Thursday, December 29, 2011

New States of Jersey - New Year - but same old Scrutiny Secrecy and keeping the public at bay...

Why is this Agenda so badly presented here? Part of the technological problem is that Scrutiny web site information appears in a format that is only used by the States of Jersey and the planet Mars - so it is virtually impossible to download and use it. It is all part of the official inability to meet with the public and communicate. If the States want to have the latest programmes or IT gadgets they just go out and buy - mere mortals are not so fortunate and have to make do with ancient technology! This had to be scanned from a paper copy and then posted here - it would be so much better if it could be downloaded direct from somebody knows how?

Before 2011 is put into the political trash box it is necessary to consider just some of the secret decisions that Scrutiny Panels have been making during the closing days of the year. No doubt other big decisions have been made around the Council of Minister’s table but we can learn very little about them because these are ultra secret.
Certainly not suitable for the eyes and ears of mere voting plebs – unless of course Ozo can put a safe spin on them first.

However, the bare bones from Scrutiny meetings are made public in the published Agenda which have all – to date – been held in secret too.
As somebody who has submitted a long list of potential scrutiny topics I also have some knowledge, not generally made public, about matters which have already been discussed and rejected.

Technology willing, the Agenda of the secret Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel for 21 December 2011 should appear on this blog (yes above). It was held in Le Capelain Room and closed to the paying public (under Standing Rule 138(6) of the SOJ Law for those who want to look up the feeble thinking of our past or newly elected Scrutineers).
In this case there were some important decisions to be made – not least the choice of future scrutiny topics.
This Panel is now constituted under Deputy Stephen Luce (Chair) with Constables Stephen Pallett and Michael Paddock so is brand new, through and through.
Although one item on the Agenda was the matter of the creation of the new “Jersey Business” (to replace both “Jersey Enterprise” and “Jersey Business Venture”) it is not known what was decided. Yours truly had also submitted a scrutiny topic on this matter too but what happened to it is not known and it usually takes months for Scrutiny minutes to be published.
Of course, if the public had been admitted to the meeting this would all be public knowledge – along with the Panel’s reasoning - and I could also have asked to address the Panel on the matters that I had written about. A member of the public might also have asked why it was felt necessary to have a day out in London to visit the House of Commons as the very first jolly of the new States?

In fact, this was not the first of the newly constituted Scrutiny Panels to meet because HSSH (Health, Social Security & Housing) had already met in secret on 13 December to consider such things as video recording by bloggers, the conduct of meetings, communications and correspondence from a Mrs Brand and yours truly.
We the mere public cannot know what Mrs Brand’s subject was but this new Panel rejected my topics;
1) Suicide & Self Harm 2) Respite & Care facilities 3) Pensions public & Private and
4) Discrimination & Human Rights
Suggestion number 4 had been passed on to HSSH by Corporate Services at a previous secret meeting (already discussed on a blog on this site) because nobody but nobody wants to grasp the Human Rights nettle.

An attempt to claim that my suggestion re Respite & Care had been accepted was in fact not correct because a much more limited scrutiny topic to consider respite for children and young people only had previously been embarked upon. This new Panel had already been milking the PR good message from this and ensuring that their visit to several “young persons” respite centres was fully announced in the established and unquestioning media.
This new Panel now consists of Deputy Kristina Moore as chair – so it will know how to milk the media to maximum effect – with Deputies Jackie Hilton and James Reed.

The next day – 14 December – the new Environment Scrutiny Panel met under (ex Planning Chief Officer) Deputy John Young as Chair, Deputy Stephen Luce Vice-Chair and Constable (ex Deputy) Philip Rondel (who formerly chaired this Panel). This meeting was in secret too of course to reject my scrutiny proposals as follows;
1) Provision of Public toilets and 2) Low Emission Transport.

So there we have it – the new super rejuvenated Scrutiny System has ended the bad old year and welcomed the New Year with much the same secrecy, non–engagement policies that have already brought the whole scrutiny process to its knees.

It is no coincidence that so few established States members are serving on the new panels because they have chosen to boycott the whole rotten system.

Just to let the public know – yours truly has submitted many more possible scrutiny topics and will publish the outcomes in due course. Don’t hold your breath as they say but my suggestions with regard to public hearings that cannot be heard – at election hustings, in scrutiny meetings, the courts etc etc – could find no home with any scrutiny panel so it was passed on to the Greffier of the States Mr Michael De La Haye to play with. He was also fobbed of with a whole bundle of my suggestions for improving the scrutiny process, better information about so many States Departments, access and the whole Complaints Board process (which also ought to include the fast asleep Trading Standards Department hidden away in the Market)…

Of course, at the Senatorial elections Jersey’s very own favourite Knight in shining “amour” aka  Philip Bailhache promised to reform so much that is wrong with our government and scrutiny in particular. We shall see - but yours truly will try to monitor any progress that is recordable with my most basic of devices in 2012.
Stay tuned.


  1. Business as usual Tom, what else did you expect?

  2. I might have expected the "opposition" to have something to say during these days of seasonal sleep.
    We can be sure that our government is planning all mammner of mischief for 2012 - but the opposition (!) will be as disorganised and unprepared as always.

  3. previous should read manner of course...
    I wonder, whilst here, if anybody ever looks at the links from Bermuda blogs etc....we could learn so much from studying others with similar small territory problems...insularity is just so unhealthy...

  4. An off-screen communication has been picked up here at Tom Gruchy HQ aka RMS Carpathia from the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel clerk.
    It advises that the Panel had met on the 8 and 21 December and discussed possible topics from me at both.
    My suggestion that "Public Houses" might be investigated was rejected because of "a long list of other significant topic areas." I wait with interest to learn what these might be but it was not intended that our elected Scrutineers might just be afforded an excuse for a pub crawl at public expense. It must be obvious to anybody that thie most important aspect of Jersey culture, entertainment and commerce is changing rapidly and that there are immense problems centred on health, monopoly, tourism and economic interests that need to be looked at under a wide remit...
    The clerk advises that the "Jersey Business" hybrid will be looked at by this Panel in 2012. But since the reforms, initiated largely by Sen Ozouf as part of his cost cutting policies are probably contrary to other plans re stimulating employment and diversity - the whole process will have to be reviewed URGENTLY.

    With regard to my difficulties publishing States Agenda the clerk claims that all is well - but I suggest he tries posting them on a blog. For some reason my machine is allergic to States favoured PDF format and a typical result was shown on the blog on this site for 15 December with the Chairmen's Committee Agenda appearing in a strangely edited form. Perhaps the helpful clerk would like to examine this matter further?
    Much better though would be for him to enjoy the remainder of the seasonal vacation and for one or more of our newly appointed and elected States Member Scrutineers to respond here with their observations....

  5. Hi Tom,

    I will be asking the following question on Tuesday of the Chairman of the Scrtunity panels:Will the Chairman confirm how many of the recently constituted Scrutiny Meetings have been held partly or wholly in Secret? Will she explain which ones and why?