‘States of Change’ seen as the do-nothing chamber
Tuesday 19th February 2013, 4:00PM GMT.
TAXPAYERS may be forgiven for thinking that somewhere in Frossard House there is a group sitting around the table, much like in Monty Python’s ‘Spam’ sketch, singing repeatedly ‘plan plan plan plan’.
Everyone knows the importance of having an overall direction in place so that the silos do not take over.
But even deputies are now acknowledging a growing frustration among the public that the States of Change is being seen as the do-nothing chamber.
Is that a fair assessment for an Assembly nine months into its four-year reign?
Whether it is or is not, members set expectation levels high during the election campaign so they can have no complaints when people start asking where the delivery is.
It is an age-old problem under Guernsey’s model of government that it takes a while to get things moving.
People do not elect a party, which would come with a host of manifesto pledges and immediately set to putting those into place.
And it was even more challenging this time around given the high turnover of old members.
In some ways this is what the States Strategic Plan was designed to overcome, to create a connection between the old States and the new, setting a broad direction of travel which could be passed on and then altered if necessary.
Last week the Policy Council released its latest incarnation of the plan, which could be dubbed ‘SSP-lite’, stripped as it is of some layers of information contained by its predecessor.
But what is striking is that it means we will have to wait until the middle of next year to find out what this government’s priorities are when it releases a new government service plan.
This will translate the big picture strategy into a programme of action, which will also inform the Budget – consultation on it with States members has only just started.
There has already been months of behind-the-scenes consultation to reach a broad consensus among deputies, which has led to some fiddling around the edges and some adding of verbose phrases to the grand vision for the next 25 years, but no sense of where this States wants to be.
An arch critic might start to look at the timescales and question how much could be achieved if the States hits the decision-making wasteland that often is the last year of its term.
This type of plan is clearly better than no plan at all, but there is little new on offer for those looking for concrete progress in the updated SSP.
Beneath it is a family of other plans inherited from the last States at different stages in their progress – energy, infrastructure, population and land-use – and short updates on these are provided in the report.
The SSP replaced the government business plan, which the last Assembly thought had become too unwieldy.
The move to strip out layers of information from the SSP this time around indicates that it too was heading in the same direction.
Taking the information from this report is fine, so long as it remains readily available elsewhere and in a relevant form.
To the States this means its website – and good luck to those who want to find the up-to-date summaries for every department and committee business plan.
Some are woefully outdated. Just taking the departments: Culture and Leisure’s operational plan is for 2010, its events strategy available on the website ran out last year and its CI Lottery plan dated from 2010 to 2014 says it would be a ‘fluid and live document’ – yet it seems to have got stuck in 2010.
Education’s policy plan dates from 2011; Environment’s rolling business plan says it will be updated mid-2012 to reflect the priorities of the new board – it hasn’t. The Home Department’s is in a similar state, signed off as it is by former minister Geoff Mahy.
The Housing Department has nothing which seems to resemble a business plan on its page on the website nor, somewhat ironically, does the Policy Council.
Social Security has a business plan for 2012, which was drafted in November 2011, and Treasury and Resources’ also ran out last year.
There are, however, good examples of plans which the departments can be measured against and held to account over.
Public Services has a very detailed strategy dated from 2012 to 2016, which was produced by the new board in August 2012.
HSSD has updated its 2020 vision and Commerce and Employment published its updated business plan, with a full review of progress made, just weeks ago.
A list of legislative priorities has also been stripped out of the SSP.
It is available online but was last updated in March 2012.
Even if the new boards have updated all these documents and business plans, the simple fact is for the most part they are not available to the public as they should be or where people are told to look.
And is this really openness and transparency in operation?
So the States will continue to plan, but we already know there is a tension in this.
When members were asked to wait for the infrastructure plan to be finished before setting the capital priorities, they decided instead to press on and voted for the debate to be moved forward.
For those who have lived through the drive to create a coherent strategic planning process since the 2004 to 2008 term, time is beginning to drag.
CampaignsVoice For Victims
Voice for Victims is a campaign aimed at promoting the rights of those affected by child sexual abuse.