Tittle-tattle about electricity prices is not the same as evidence
Saturday 19th January 2013, 10:00AM GMT.
THE long-running differences between Sark Electricity and the General Purposes and Advisory Committee over energy prices continued this week, with letters to customers from both parties.
While no one likes paying the sort of prices we must – 60p a unit or thereabouts and a standing charge of £24 a year – many accept it as being part of living in a place where even a box of matches has two sea journeys and a ride on a tractor/trailer in order to reach The Avenue from a British distribution centre.
Sark Electricity’s David Gordon-Brown has now suggested that an independent professional mediator from the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators should take both sides through the process of negotiating a legally binding agreement.
That might well work and it is to be hoped – for the sake of Sark’s political credibility if nothing else – that if such a course materialises, the committee has sound evidence to support its claim that it has ‘accumulated a significant and disturbing amount of information about the company and the background to the prices which it charges’.
Unless I have missed it, the committee has published little in the way of evidence – and by evidence, I talk of what would be acceptable in a court of law rather than the sort of gossip and tittle-tattle that most of us have heard recently, much of it from the same small handful of sources, I suspect.
Along with well over 100 Sark residents and much against every inclination that I had, I went to the Island Hall a week ago to listen to an American professor of geography a few months short of his 90th birthday talking about islands.
Another expert parachuted in to tell us that islands are not different, that they can and should be run in exactly the same way as mainland communities are run and that islanders – as distinct from people who move to islands and call themselves islanders – are really neither special nor different.
Well, that’s what I thought as I arrived and I later I walked home admitting that I couldn’t have been more wrong. He was an absolute revelation and his observations and advice were – to someone like me who for decades has resented people coming to these Channel Islands and telling us how to run our affairs – like manna from heaven. How did we manage before they arrived, I keep asking myself?
As far as I was concerned, the most compelling things he had to say were that islanders are right to view intrusion and outside interference with suspicion/caution and, secondly, that in order to draw attention to our plight – and I use that word deliberately – we must ‘make a noise’.
It was suggested to me by a couple of people after the talk – interestingly, neither of them islanders – that they detected an anti-British feeling during Professor Lowenthal’s talk. That may well be the case, but perhaps they should reflect upon the fact that the applause at the end was loud and sustained from an audience which, perhaps in the main, was made up of Sarkees and other Channel Islanders.
Sadly, there were few questions – yet another fact of life in a community where uttering views not shared in certain quarters brings with it the risk of sustained and deeply unpleasant vilification. Real freedom of speech is a thing of the past in Sark these days.
A link to Professor Lowenthal’s talk can be found at soundcloud.com/davids-voice/sarks-saga and I would recommend it to anyone who loves these islands and Sark in particular.
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