Monday, September 3, 2012

Schools are back and so is Scrutiny but which is the more useful activity ?

What to do now that the children are back at school?

Today the Scrutiny Hearing season resumed in Le Capelain room at the States Building.

This time the Chief Minister (Senator Gorst in case anybody has forgotten) was flanked by a posse of his three top civil servants including John Richardson (the Ogley clone).

It has not been revealed if Mr Richardson has the same take-away (£500,000) package as Mr Ogley enjoyed but it is noticeable how nice everybody is these days to each other.

Facing the CMs team were Senator Ferguson as Chair person of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel assisted by Deputies Young, Luce, Macon and Reed together with two “advisers” whose names I never seem to be able to catch.

In fact it matters not that they are anonymous since I cannot remember the last time they spoke and bearing in mind what happened to that jovial fellow with the Santa Claus beard who used to sit in on such hearings – I am not surprised that they keep their mouths shut.

Off-table there were three scrutiny officers in attendance. So the grand total of people taking part officially was 14.

Besides which, there were some members of the public – a couple in the role of “accredited media” - and at least two who blog. That presumably means they (including yours truly) are bloggers.

As always the big question was, don’t all these people have something more useful to do?

Especially since “efficiency” and “savings” are so integral to the Medium Term Financial Plan 2013 – 2015(the subject for discussion today) aka the 400 pages of baloney that the Council of Ministers have dreamed up to amuse accountants and keep them busy at enormous public expense etc for years and years to come whilst mystifying the paying public.

Around the table there was only one question viz:

Suppose this plan doesn’t work?

And there was only one answer from the CM and his team :

We will have to dream up another one.

But of course, the discussion time allotted was from 10.15 until 11.45 am so the talking had to be padded out a bit to fill the space available in true Parkinsonesque style.

States income is falling and already 64% of the total being derived from personal taxes is raised from residents whilst expenditure is scheduled to go through the ceiling to satisfy health, social security, housing and education demands and CSR cuts were yesterday’s plan. Now (the CM explained) we have a whole new range of cuts to be achieved although CSR was unrealistic but was appropriate for its time… and there are endless forums set up so that people just like us can sit around tables monitoring how these are being achieved and suggesting what to do if they are not.

Sarah interjected on the matter of staffing matters. – About 100 years or so ago she had suggested that suggestion boxes be put in all departments so that States employees could submit their useful suggestions to management – had this ever been acted upon?
Nobody knew of course – presumably because that same nobody had been delegated to supply the boxes… but the need for such  a facility in the Scrutiny rooms at the States building for the long suffering, silent (or else) public to use was never more apparent.

For some reason, yours truly began to experience images of  beaches covered in green slime and bed pans that needed to be emptied at this stage and I could not help wondering if some practical “hands on” activity might be more beneficial to these people…

So I left a few minutes before the dire end and noted that the Harcourt case v TTS is on in the Royal Court tomorrow (Tuesday) from 2.30pm. Wonder what particular aspect of States efficiency and savings will be discussed there and what a pity it clashes with the Quarterly hearing of Deputy Duhamel as Minister for Planning before the Environment Scrutiny Panel. Where shall I go?

Did I dream it - or was there another Parkinson dictum that declared that - if politicians are kept talking in endless meetings for ever and ever that this is actually more beneficial than allowing them to do anything such as legislating ?

If not - somebody should have said it – surely.
If only there was a suggestion box in Le Capelain room…wonder if there is one in the Royal court?

Answers in a suggestion box near you please (gold painted of course).

P.S. Preacher Price was giving yet more banal morning thoughts on BBC Radio Jersey this weekend and Marett Crosby the preacher is pushing his boring book on the universe  yet again all this week in the same slot.
Isn’t it about time that somebody asked some serious questions about the nepotism at BBC Jersey or should the JEC just disconnect the electricity supply in the name of public health and safety? – just a suggestion.

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