addition to the legal fees nearly £400,000 has been spent by Church Commissioner Support to Winchester Diocese (Matched funding £195K) and Winchester direct expenditure (£200k). What is that expenditure for?

One also has to ask what have the ordinary Winchester and Jersey members of their congregations got for their money and will anyone be taken to task for what seems to be obscene expenditure? Whilst asking that question there is another, because it appears that as a result of the “temporary” oversight of Jersey from the Bishop Winchester to the Bishop of Dover it is likely to lead to the ordinary Jersey taxpayers, many who are not members of the Church of England paying for additional support for the Dean, why? 

Last month Deputy Le Fondre who has yet to ask of HG's welfare lodged another question in respect of the Dean’s hardship. The question to the Chief Minister was as follows,


In view of the passing of interim Episcopal oversight from Winchester to Dover announced by the Dean of Jersey in the Assembly on 13th May 2014, and the recognition by the Deanery Synod on 3rd June 2014 of the additional administrative burdens laid upon the Dean in consequence, would the Chief Minister consider investigating the resources available to the Office of the Dean of Jersey and consider whether some assistance should be provided to support the Dean in the performance of his official duties?


I am content to consider the resources available to the Office of the Dean of Jersey and whether some assistance should be provided to support the Dean in his official duties. Although the Office of the Dean of Jersey is a non-Ministerial States funded body, and no Minister is responsible to the States Assembly for its administration or funding, given the unique circumstances, I am content to consider this matter, consult with the Deanery Synod and make recommendations.

The answer is interesting because no explanation is given as to what the unique circumstances are and why the” temporary” transfer should require additional resources.

At present the Office of the Dean of Jersey receives £25,900 per annum which if the Budget (page 169) is approved will rise to £26,100. No explanation is given as to why that sum is paid or what the expenditure is for. Perhaps Deputy Le Fondre will ask that question.

At the outset of the investigation, Bishop Gladwin described the situation as a mess. 15 months on he might agree that it is now  “a very expensive” mess.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Independent Jersey Care Inquiry (2) ---- A Breath of Fresh Air?

The Independent Jersey Care Inquiry kicked off yesterday which is some 3 years and 4 months after the States grudgingly gave approval to establishing one. It was not established at the behest of the Council of Ministers but as a result of stubborn prodding by a handful of "dissident" backbenchers and bloggers.

Although some attention will be given to the manner in which the police handled the abuse investigation. (Operation Rectangle), hopefully enough victims and witnesses will come forward to explain what really happened to them,  why were so many young people abused, why did the abuse go unreported and who was responsible?

The Inquiry Team has started with a blank piece of paper and over the past months members has been taking statements from a diverse number of witnesses. As reported in a blog published on 10th June I have been interviewed and my statement eventually contained 38 pages along with 30 supporting exhibits. 

Like many other witnesses I don't know whether I will be called to give oral evidence and feel in limbo, that is a view shared by other witnesses. I would like to take this opportunity of offering the Inquiry Team some constructive criticism; not only must it keep witnesses updated but it must provide answers to valid questions asked by a number of interested parties. Also it must ensure that its  Website which is a vital conduit is constantly updated.

Yesterday I attended the first Hearing in which the COI Chairman Frances Oldham again called for witnesses to come forward and making it abundantly clear that witnesses will be given time to give their statements and be under no pressure as a priority for the Inquiry team is the well being of those who recount, possibly for the first time, their experiences in childhood. Very importantly she added that COI will conduct its work independently of the States of Jersey, the Police, any other organisation or individual in Jersey.

There followed a lengthy, well researched, informative and very professional presentation by the Council to the Inquiry Patrick Sadd and Harriet Jerram of Outer Temple Chambers in London who outlined the many issues that the COI will encounter and set out details of Phase 1 of the Inquiry.

Patrick Sadd compared the way in which the UK legislation had evolved and had to be updated at regular intervals to safe guard the interests of the child rather than those in authority. He reported that a constant theme in most Inquiries had shown that problems had arisen because of poor management, lack of training and poor staffing arrangements.

When Mr Sadd outlined the Jersey legislation it was evident that for a very long time there had been little statutory legislation and when new laws were drafted they were often out dated by the time they were approved.  I will be most surprised if the COI does not find evidence of poor management, lack of training and staffing problems in our Jersey Homes.

I was pleased to hear that the way in which the Honorary Police deal with juveniles at Parish Hall Inquiries will not be ignored. From my experience it is evident that there is little consistency and often young people have been prosecuted when pre-court action would have been preferable.


Ms Jerram in her excellent presentation included a definition of abuse which covered every conceivable aspect of abuse.She also took the opportunity to ask again for anyone who has evidence to come forward and tell their story- including senior managers, police officers, support staff, doctors, teachers and anyone who had contact with children or young people. I can only echo that view and remind those who are hesitant that there will not be another opportunity so take it. If in doubt contact the Inquiry Team who will advise you as to the value of your information. Its website can be accessed HERE

Speaking with passion and empathy Allan Collins, on behalf of the Jersey Care Leavers' Association said that he was encouraged from what he had heard so far. The range of breadth of the Terms of Reference is demanding; many children in Jersey over many years were sexually and physically abused. That fact has to be grasped and accepted. The COI will have to examine the culture, practices and ethics of those entrusted with the care system in Jersey.

He added that many children in Haut du la Garenne were made to feel like second class citizens by sections of the public and begs the question why?  

I felt what was being said yesterday was a breath of fresh air whereby intelligent people had quickly learnt of the inadequacies and shortcomings of those tasked with the welfare of young people and witnesses would be produced to substantiate that view. 

These are early days and the rest of this week will be devoted to opening addresses from those people representing the public bodies. However I came away from yesterday's Hearing with a feeling that the COI is business like and thorough and will not weaken at the knees when encountering those who for far too long have been oblivious to the welfare of the young and vulnerable in Jersey.


Wednesday 9 July 2014

Jersey Landlord/ Tenant Disputes--- Tenancy Deposit Scheme

On 28th June last year I published a blog in relation to a dispute between a landlord and tenant and how expensive and cumbersome it was for the tenant to seek redress when clearly the land lord had acted in an unseemly manner.

When I published the blog, unlike the UK, Jersey did not have a rental deposit scheme, however as a result of the States approving P111/2014 today steps are now in place to implement the provisions contained within the Draft Residential Tenancy Deposit Scheme (Jersey) Regulations 2014. (Regs)

The (Regs) introduce rental deposit protection for residential tenancies in Jersey and will provide a simple framework to assist landlords and tenants in the management of deposits.  The Minister's objectives are to-

* reduce the number of unfairly withheld tenancy deposits

* ensure the safekeeping of deposits throughout the period of tenancy

* ensure deposits are returned swiftly and fairly, particularly if a dispute arises

* encourage continued improvements in property management standards

The (Regs) will affect all new, varied or renewed residential tenancy agreements made on or after the date on which the deposit scheme comes into force. However if landlords wish to join the scheme voluntarily before then they may do so.

In future if a landlord requires a deposit there is now an obligation to pay the amount to the scheme within 14 days of its receipt. The deposit will be held in a dedicated account by a scheme administrator until it's repaid at the end of the tenancy. If there is a disagreement over the amount of money to be returned, the (Regs) provide for the scheme administrator to establish a dispute resolution service, which will adjudicate on the apportionment of money to be repaid to the tenant and/or landlord or managing agent.

It will still be open to tenants, should they not agree with the adjudicator, to refer the matter to the Petty Debts Court. 

The (Regs) provide for the Minister to appoint a scheme administrator to establish and maintain the tenancy deposit scheme who will be responsible for making arrangements for the scheme to take effect and determine the rules by which it will operate. At the same time the administrator must ensure that the scheme meets the provisions specified in the (Regs) and follows the directions of the Minister.

The administrator will need to be appointed and the necessary arrangements put in place before the scheme can begin but it is anticipated that it will come into operation by 28th February next year. To this end the Minister had lodged an amendment giving his commitment to meeting that date.

In addition to the deposit scheme a compulsory property condition report will be introduced. The Report will ensure that an accurate record of the condition of a property is available either in a visual or written form, of the physical state and condition of a property at the beginning and end of a tenancy agreement. This will provide evidence when determining the amount of deposit to be retained by a landlord or repaid to a tenant, and can be referred back to in the event of a dispute arising.  

The proposition contains a number of interesting facts such as 46% of households in Jersey live in rental accommodation. 32% of these households are in the private rental (qualified or non qualified sector) . This equates to 7,800 households in qualified accommodation and another 5,600 in the non-qualified. To live in the qualified sector one is expected to have lived in Jersey for a minimum of 10 years.

it is estimated that the total amount of deposits held by private landlords at any time in Jersey is £15 million.  The money on deposit will be held in one or more dedicated scheme accounts and an investment strategy for the funds will be implemented which fund the scheme. However until there are sufficient funds in the scheme, a small fee may be charged to cover the initial costs.

The Jersey Statistics Unit estimates that the average rent for a mid-range property at the end of 2012 was £1,144 per month, roughly equivalent to the average deposit of one month's rent. It should be noted that Landlords are entitled to claim 10% of the rent received from the Income Tax Department for "fair wear and tear."

I mention this because there are some landlords who expect their property being returned in the condition they let it. This was the case that I referred to in my previous blog on the subject. I attach a blog site published by My/ which is a guide for landlords in relation to tenancy deposit protection. Interestingly the editor of "My Deposits" is of the view that there are no rules as to what is reasonable wear and tear, however the site provides some useful pointers which will be helpful to both landlords and tenants.

It is generally recognised that the majority of landlords and tenants behave in an honourable way. Unfortunately life is not perfect and for that reason the tenancy deposit scheme should go a long way in addressing some of the unsavoury behaviour by those few landlords who give their colleagues a bad name.   

The Draft Residential Tenancy Deposit Scheme (Jersey) Regulations 2014 has taken many years to become Law. I can recall my time on the Housing Committee in the mid 1990's when the idea was first mooted. The reason why it has taken so long time in coming says little for the past Housing Ministers, however the present Minister Deputy Green cannot be put in the same pot.

The (Regs) are not perfect and it would appear that tenants in Lodging Houses may not have the same protection. Hopefully this matter and any other teething problems will be speedily addressed, however the (Regs) are a vast improvement on the existing arrangement.

Readers who wish to read my previous blog in relation to landlords and tenants may do so by CLICKING HERE

Readers can read Proposition P111/2014 by CLICKING HERE

The amendment can be read by CLICKING HERE

Readers can read the My Deposits website by CLICKING HERE 

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Plemont 3------A Pyrrhic Victory???

I know a number of people who are members of the National Trust for Jersey (NTJ) and understandably they are delighted with yesterday’s result. Many are single minded and dedicated in safeguarding our heritage. I have no problem with that, but ask where were they when the applications were being considered to build on the St Martin’s School playing field or the monstrosity at La Coupe Bay in St Martin. I hope they will show the same commitment and diligence when the next contentious application comes along irrespective of who ever are making the application. 

I called my first Plemont blog “a contrived debate” because of the way in which the proposition was conveniently moved up the Agenda so that certain States Members could be present for the debate.

Yesterday’s debate was again a contrived event. The proposition was to request the Treasury Minister to identify the appropriate means of funding a grant however before the States had agreed to the request the Minister, Senator Ozouf had already identified a source even though in many people’s eyes the source, the Criminal Offenders Confiscation Fund, was not intended to finance the purchase of land, no matter how important the land was.

It could be said that the NTJ had further support in the Chamber via three unelected members, the Deputy Bailiff, the Solicitor General and the Dean who all played an interesting and supporting role.

In most democracies the Speaker is a servant of the Members in the Chamber, in Jersey this is not so. Our Speaker not only approves the wording of every proposition, amendment and question that is lodged but also dictates who speaks and what is said.

Yesterday it was evident that he wanted to hurry things along and was in no mood to allow any dissenting speaker to question the advice given by the Solicitor General even though there appeared to be no logic in his answers.

The Confiscation Fund allows for money to be spent “(i) in preventing, suppressing or otherwise dealing with criminal conduct,  (ii)  in dealing with the consequences of criminal conduct, or (iii)  without prejudice to the generality of clauses (i) and (ii), in facilitating the enforcement of any enactment dealing with criminal conduct;

Senator Ozouf had an amazing and some may say convenient memory lapse yesterday when he was unable to recall how much money was in the Fund when monies were being requested to build the new police station. Had he looked no further than the answer he gave to Senator Le Gresley in February 2011 he would have remembered that there was well over £8 million in the Fund and that money is still unspent?
Therefore one may ask why money from the Confiscation Fund was not allocated to build the police station in the first place.  I submit that the answer is simple, the Fund was never intended to build police stations and that is why the money was not allocated.

The debate kicked off with Senator Bailhache hardly needing to break into a sweat, he had the expected supportive packed gallery, the money had been found, there was no need to compulsory purchase the headland and there was a fixed price. This was get out of jail card which was used by so many members who were looking for a reason to change they voted last time.

Deputy Duhamel the Planning and Environment Minister spoke next, but he gave the appearance of a dead man walking or should it be talking? He late claim that an eleventh hour buyer had turned up, rightly cut no ice particularly as he had omitted mention that point in the Comments which he had lodged some few hours earlier.

Deputies Mike Higgins and Judy Martin were the true stars in the debate and made it abundantly clear that the device/mechanism that Senator Ozouf was adopting to obtain funding was ultra vires.  One may ask how was it possible for the Solicitor General to say that Senator Ozouf’s actions were in order, but then again one has to look no further than the part he played in the Curtis Warren trial.

Senator Ozouf may well claim that his actions were transparent and legal but in my book they say little about his ethics and integrity. Taking money out of one fund and putting it in another fund and then moving it to another fund looks very much like money laundering to me, but then again I am a simple soul who sees things in black and white and not in shady grey.

Immediately after Senator Ozouf had spoken, the Dean rose. As the custodian of what is supposed to be good, one would have hoped that the Dean might have spoken on the morality of the funding and perhaps have quoted from the scriptures and asked the Senator and others what shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?

Sadly the Dean complimented Senator Ozouf on the way he had found the funding, so much for morality. He made no mention at all of the States failure to spend money from the fund to help those who have suffered as a consequence of crime and those criminals who need help in being rehabilitated. Interestingly today the States was debating a proposition to provide funding for disabled people, but the Dean had nothing to say.
Money was found to buy land, yet today the very people who were happy to spend it yesterday were today opposing money being spent on our disabled, where is the morality?

Yesterday was a land mark day for the NTJ and Members were constantly reminded that the headland would for the benefit of our children, their children and generations there after; however it will come at a price far greater than £3.5m and may be a Pyrrhic victory. 

Precedents have been created and money can be extracted from the Confiscated Fund and used for a purpose it was never intended for. Also if money can be found for land then money can be found for a whole host of more worthy causes?  The bench mark is now set at an all time low and we are in for an interesting time as Ministers attempt to justify withholding funds from the Island’s many disadvantaged.

For the benefit of Readers who might want to read Plemont 1 please click here

To read Plemont 2, please click here