One hundred days in, the ‘vision’ remains a mystery
Tuesday 18th September 2012, 4:30PM BST.
LATER this afternoon, our political leaders will be quizzed on their first 100 days in office.
Swept into power on the change agenda, the public will rightly be asking what has happened since.
Plenty of feet have been settling under tables, plenty of learning has been going on and lots of getting to know you.
As for hard and fast policy initiatives, it is largely a big fat nothing. Rubber-stamping changes to zero-10 was a fait accompli, ordering another report on electronic voting was a stalling tactic and proposals freezing States members’ pay were a welcome gesture but hardly a keynote initiative.
That is not surprising. History tells us that consensus government does not deliver quick change.
And those defending the record so far will argue that now is not the time for the revolution.
What is troubling, though, is that we do not know what this Assembly stands for, what its goals and spending priorities are.
Contrast that with the first 100 days of the Coalition Government in the UK.
Within that time the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had outlined their vision in a document that bound the two parties.
Announcements had been made that the pace of cuts would be quicker than the previous administration, with an aim to eradicate the deficit by the end of their term.
Education was to be transformed with the Academies Bill and reforms of the NHS were spelled out in the coalition deal.
In Guernsey, it will not be until the debates on the Budget and Social Security’s benefits report that we will know which way this Assembly will start to lean.
So when the Institute of Directors debate asks about the first 100 days in office, it should be a quick answer – unless of course the States has done a really bad job in selling its message of progress.
In fairness, Commerce and Employment has at least given us a clue as to its new priories, however questionable they may be.
Ministers have made progress on cooperation and establishing a footing on the international stage.
But to many on the street, that is them doing their day job and much of the rest of what has happened so far has been about putting into action what was already decided.
So the real question is not so much what have you done as what are you going to do?
The Policy Council has had an away day working out its suggested priorities.
It can do no more than set the initial direction because a majority of the 47 individual States members needs to buy into this vision. That in itself creates a hurdle that has to be overcome before we know which direction the island is travelling.
This States has inherited some major items of reform, which it has yet to endorse.
It could make a name for itself for finally tackling the money pit that is the final-salary pension scheme.
It could drive through the efficiencies identified as part of the financial transformation programme – although a prediction here would be calls from big spending departments for delay in the timetable if they can set out a programme that achieves the cuts.
It could resolve the shortfall in spending on benefits and old age pensions.
It could deliver a workable traffic strategy that gives people a real incentive to use alternatives to the car.
It could set targets for education standards that make Guernsey the envy of the world.
It could drive through reform and streamlining of the civil service.
It could even deliver on the issues that most concerned islanders in the run-up to the election – the likes of introducing island-wide voting and a sense of real openness and transparency.
And most important is the unknown – the keynote achievement that no one could predict.
This government will probably not be remembered for its first 100 days, although elsewhere that is used as a time to set the tone.
But hopefully the IoD will bring everyone into the same room annually to review where the States stands.
Because next year, when the tough decisions that every candidate pledged to make become a reality, we may really have something to hold deputies to account for.
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