26 October 2010

Mark Thomas - Light Relief

On 30th November the States will be debating their policy on who can or can't film official States proceedings. At the moment, no-one is allowed to film States sittings. BBC Jersey have the exclusive right to broadcast live, and this is now also streamed on the Channel TV website. The JEP, the island's only newspaper also gets use of the other 'box' (the Radio gets the one on the right).

As the States proceed with what will be no doubt a long, tedious and generally ill-informed (prejudiced) debate, you may get bored. If so you may want to check out this video instead.

The bit at the end when he asks the Senior Officer a very straightforward question, but gets no straight answer made me think of States Question Time with certain Ministers! Enjoy

I have the good fortune of meeting Mark tomorrow, at the BBC. I will make inquiries as to whether he can come to Jersey to bring some of his unique brand of political commentary/comedy to us.

23 October 2010

GST Increase: 'Predicatable, but not Inevitable'

Dear Reader,

The following is a press release that I have just sent to the media. There have been one or two stylistic amendments, but the body of content remains unchanged. Comments appreciated.


23rd October 2010, for immediate publication.

Rise in GST is NOT inevitable

The proposed budget plan to increase GST from 3 to 5% as of next June is not inevitable, according to Deputy Montfort Tadier.

‘The budget must be ratified by the States and is subject to amendments. As we saw last year, it is not a given that the Treasury Minister will get what he wants.’

‘While the treasury proposals for GST were entirely predictable, the increase is not inevitable.’

Deputy Tadier is calling for likeminded politicians and members of the public to come together to resist the proposals to increase GST which he says will hit low and middle earners the most and threaten economic recovery at a time when retail sales are already fragile.

‘It will be interesting to see just to what extent the public and retailers have accepted GST and whether, in these times of widespread austerity, this will be one increase too far for the public of Jersey.’

‘Islanders are already having to deal with financial assaults on all sides: A reduction in allowances under ‘20 means 20’; a rise in University Fees  - and private school fees; Utility bills will increase significantly, on top of an already high cost of living, not helped by the fact that we are often paying GST on top of VAT.’

'Promises that those on income support will not be affected will provide little comfort for the many others who are still struggling to make ends meet.'

Deputy Tadier is calling for likeminded politicians and members of the public to come together to resist the proposals to increase GST which he says will hit low and middle earners the most and threaten economic recovery at a time when retail sales are already badly hit.

'Consideration should be given to use a small percentage of the ‘rainy day fund’ to cover (part of) the deficit until we are in a better position to know if and when we are coming out of global recession. Increasing GST in these uncertain times is both foolhardy and risk increased hardship.'

17 October 2010

Branching Out for Economic and Cultural Diversity

Branchage International Film Festival

In these times of doom and gloom, where politics and politicians seem to be held universally in an all-time low esteem, and many workers in all sectors are worrying about the precariousness of their jobs, it is good to hear a bit of genuine good news.

Last month the Chief Minister, in response to a question from a St Brelade's deputy, praised the Branchage for its contribution to island life. And on this occasion I agree with him.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the States Hansard* of Tuesday 28th September:

Deputy M. Tadier:

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the organisers of the Branchage Film Festival, which is in its third year, [and] ... all those who organised it for putting on a splendid show.  Does the Chief Minister also acknowledge its cultural impact for good in Jersey as well as its role in promoting Jersey positively abroad and contributing to diversity in the economy?
Senator T.A. Le Sueur:
'Absolutely, Sir, I am more than willing, and indeed, welcome the question from Deputy Tadier.  Branchage is a good example of an innovative idea which is growing all the time and is also growing in quality as well as quantity.  I think it is also a good indication that what perhaps started off with a bit of seed corn capital ultimately is able to stand on its own 2 feet, and in fact I am sure continues to grow, particularly with the enthusiasm of all concerned, both on the Island and outside the Island.  So I thank all those who contributed to the success of this year’s Branchage - and indeed, the previous one - and I hope this will continue for many more years to come and grow further.'

*Footnote: The States Hansard is the official transcript of all proceeding of States sittings, and can be viewed at www.statesassembly.je

13 October 2010

Conflict of Interest or Business as Usual?

The Problems Faced by Whistleblowers

The issue of whistle blowers in the public sector - or in either sector - remains problematic. How can one have the courage and security to follow one's conscience in highlighting (potential) problems, without fear or prejudice?

It is more or less universally agreed that in order for issues, improvements, inefficiencies and injustices to be flagged up it is necessary for 'ordinary workers', indeed, all workers to dispose of a clear, non-discriminatory and, preferably, anonymous system by which they can raise systemic failures which would otherwise go unnoticed and unchecked. But this ideal is often very different from practice.

And even when an issue has been raised, how does one ensure that it is dealt with in a fair and thorough matter?

This post deals with this very subject. It deals with a recent example of a whilsteblower - this time in the private sector - in the specialist area or residential care for the vulnerable, some old and some young.


Between the 17th and 22nd June, a job was advertised in the J.E.P. for the position of Manager of a residential care home, which we will (very originally) call 'x'. 

X is a private care home which takes in a wide range of individuals, including of all ages, with various and wide ranging needs. It is of particular interest to me, as a States Member, as x is a care home into which the States are moving many individuals currently in the care of Health and Social Services. 

Whilst it is not the job of this post to explore the pros and cons of public vs private care, it is incumbent on any right minded individual to want to know that vulnerable members of the community are being given the best care, or at least treated with basic dignity.

At the end of June, I was contacted by friend who was aware of a particular individual employed in a care home who was uneasy about some of the practices/conditions in the home in which he worked.

I arranged to meet the carer, who was accompanied by the friend, to hear his concerns; the issues were various, and whilst they did not relate to abuse, per se, the criticisms did relate to '(benign) neglect' - a lack of suitable tailored provision for the social, physical and emotional needs of the residents, in addition to the absence of adequate training, induction and background checks being given and carried out on new members of staff. This list is by no means exhaustive, but explains some of the issues that our whislteblower wanted to bring to the fore.

On 2nd July, we both attended Le Bas Centre, to lodge an official statement with officer 'A', who is an inspector for care homes in the island. He seemed to take the complaints seriously, and recorded a statement which was approved by the whistleblower and witnessed by me.

An investigation took place which, according to the H & SS Minister, was completed on 23rd July, although the first draft, also completed by officer A,  was 'presented to the Team Leader of Registration and Inspection on the 4th August'. 

Meanwhile, officer A, applied for the post of manager of X, the same care home for which he was still drafting his report); 

On 26th July, he was interviewed for the position on 29th July and received written confirmation offering him the post on 5th August. He tendered his resignation the same day. 

A copy of the final draft was sent to our whilstleblower on 20th August .

When asked in a written question whether she was 'satisfied that there was no conflict of interest on the part of the officer who carried out the inquiry and that there was no risk of the report not being objective or impartial?' (written question 12 October 2010)  -she replied:

I am satisfied that the utmost probity has been undertaken by the officers of the Health Protection Service. In the course of the investigation, an interagency approach was used with evidence being presented directly by social workers and other allied professionals via the home’s records. The investigation was not conducted solely by one officer.  The head of the service has as part of overseeing the process ensured that the appropriate level of investigation has been undertaken, the process has ensured that the report and its findings have been scrutinised by the investigating officer’s line managers as part of due diligence.

But the real question that needs to be asked, but sadly which is difficult to verify, is at whether Officer A knew that he was going to apply for the advertised job whilst he was conducting the investigation.
He certainly knew, whilst writing the report, that he might be taking the job.

But questions still remain.

What is certain, is that the whistleblower is to be commended for his actions. Irrespective of whether the report was a whitewash or not, the issues have been flagged up and are now being acted upon.

I wish officer  A Bon Courage and bonne chancein his new position. We will be following progress in the home with interest.