Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Scrutiny knows no fury like a le Fondre scorned

When you encounter a body called the Corporate Services Abortive Purchase of Lime Grove House Scrutiny Sub-Panel you can be pretty sure to have reached into the very heart of Jersey government. It does not get any better – not even in Czarist Russia could a more convoluted and archaic title be dreamed up. And the plot behind the title is of suitably Mad Monk Rasputin dimensions too.
All will hopefully be revealed in good time before the choosing of Jersey’s new Chief Minister.

Inevitably, Senator Sarah was in command of this last minute venture in scrutiny-land. Yours truly really thought it was all over for this season if not for ever – because Scrutiny has been under scrutiny itself recently and it looked to be destined for the scrap bin. But, two other recent and urgent panels have been initiated (on school exams and the BDO/Operation Rectangle report) and had already breathed some temporary life into the doomed beast.

Today’s hearings were the start of a whole week of sustained talking and ear-straining for the depleted panellists Collin Egre and Debbie De Sousa – although Egre disappeared just before half-time and did not re-appear today.

As always yours truly had asked by e-mail to video-record the proceedings just in case Sarah has had a conversion – but this was ignored. Even passing up a hand written note to the high altar could attract no response. Only after the initial hearing with Senator Le Marquand and the Deputy Chief of Police had been concluded did her holiness respond to my verbal plea. A negative decision had been made, she said, because the meetings were of such importance that no recording would be allowed in case it disturbed things. Deputy Priestess De Sousa chipped in too that we were being treated just the same as the accredited press “if that was any consolation.” Yours truly pointed out that there was in fact an agreed Scrutiny protocol (copies were actually sitting on the public seats) that explained that if witnesses agreed they could be recorded - but the worst sort of demagogue is somebody who was once a serf - and there was no point in arguing.

Obviously it was far too important a hearing for the public to be encouraged to know about this little political hot potato. The panellists wanted it all to themselves.

Ironically, when yours truly returned home, the following e-mail had arrived from the scrutiny office : “The Corporate Scrutiny Panel had agreed that only the press would be permitted to use video cameras in its meetings” and attached the Practice minute of 4 March 2009 –“ Following a Panel meeting discussion on the use of video cameras at its meetings with members of the public, the Panel established that the press would be welcome because they had a Code of Practice to follow and complaints relating to abuse had a mechanism for resolution. Members of the public had no such restraints placed upon them which would have allowed disruption during the meeting and misuse of the footage. The Panel was minded that the meetings were open to the Public as observers and it decided to maintain refusal for permission for any member of the public to film during any Corporate Services Scrutiny panel hearing or meeting.”

The details of this political/property farce will doubtless be revealed in due course but from initial soundings it seems that Senator Ozouf could well be milking the cows on his St Saviour farm soon and should have no difficulty in finding some possible cow-hands among his current colleagues.
Senator Le Marquand seemed to enjoy revealing all he knew – which was not a great deal – because he had been kept so much in the dark by the Treasury as the negotiations proceeded almost to signing the contract - which then mysteriously collapsed.

The State Street Corporation (of Boston Mass) is the new tenant at an anticipated £24 per sq ft rental.
Presumably Senator Ozouf and/or his departmental staff valued this commercial letting above the provision of proper police facilities. So they pulled the bung.

The loss to the public is generally reckoned at £8 Millions for this failure because there is no better deal on offer and that takes no account of wasted fees or expenditure over the five years that these have been ongoing (2006 to date). Current valuation of the Lime Grove building is more like £12 millions rather than the £8.25 to £8.75 Millions which the States were negotiating to pay for this urgently needed Police HQ. So much for CSR.

Strangely, it is often the empty seats that speak the loudest at such hearings and just as Senior Police Officer Gradwell was only absent in body from the BDO Scrutiny - so the ghosts of Ozouf, Richardson and Le Sueur dominated these proceedings in an ethereal sort of way. In fact it was one of the themes that later witnesses alluded to – just as the negotiations to buy Lime Grove House began slipping mysteriously away - they had sensed a presence “of somebody behind the scenes pulling the strings and interfering in the decision making.”

How strange yours truly thought – this was just what happened at the time of the recruitment of the Jersey Development Company officers (WEB under a new name) which had also been subject to scrutiny by Senator Sarah and her team and was widely reported on this blogsite.

Another empty scrutiny chair was that of Deputy John Le Fondre. He had been painfully sacked as an Assistant Treasury Minister at the crucial point (Autumn 2010) during the negotiations and he had particular responsibility for the whole project. Then in a complicated game of musical chairs he had joined Sarah’s scrutiny panel whilst Constable Refault had left (to join the Treasury) as had Deputy Vallois (Sarah’s starlet) and Constable Murphy. Deputy Egre had recently joined the panel having been sacked as an Assistant Minister at Planning.

Deputy Le Fondre was present however, for much of the day’s proceedings, sitting in the public seats, taking many notes and listening very intently. Also present was a junior female emissary from the Treasury.
Le Fondre is precluded from sitting as a scrutiny panellist here being conflicted but will appear later as a witness. Feathers are sure to fly then and gallery seats should be booked.

The States Greffier also attended as an observer for a while today, which is unusual for scrutiny hearings.
The roles of Senator Ozouf and the Jersey Development Company will no doubt be fully revealed as this shifty business unfolds and somebody might even explain why the States Property Holdings Department was warned off, just as negotiations seemed to be successfully completed?

Those with an historical interest might consider that
State Street, Boston
, Mass was the location in 1770 for the “Boston Massacre.” Then the colonists were resisting the payment of taxes to the London government and this resistance was also demonstrated when tea was dumped in Boston harbour to avoid paying further British financial burdens, two years later. Jersey’s own “revolution” had taken place on  28 September 1769.
By 1781 the “American War of Independence” arrived in Jersey’s
Royal Square
when French mercenaries invaded the Island. “The Battle of Jersey” painting is a royalist depiction of this event and was painted by John Copley, whose family was tea traders and probably owned some of the dumped tea.
The “Boston Massacre” picture, which shows British redcoats shooting at colonists, was etched by Paul Revere (Rivoire) who was from a Guernsey family.

Some might see connections across an ocean and several centuries.



  1. Good blog. Nice to see that at least two sub-panels are asking some searching questions.

    Would appreciate your feedback on my most recent blog Let me know what you think.
    'Read Part 3 of my Blog Series: Jersey's Secret Party - Going strong since 1948'

  2. What, they've wasted 8 MILLION on this? More than cost of the Harper/Power part of the Abuse investigations which so many of the paedo-supporters complain about? Yet, no-one will kick up much fuss?

    Isn't Jersey great?

  3. Tom Gruchy.

    The double act that is Ozouf and Richardson HAVE FORM

  4. The £8 million splashed across the front page of the JEP is supposed to refer to the additional costs it will take to secure another building on their lists of possibles, of which Lime Grove was favourite, by going to plan B or C and buying a more expensive one of the substitutes.

    Every one should also remember that commercial property is not in demand at all so the States should benefit from a full scale buyers market. Property developers are probably desperate to sell their unsold and unwanted property portfolio so the States should be in a very strong position to bid really low.

  5. Well it seems like east or west of planet Earth favoritism is not a new sport