Saturday, 5 February 2011
Thursday, 6 August 2009
So many subjects to write about . . . ., so why not write about them all? There's nothing quite like excess, after all.
Jersey - is two places. Firstly, it is a small island with beautiful scenery, an interesting history and population mix and a low crime rate. Secondly, it is an international finance centre. Which one is more powerful? It's the one with all the power (money). The first Jersey has become a peripheral community to the second.
Spending time at Fort Regent recently, everywhere I turned were the results of the precedence of Jersey no2. Where there had once been a swimming pool, playground, dodgems, etc, now there is nothing. Isn't that strange, bearing in mind that since the 1970s, income has grown and population has grown? But then what use is all that to the finance centre?
This drift away from residents' needs towards the servicing of international business goes unremarked in the local media. But to give credit where it's due: Christine Herbert stands alone at the JEP as an investigative journalist. Marrett-Crosby is diplomatic and respectful on the radio phone-in. Maybe loads of them are great, but with limited time to look and listen, that's all I've noticed. BBC Radio Jersey has one major purpose as far as I'm concerned and that is as a reminder to tune in to Radio 4 instead. I often start to listen to it and it doesn't tend to be long before I can stand it no more. Just off the top of my head an example of their irritatingly middle-classness I remember concerns a programme they were running aiming to help people manage their money. You know the sort of thing, where rich people advise poor people to spend less. Anyway, before the programme started, a couple of the presenters mentioned credit cards. They smugly discussed how they had no problems themselves with credit card debt because they did not believe in them. Well, we do not all have a trust fund to call upon. Credit cards, as awful as they are, provide loans to the ordinary person. Accordingly, I should mould myself on the Radio Jersey presenter, and when my baby was ill and needed an operation in London, I should have told my two year old that she could not come with me because "I do not believe in credit cards". Those were the only excess funds available in an emergency. As for the JEP, it often disgusts me. It appears to have a long running campaign against young people. I don't expect to see the word "thug" or similar there without "teenage" in front, even though many violent crimes are committed by people ten or twenty years older. They publish comment which alludes to young people being "animals". Secondly, many times they have articles about Ministers' plans, which are totally and absolutely positive. No critical comment whatsoever, just a big JEP photo and a lot of twaddle about how we'll all be much better off with these lovely new policies.
As a way to forget it all, I recommend watching back to back "Prison Break". Great fun.
Now, as to Stuart Syvret's predicament. I have read the States Members' code of conduct. I can't find it now. But I do remember that there is an over-riding principle, more important then politeness, etc, and that is a States Member can break the rules in the code of conduct if it is in the interests of the public. I think it is an actual requirement that a States Member must act in the best interest of the public. Would that not exonerate Stuart from the data protection charges, and also from the criticism/censure/whatever from the other States Members? I was going to write a lot about this politeness gumph, but to put it briefly, Jersey is about 400 years behind England. Politeness was the big topic in England then.
As to the need for change in Jersey's legal system, who doesn't want the legal aid system to change? Perhaps millionaire States Members who don't give a toss about whether it's fair and right to push the whole thing on to the legal profession, and whether justice is attainable by the ordinary person. Legal aid, in my experience, is a lottery. I once won the jackpot, being assigned Advocate Anthony Messervy, who was very professional, gave his time happily (about 3 or 4 meetings) and charged a reasonable amount. Another time I was assigned Bailhache Labesse. I never had a face-to-face meeting with anyone, never got to speak to an advocate, even on the phone, was made to feel like dirt in the reception - I was asked to sit in a special (not too noticeable) place as I was on legal aid and finally was advised to drop my case. For this I was charged several hundred pounds.
And finally, I heard some of the swearing-in (or whatever it's called) of the new Bailiff, Michael Birt. Something like that is a great milestone in a person's life and despite the criticisms regarding past decisions he has made, I wanted to feel good about it. After all, to reach that position must take a fair amount of intelligence, hard work, charm, etc, but when he spoke about how his father had always wanted him to become Bailiff, I got an uneasy feeling, that he is playing a role. He is now "Bailiff". He has got there. But what we need is someone ready to embrace a challenge, to face change and demand justice and what I think we may have got is someone who is playing a part.
Thursday, 30 April 2009
I saw several States members there - Breckon, Syvret, Tadier, Lewis, T. Pitman. Where were the rest of them? If I could get there, why couldn't they? I caught up with the march and joined in at the Square. I had work to organise the night before, and was doing some work for my business that morning. Also I had a problem with one of my clients that morning - a small crisis. And I had things to do in town and was looking after my two year old and five year old. And yet I and my family got there. States members get £40,000 plus each year, a free laptop, expensive help ( at least for the council of mimisters) and have faith placed in them by the electorate, but they couldn't manage to take an hour out on a Saturday morning to show support for survivors of abuse, abuse that happened while under the care of the States of Jersey. I expect there are reasons why some of them couldn't attend. If that's the case, perhaps they could let us know, either here on this blog or on one of the other blogs. Terry Le Sueur, especially, should have been there. Whatever the political differences between him and campaigners for the survivors, such as Stuart, he should have been there to show compassion for them.
There is no effective leadership for States members and many of them show little initiative themselves. And as usual, this sort of thing goes unremarked in all the traditional media.
Well done to people like Carrie, who manage to plan something and carry it out well and with dignity. A useful lesson for many of the States members, perhaps?
Thursday, 23 April 2009
Silent Peaceful March
On April the 25th 2009 at 12 noon there is to be a silent and peaceful march from Peoples Park to the Royal Square. The march will be in support and acknowledgement of victims of child abuse past and present across the world.On October the 21st 1996 up to 300,000 Belgian citizens took to the streets wearing white ribbons and arm bands as a symbol of hope which became known as “The White March”. It was not only a march for hope but also a silent peaceful protest against their governments handling of the of the Marc Dutroux case which bears many similarity’s, not only to the way our government has handled the child abuse scandal that has hit Jersey, but the way child abuse is handled by some governments across the world.We would like the Jersey White March to be non political or critical of our government or police investigation. We believe it will be an opportunity to show abuse survivors and the rest of the world that the good people of Jersey do not condone abuse of any human being - child or otherwise.Abuse survivors, across the globe, have had theirs and their family’s lives torn apart, wrecked, and destroyed, not only by the heinous abuse they have suffered at the hands of their abusers but the wall of silence that inevitably surrounds the taboo subject of paedophilia and child abuse.This March has the support of the Care Leavers Association (CLA) and the Jersey Care Leavers Association (JCLA) Please give this march and all abuse survivors your support and show the world the good people of Jersey DO care.We would ask if you are able to attend the march that you wear something white, a symbol of “hope”If you are a Blogger and support abuse victims around the world, please copy and paste this onto your Blog until the day of the march SATURDAY 25th OF APRIL 2009 12.p.m
Sunday, 8 February 2009
In Jersey, it being such a small place, everything seems magnified. There is no easy escape. And issues in the media will involve people we know personally, possibly prompting a reactionary and paranoid response to general trends. However, the fact is that it is a small place and an individual can be hounded by a powerful group without the tempering effect of outside influences.
Sometimes it's not good to have time to think. Earlier this year, while unwell, stuck in front of the telly and pondering the large doctor's bill that was coming my way, I could not help but notice the elephant in the room. As I gazed upon programme after programme showing prospective buyers traipsing around houses for sale, the words clashed like cymbals in my brain " JUST WHAT AM I DOING HERE?" Why am I living in a place where the properties are out of reach, where I have to pay for things that are free elsewhere, a place that is becoming more and more noticeably corrupt? Now even parents of young children have to pay a big tax bill when they earn less than the average wage, and there is nothing like child benefit. And we're all taxed on our food. We have no choice of utilities' providers. It is impossible to train for most jobs and even when training seems to be available, it turns out to be just lip service.
I have lived outside of Jersey before and I know that all places have their problems, but it is getting harder to find a good reason to stay here. Yes, there is the beautiful coastline, cliff paths, etc. There are loads of lovely people, low crime and good schools, but financially it is becoming very difficult to live here. It seems unlikely that people like Terry Le Sueur and Philip Ozouf have any idea how many of Jersey's residents are struggling and how badly, judging by Philip's U turn on delaying 20 means 20. People are being forced into an impossible situation and the outcome will not be good.
For those thinking of escape: It's possible to buy a house along the South coast of England in a nice area and near jobs for under £200,000 - a 3 bedroom house with garden and the mortgage repayments would be less than the rent on a 2 bedroom house here. A good place to look is http://www.rightmove.co.uk/
As for Jersey, take a theoretical couple, a couple who plan and save, but start without a big cushion of inherited wealth. They would need to save £5000 per year for about 6-8 years, allowing for some inflation, to get their deposit on a flat. So that will take them into their mid thirties with a 1 bed flat, as long as they haven't been frivilous enough to enjoy things like travelling or, horror of horrors, committed the crime of having children! Then our careful couple might plan to have a family and look for a house - they will need £120,000 plus for a deposit, so lets say they've made a profit on their flat of £60,000, that means they will need to save another £60,000 or more. That could take them 10 to 20 years and if they have children they can forget about saving while the children are small. We've reached the point where without some sort of windfall, it has become impossible for the average person to buy a house. And while on this subject, I'd like to say how much I hate to hear that stupid statement "Oh, they expect too much" or " They all want a house with a garden straight away, blah, blah", usually said by someone who lives in a house with a garden. I'd like to say to everyone - Go ahead, expect to have something good, why not?
Unless, like Terry le Sueur, you would like to go back in time, to the days when families lived together in overcrowded accomodation. As he said, in support of increasing the population " In the past, three generations have lived in the same house. Now you can have one generation living in three houses" (JEP, 9/2/09) Perhaps the Council of Ministers will suggest other practices from the past - how about child labour?
Monday, 29 December 2008
Thank you for taking the time and trouble to get in touch regarding the proposed price increase by the JEC.
I should say that as Chairman of the Jersey Consumer Council I have met with some of the company directors and the senior management team on numerous occasions over the years to discuss levels of service and pricing.
I, with a colleague met last with the above on Thursday 25th September, as we had picked up from information contained in a company report that prices would increase by up to 25% from January 2009. The reason for meeting was to seek justification for this increase. We were shown information that demonstrated the European power market in which the JEC were buying (price wise) and that they were buying in Euros - which in itself meant a 15% increase because of the £'s weakness (at that time- since then it has weakened further) They explained that they wanted certainty of price which meant forward purchasing electricity supply at a given price - they explained that as the crude oil price was the driving factor they were purchasing supply in segments for 2009 and "hedging" the Euro against the £ to try to spread the risk and obtain the best deal for Jersey - at that time crude oil prices were still over $100 per barrel - so they are now locked into a deal that does not look very good for them or Jersey consumers as crude is now around $40 per barrel.
At the time of the above discussions I was not aware of company information or profits, recently announced.
Regarding the States holding which equals about 62% of the company - I have felt for a long time that there is a conflict of interest - because the Treasury Minister has a duty to maximise the public return - while on the other hand - the shareholder - the public of the Island - gets walloped with these large increases - so I do not believe that the public interest is best served at the moment also this effects people's very real cost of living - also this feeds into the retail price index and is inflationary so what exactly does the public benefit from this arrangement?
Also because the JEC are a publicly quoted ( on the Stock Exchange) they are limited in what they can disclose to the people of Jersey or publicly say. I am given to understand that the non States shareholders (some are UK institutions) are not content with the dividend they receive and complain if the company do not pass on any price increase in full + I have publicly stated that States should review its interests in JEC, Jersey Waterworks, Post & Telecom and decide how it may best proceed in the PUBLIC INTEREST - for example it may see the JEC as a "strategic asset" and consider buying the rest of it? - then again it may not?
I am not defending the JEC with the above - I am telling it to you how it was told to me.
Please feel free to publish this reply as you see fit
Regards Alan Breckon
A few questions spring to mind, but firstly, I'd like to thank Senator Breckon for his detailed and interesting reply.
- What is the other States Members' involvement? Do they receive full and detailed, regular reports?
- Has any States Member examined the terms of the "locked into" deal?
- Just how definite is this deal and when does it end?
- What is the current States participation? Do they have any say on the running of the company, on behalf of the public?
- Should Senator Breckon not have been made aware of the profits, etc, at the meeting?
- Who was the Treasury Minister at the time and what was his involvement?
- The current arrangement of 62% States ownership is not working and what is going to be done about it?
Clearly, it is just plain wrong. How can the Treasury Minister aim for the best profits for the company and at the same time the best interests for the consumer?
From January we will all be paying a surplus in our JEC bills, some of which will be pocketed by UK companies. And we have no choice.
So what is going to happen? Will the States buy it or sell it, or seek to improve the conditions for the consumer? Or nothing at all?
Monday, 22 December 2008
I have been very short of time, but a few things have been bothering me so I thought I'd fire off some emails to States Members and then wait for the response (if any). They are:
The JEC's Enormous Price Hike
Email to Alan Breckon:
Dear Senator Breckon, I voted for you and I am hoping that you will take an interest in the enormous hike in charges by the JEC. As this company is mainly owned by the States, I believe a States Member should intervene and seek to stop the proposed 24% increase. It is no excuse that there have been no price rises for the last two years. The JEC, in my opinion, has failed to embrace renewable technologies, and now we are at the mercy of the French nuclear companies. I heard a spokesman on BBC radio Jersey explain the enormous price rise by infrastructure costs, and even the weakness of the pound. Well, the profit made last year could cover a great deal of the costs, and as for the argument concerning the weakness of the pound - the price rise was proposed before that even occurred! I have a blog, ratleskutle.com , and might publish your reply.
Wasteful Energy Use of St Helier and Light Pollution
I emailed the Constable of St Helier, asking about light pollution; one particular light was bothering me. This was the reply
Emails to/from Constable Crowcroft (starting in July):
Hello, the Connetable has forwarded your comments to me, I trust the following is helpful. Street lighting is paid for on a contract basis, and the turning off of one (or 100) will make no difference to the bill we pay. The issue of turning off lamps for light pollution reasons is an interesting one, and we have recently written to the emergency services to gauge their view. It may be of interest to you to note that we seldom receive requests to turn off street lamps, but have regularly calls to increase lighting in poorly lit areas or those with non existent lighting. In addition, when street lamps are off because of a fault it is usually no more than a couple of days before residents want to know when it will be repaired! I think the current indication is that we would receive more complaints about a lamp which was removed than compliments on the savings made, however, we await the comments from the emergency services before making major decisions on this matter.
Regards John Stievenard ICIOB ABEngAssistant Director Technical & Environmental Services
And my reply to him:
Hello. Thanks for your reply. I didn't know about the arrangement for payment of lighting. However, if 1 or 100 lights are turned off there will be a cost and energy saving somewhere. Should that not be part of a government's responsibility, even if it doesn't directly affect the Parish's accounts? As for light pollution, every light turned off makes a difference. Ref: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/yourenv/eff/1190084/pollution/152227/ Sadly, I agree with your comments regarding the public's desire for street lighting. They may be a life saver in towns, but even on a road normally deserted by pedestrians from dawn til dusk, my own experience is that people generally seem to want the damn things! Of course, there may be a silent majority, or at least as many people, who do not want them. However, should government, even at parish level, not take responsibility and act as leaders rather than purely representatives of public desire? If the parish wants to cut energy usage/reduce pollution, then turning off lights which are on quiet, out of town roads, is a sensible course of action. As a regular runner in the early morning darkness ( or rather in the gloom of street lamps), I'd much rather see a real dawn than the lights switching off for morning. The level of street lighting is inappropriate for this area, which I'd suggest is in category E2 Environmental zone. Ref: http://www.environmental-protection.org.uk/neighbourhood-nuisance/light-pollution/ Please give this matter some consideration
And the reply from Simon Crowcroft:
thanks. I'll see this gets the attention it merits and revert to you in due course.rgdsSimon
And my email today:
hello simon. i wondered if you can tell me if this matter has been considered? in the interests of energy conservation will the parish be examining how much energy it is consuming? i have a blog now, ratleskutle.com , and i might publish your reply. regards and best wishes for christmas.
Treatment of Court Defendants/Prisoners with Mental Illness
Email to Senator le Marquand:
Dear Senator Le Marquand, congratulations on your election to the States! I am writing to you regarding Jersey's court system and certain recent cases, which I have found disturbing. There appears to be a lack of recognition of defendants' mental health problems. Recent cases have included a woman who believes she is controlled by a nine year old girl wearing a diving mask; the court was instructed not to take account of her mental illness. Also, a man has been brought to court several times this year for removing all his clothes in public places; he has been sent to prison, I could not see any account of help available for him in the JEP's report. I would be interested to know your views. I have a blog, ratleskutle.com , and may wish to publish your reply.