12 April 2011

Senator Perchard Makes a Funny

On the 30th March 2011 at c.16:20, Senator Perchard treated us to an exclusive stand-up comedy routine, where the comedy was largely unintentional (bar for an initial observation that 'if ever [Deputy Le Fondré] looks for another profession, I suggest he becomes the voice of meditation CDs.' - this did solicit genuine mirth). Tickets were limited to roughly 53 seated(+theatre officials), and one or two lucky members of the public who had managed to sneak past security and the heavy wooden doors to gain a seat in the gallery. Perhaps 100 more were listening on their wireless radios.

Proud Jerseyman Jimmy Perchard tells us why Jersey is the best place
on the planet and why those who suggest improvements are malicious traitors
In a speech which could easily have been written by his mentor, Professor Terry Le Main at the Jersey faculty of Rhetoric and Demagoguery, Senator Perchard sang the praises of the Jersey Democratic model, with its 35-45% turnout rates for elections (20% in some elections) - 70-80% abstention rates (when considering those who are not registered) and the public's inability to elect its own Chief Minister or influence policy direction in a meaningful way. So without further ado, I welcome, Senator Jimmy Perchard [applause]

'It is a long time ago I pushed my red button.  I was off in another place, particularly after Deputy Le Fondré’s speech.  If ever he looks for another profession I suggest he becomes the voice of meditation CDs.  [Laughter]  But I thank Deputy Trevor Pitman for waking me up and, Sir, you for calling my name.  The Bailiff has presided over this Legislature since it developed out of the Royal Court, over 800 years ago.  In essence we have a piece of history here which we are discussing; a piece of fantastic Jersey history and any reform of the Bailiff’s role has to be taken very seriously, and I think we all agree on one thing, and I think it was my good friend, Senator Le Gresley who started this off - and Deputy Maçon and Deputy Trevor Pitman subsequently - we all agree that any recommendation should be put to the people of Jersey for their decision.  This is not an easy decision; we have established that this afternoon.  There are many strongly-held views and I have one.  It is important that however we conclude the final recommendation from P.P.C., a referendum be held on this matter.  I suspect over times of our long history the Bailiff who, as we know, has never been elected, may have politicised his role.  I have no examples of such but over 800 years I suspect there are many.  Until 1947 many of us were unelected and so until quite recently in the 800 year history we had unelected people acting in a political fashion; Jurats and Rectors of course.  The Bailiff and the A.G. and the Dean have survived any transition and I suspect they have survived under scrutiny over the decades, more recently since certainly the 1950s, under scrutiny and they have reformed their role.  The Bailiff, for example, no longer has a casting vote.  The 3 positions have developed a position of neutrality and impartiality and that is why they have survived.  I challenge any Member in recent times to give an example of where the Bailiff when presiding over this Assembly has displayed anything but neutrality and impartiality.  If any Member can give an example - a real example; not a blog site example - a real example, let him stand up today and tell us about it.  I think the proposal to remove the Bailiff from this Legislature is a proposal for change for nothing more than change for the sake of change.  Change promoted by the same people who would have the Constables removed from the Assembly because they are the symbolic head of their Parish police force [Deputy Tadier stamps his foot in approval]  The same people who would probably have the Dean removed from the Assembly [Deputy Tadier stamps his foot again in approval].  The malcontents who want to change Jersey for the better [Deputy Tadier stamps his foot yet again in approval].  Change for change’s sake [Deputy Tadier shakes his head in disagreement].  I am sorry, I call it malcontent and I mean it.  It is people who are constantly dragging Jersey down and criticising the wonderful democracy we have.  Jersey is a great example of democracy; a beacon of democracy that we should hold up high for the world to look at.  Members made reference to the E.U. (European Union) and the Court of Human Rights.  Well, let us look at the E.U.; an institution which allows its M.E.P.s (Members of the European Parliament) to speak for a maximum of 10 minutes and who has a group of unelected commissioners who run the European Union.  What has the E.C.H.R. (European Court of Human Rights) got to say about that with the 260 million people that those unelected commissioners represent.  Let us look at the House of Lords in the U.K.  Members involved in U.K.’s legislative process.  The House of Lords is full of unelected members.  What has the E.C.H.R. got to say about that?  These people are making legislation.  Our Bailiff presides with immaculate neutrality and impartiality over the sittings of this States and nobody in this room will be able to get up and give an example of him doing otherwise.  As I have said, Members seem to have fixed views on this subject.  I suggest the only way forward is for a reasonable, well-considered question to be put to the people of Jersey on this matter.  I will leave it at that, except I will throw a little side-winder into the mix for Members to ponder.  Just diverting slightly; I am surprised that Carswell focused only really on the dual roles of the Bailiff and, as I look across at my good friend the Attorney General, I wonder why Lord Carswell and his eminent group of advisers and committee did not look at the role of the Attorney General and perhaps the conflict of the role of Attorney General.  I know he did but did not make recommendations that perhaps the role of the Attorney General should be split into a role where we had a Chief Prosecution Service who was independent of the Legislature.  I am not sure I would have supported it even if he had, but I think it is quite reasonable that he would have made a recommendation of that type.  Without wanting to repeat myself, this is a change for change’s sake and I urge Members to recognise that it will not be this Assembly that agrees the way forward and it must be the people of Jersey that do it.'

To hear the audio visit: the jerseyway blog

Delayed Post

This post was left a few days back, unfortunately only saw it today as it had gone to the spam folder. It was not deliberately withheld, but by way of recourse I am publishing it here for comment. It is not my own opinion, but I do think it is an interesting and considered argument and invite comment from other bloggers (and myself when I have a moment).

(From Anon)
The concept of a ‘fair’ taxation rate will always be subjective. The only objective method of taxation is to divide the cost of running the island by the number of its inhabitants, and then for everyone to make exactly the same contribution. The rational argument for this is that everyone is entitled to the same level of services and benefits provided by their taxation, so should pay exactly the same price for those entitlements.

If you are a higher earner (Which despite your rhetoric, does not necessarily exclude you from the ‘plight of being a hard working islander’), do you not think that paying an increasingly larger amount of tax for the same level of entitlements at some point begins to grate ? (Especially when a certain number of people are receiving those same, or in many cases through welfare provision, a higher level of benefits), without making any payment for those benefits themselves. 

Appealing to people’s moral responsibility is not a rational argument. It is an emotional one, and ignores the inequality between payment made and benefit received. Is it fair to ask somebody to pay more simply because they can afford to pay more ? Would you gladly pay five times the price somebody else pays for every product you buy simply because you earn five times their salary ? The reality is that higher earners are already doing this in the price they pay for the ‘product’ provided by the States.

Whether you like it or not, the ‘prioritisation’ of corporate greed actually enables this island to pay for its social needs, whether the taxation is derived from the companies themselves, or from their employees via higher income tax levels because of higher profit margins. (Every profitable business pays tax, even if they don't pay it locally) If you believe that this is wrong, then please ask the States to reduce your salary by the percentage of overall income the government receives, either directly, or indirectly, from the Finance Industry, and then at least you can carry on with a clean conscience, knowing the you are not living a lie by deriving a benefit from the very target of your criticisms.

I do of course understand your concerns and the reality is that there will always be social inequality, however those people paying the larger amounts of tax also see inequality between their contribution, and the level of services they derive, and your argument appears to be that this balance should become even more inequitable.

I hope you will publish this comment as understanding the other side of the issue is often helpful in developing solutions that will work for eveybody.


11 April 2011

Development in Les Quennevais - Public Meeting

A meeting will be held this evening at Communicare (6:30pm) to discuss the provisional plans of Jersey Property Holdings (JPH) to develop four plots of land for housing in the area: two in Le Clos des Sables (one directly opposite the Les Quennevais School library); and two in Les Quennevais Park (one on the lane running up from TSB and the other at the end of that lane).
The lane running up from TSB to
Les Quennevais Park is maintained by JPH
...which has fallen into disrepair
A petition was started two weeks ago by residents of Le Clos des Sables, the wording of which can be seen below. Part of the purpose of the meeting will be to see if the residents of Les Quennevais Park feel the same; the issues in the latter are slightly different: parking and congestion is more of an acute problem and has been for decades. There is a large secondary school in the Estate and this affects both estates at peak hours. 

JPH are 'selling' the idea on more houses on two counts: (i) that the homes developped will be self-build and/or for first-time buyers, thus aiming towards the quota of affordable homes needed in the island. (ii) As pay back to the estate(s), the estate(s) could be 'tidied up' and extra parking provided and paid for with the proceeds from the sales.

There are of course other options. At a meeting last week between myself and JPH, the department made it quite clear that they would be happy to transfer all land in the estate(s) into Parish ownership and in this way the community could decide what the way forward for the area would be. This idea certainly has merit and I will discuss this further (the idea was raised previously) with Parish officials. Ultimately, of course, the matter is one for parishioners and would need to be decided at a Parish Hall Assembly.

05 April 2011

Jersey: Run by whom for whom?

The following press release was sent out yesterday to the local media. I post it here for the blogging community and its readers ahead of its publication elsewhere:

The States of Jersey needs to give more priority to Social legislation including greater protection for women, who are more likely than men to be the victims of unfair dismissal by unscrupulous employers.

'My concern is that Jersey does not have the requisite social legislation to prepare us for the consequences of the economic downturn. We are already seriously behind when it comes to protection for tenants and private sector workers - especially women. It was hoped that the proposed Discrimination Law would bring Jersey up-to-date, but this has now been put on hold, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review cuts. A short chat with the JACS (Jersey Advisory and Conciliatory Society) shows that women are more likely than men to be the victims of unscrupulous employers. This is of particular concern as we are facing the possibility of job losses in both the private and public sectors. Also, there is no statutory maternity leave and no sign of paternity leave. It should be asked whether this is acceptable in a prosperous island in 2011.'

Recent years have seen a shift in the tax burden from corporate taxation to personal taxation: in 2001 44% of the total tax take came from personal tax compared to an estimated 84% this year. Company tax will only account for 12% of tax revenue.There has been a corresponding reduction in the amount of disposable income of most lower and middle earners as a consequence of GST (which is set to increase) and the reduction of personal income tax allowances; 

The plight of hard working islanders is ignored by the majority of the States Assembly, which continues to prioritise policy and legislation which benefit wealthy individuals and corporations. Meanwhile, the executive's dogged adherence to its flawed zero-ten policy actually encourages companies trading in Jersey to avoid paying tax, by registering outside of the island, thus putting local tax paying businesses at a disadvantage. 

The prioritisation of corporate greed above social need is nothing new in the States of Jersey, but what particularly concerns me is that we may not have seen the worst of the economic downturn. People are already suffering, but historically, there is a time delay when it comes to the impact of a recession reaching Jersey. It is quite likely that we have not seen the full impact of that on the island; add to that the impact of the Treasury Minister's cuts and an increase in GST from June and it is likely that we will see a mass increase in relative poverty, in what is already an expensive place to live.