States of secrecy
Thursday 14th March 2013, 4:00PM GMT.
In his monthly letter to his cousin, Neil Ross’s Emile reveals his concerns about deputies’ confidential dealings and worries that his future postings might not be so illuminating…
I DON’T know if I’ll be allowed to write these letters to you in the future, mon viaer.
I try and tell you what’s going on in Guernsey and what the States are up to, eh? But it seems now a lot of what the States committees do is secret and we’re not allowed to know what they’re doing any more. Old Jack Torode, he says that’s because the members don’t know themselves.
You know the police did that raid on an advocates’ office and the advocates took them to court over it? Well, the Home Department went and got legal advice to defend themselves and they were told the police shouldn’t have done the raid that way – and the judge who authorised it was wrong as well, eh? So they went and settled out of court, them, and paid the advocates compensation.
Well, you can guess the rest, Eugene: the department said it was all confidential, so they couldn’t reveal how much taxpayers’ money they’d spent, eh?
They got themselves in a real mess, mon viaer, trying not to say how much they’d spent. That minister, he said the compensation was a confidential agreement, and the amount spent on legal fees was confidential as well, and it was the same with the cost of getting advice from an English QC. And when he was asked the reason for everything being confidential, he said that was confidential as well, eh?
The Home department even held a meeting for States members, but the deputies were only allowed to go if they agreed not to tell anyone about it.
In the end it was that police chief, or whatever he’s called now, who gave out some of the figures. He said it cost £2,000 to get advice from an English QC. Mind you, Jack said he found that hard to believe; after all, it would cost that much for a local advocate to photocopy a letter, eh?
And the police chief said he wouldn’t reveal what compensation they’d paid, in case others tried to sue them for the same amount. But like Jack said, they can only be sued if they get things wrong, them.
Perhaps that’s why they’re being secret about other things as well, mon viaer.
I mean, they still haven’t said how the £2.6m. went missing and we still don’t know what happened to the money that went missing from Customs, or the drugs from the court house, eh?
Now there’s consultants reviewing how much the States give to St John’s. But the HSSD won’t say how much the consultants cost because it’s commercially sensitive.
And they’ve had a report done on the A&E department, but they won’t say the results of that unless all the parties agree.
Jack said next time the income tax want to know his earnings from his greenhouse, he’ll tell them it’s commercially sensitive.
When you think, it’s less than a year ago these deputies were handing out manifestos saying how their States would be more open and transparent, so I don’t know what happened to all that, Eugene.
I said to Jack, I’ve never thought of States members being like beefburgers before, but it’s the same problem, eh? What it says on the packet isn’t what you get.
It’s the same with all these strategies they keep talking about, mon viaer. You know I’ve said they keep writing strategies so they don’t have to actually do anything? Well, now there’s some States members saying they’re not really strategies anyway.
Like the HSSD, they’ve spent ages putting together this plan for the future, but there’s some deputies saying it’s not really a plan because it’s all woolly and just a wish-list, without any details of how they’re actually going to do it. It’s called 20/20 vision, and Jack said he thought that was supposed to be clear sight, but for the HSSD it seems it’s looking through rose-coloured spectacles, eh? I said vision could be the right word, though, because people get visions in their dreams – and some deputies seem to live in a dream world, not the one the rest of us live in, eh?
They’ve done the same with the harbours, mon viaer. The Public Services paid consultants to draw up a master plan for all the harbour facilities needed in the future, but they’ve already said half of it won’t happen because they can’t afford it. Jack said that’s like asking an architect to draw up plans for a house without telling him how much you’ve got to spend, or letting him design a castle and then saying you can’t afford the walls or the moat.
They’ve said they can’t afford a cruise liner berth to the North Beach, but it’s essential to have a deep water berth to Longue Hougue for the fuel ships, and they need it by 2020. Hang, that’s only seven years away, mon viaer. If it’s anything like Leale’s Yard, it will take longer than that just getting planning permission. Perhaps they should offer to include a cinema to try and get it through, eh?
I’m no expert, me, but I’ve said before, if they can’t afford a separate berth for cruise liners and freight ships, perhaps they could save money and combine the two. After all, the people who work on the fuel ships have to come ashore, so what’s the difference with mooring a cruise liner and the passengers coming ashore?
Jack said it’s probably something to do with health and safety and all the passengers would have to wear yellow jackets and hard hats. Caw, if they saw that police armoured Land Rover as well, they’d wonder what sort of island they were coming to, eh?
Jack said we don’t want the Crapauds to build a liner berth so the visitors go there instead, because we need the tourists here, us.
There’s some people saying about the film of Les Miserables and how the States could attract tourists if they publicised how it was written in Guernsey. That’s something the Crapauds can’t do, eh? Jack says he’s never read Les Miserables, him, but if it was written today it could be about the ordinary Guernsey taxpayer.
And you know I told you about that Potato Peel Pie film, Eugene, and how they were going to call it Guernsey? Well, it seems now it might not be filmed in Guernsey at all. I don’t know if the States are doing anything to try and bring it here – it’s probably confidential, eh?
I said before it would be really good publicity for the island, but it won’t be the same if it’s not filmed here.
Mind you, if the film company is anything like the States, they’ll probably try and say it was filmed in a secret location.
I’ll write again soon, mon viaer, if I haven’t been raided by the police first, eh?
A la perchoine,
Your cousin, Emile.
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