Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Coronavirus: Minister welcomes increased tenancy protection

The Minister for Housing, Senator Sam Mezec, has welcomed developments which will give tenants protection from eviction during the Covid-19 pandemic, but has undertaken to do more.

Jersey’s Magistrate’s Court has announced the adjournment of all eviction cases before the Petty Debts Court as part of a package of measures in response to the pandemic. 

The Minister also wrote to leading housing providers, and has received confirmation from Jersey Landlords Association, and several social housing providers and letting and management agencies, that evictions will not be pursued during the outbreak.  

Senator Mezec said: "There is still more to do to give tenants protection in legislation, which I soon hope to be in a position to say more about, and we are working hard to house those vulnerable islanders who need urgent accommodation. In the meantime, however, I hope these commitments will provide tenants with peace of mind that they are not at immediate risk of losing their homes because of the pandemic. 

"I welcome the commitment provided to me by many of our housing providers that they will take a pragmatic and compassionate approach to dealing with their tenants, many of whom may see their incomes reduce because of coronavirus. Most have confirmed that they are already putting procedures in place to manage rent collection and late payment during this difficult time."

Sunday, 9 June 2019

My speech at the Citizens Advice AGM

Last week I was very kindly invited to be the guest speaker at the Jersey Citizens Advice AGM. I was pleased to take questions afterwards and hear about the important work the organisation is doing to support Islanders in need.

He is the transcript of my speech.


Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to speak to you at this AGM tonight.

I was really pleased to be invited and thought I might start by revealing a little-known fact that it is actually the Citizens Advice Bureau’s fault that I am in politics in the first place.

I will leave it to others to judge whether CAB should be thanked or condemned for that.

Originally, my intention had always been to become a lawyer. I got a law degree at university, started studying my Legal Practice Course and was working for a local law firm here.

When I was studying in London, I volunteered at a Citizens Advice Bureau in Hammersmith, basically to get some experience. I went through some of their training, and got to learn the values of the CAB, about being independent, non-judgemental and on challenging discrimination.

We had all sorts of people come through our doors, sometimes people who were absolutely desperate for help, sometimes people who just wanted to get a second opinion on something to be on the safe side. Sometimes we could help people to help themselves by empowering them with knowledge of their rights, helping them fill out paperwork they didn’t understand etc, and sometimes we couldn’t help them, but could get them to another agency which could.

The truth is that I discovered that I found this work much more rewarding than I did working in a law firm, where often my work was about helping rich and powerful people in commercial disputes. Whereas at CAB we got to make a more direct impact on people’s lives and learnt about the structures and processes of government which often make life more difficult for ordinary people, but with a push in the right direction could be changed for the better. That experience is a key part of what convinced me to go into politics instead.

Tomorrow will mark one year since the new government took office and I became Minister for Housing, and then Minister for Children as well a couple of months later.

I think you will probably find few people in Jersey who don’t accept that housing is one of the top political issues of our time and this government is facing a huge challenge to try and fix things.

I come at it from the perspective of believing that having a roof above your head and the security of a home which you can be comfortable and safe in, is a fundamental human right.

Something has happened over recent decades where many people have found their housing situation become more precarious and more unaffordable. Home-ownership feels more out of reach for young people than it was for their parents, and the cost of renting is putting too many people in rental stress.

I have said that I believe the housing market is broken and works too much in the interests of investors, rather than people who need a decent home.

For too many people, their access to housing holds them back in life, rather than providing them a stable position to move their lives forward which is what it ought to do.

I had found that in the last year of my term as a St Helier Deputy, the number of constituency cases that were coming my way about Social Security issues was declining, but housing issues were increasing. In my discussions with Citizens Advice they have also reported a rise in housing issues.

Reflecting all of this, the government has made ‘reducing income inequality and improving the standard of living’ one of the headlines of our Strategic Plan, with a particular work stream focusing on improving housing in the Island.

The Government has set up a Housing Policy Development Board, which brings together different States departments that hold the relevant levers to affect change, as well as independent experts to get to work on tackling what we see as some of the key issues we need to get to grips with.

To name just a few of them –

  • External buy-to-let – making sure that local people are not at a disadvantage when purchasing homes to live in
  • Scraping the 90% market-rate rule in social housing – finding a more sustainable funding arrangement for homes for lower income households that doesn’t put people in rental stress
  • Measures to improve rental security and mid-tenancy rent rises – so tenants can actually live knowing that if they haven’t done anything wrong, they don’t have to worry about losing their home
  • Introducing transparency in letting agent fees – as has been done in the UK, so prospective tenants are not hit with unfair charges which can’t be justified
  • Keyworker accommodation – making sure we are welcoming to people coming in to work in our essential public services where we have struggled with recruitment in the past because of housing problems

Overarching all of this, the board will be looking towards the next Island Plan and future years to work out how we can meet the needs of our population.

Outside of the Policy Development Board, I have begun work on some of my personal priorities.

  • Improving how the Social Housing Gateway works – so people are helped into the most appropriate homes for them and improve transparency in how that system works
  • Introducing a housing advice service – discussions with Citizens Advice will be fundamental to making sure we make that work

But, when it comes to my housing portfolio, I have no greater priority than addressing the issue of homelessness.

We are one of the richest places in the world, with a community that is intrinsically hardworking and generous, and we have no excuse whatsoever to not deal with this issue.

As Minister, I regularly have people in desperate situations contacting me because they are either homeless or about to become homeless, and I have been so frustrated at the lack of options the government actually legally has to save a person or a family from that situation.

Often this is single men who aren’t eligible for social housing, people who are on the Housing Gateway but nothing is becoming available, and even a single working mum who had had to sleep in her car with her children because she ran out of options.

At the end of last year I held a summit with various government departments and charities, to scope the work to put together a homelessness strategy.

We are working with homelessness charities here, independent experts and, of course, Citizens Advice, to have something in place within a year.

So, these are our ambitions, and there is a lot to be getting on with, but despite what commentators in the media might say, we have not been standing still until this point.

In the last year, the work to improve standards in the rental sector has been substantial.

In the social sector, Andium Homes are on track to deliver 100% Good Homes Standard at twice the speed they initially planned for. They’re currently on 97%.

The introduction of minimum standards in health and safety for residential properties has been hugely important, and the Environmental Health Department have done some sterling work to build an enforcement regime for those standards and use not just a stick but a carrot as well with landlords who need a helping hand or advice to make sure they do the right thing.

A consultation has just opened now on a new landlord licencing scheme, which will bring this industry into the 21st century and give us the tools we need to ensure the market is working fairly and that tenants are protected.

We have seen recently headlines about how the slightest change in housing rules will decimate the market, but I think these proposals strike me as entirely reasonable that we subject the second biggest sector of our economy, an area which has such a huge impact on people’s well-being, to regulations that match its importance. We have regulations in place to stop people selling food which is rotten, the same should apply for housing.

As you might be able to tell, I don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge before us, but I am optimistic that we can and will make progress to make life better for the people that I am privileged to represent. I will certainly be all ears when Citizens Advice wish to speak to me about the experiences your clients have, because that will be invaluable in improving things.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Senator Mézec lodges proposition to end dual role of the Bailiff and establish an elected Speaker

“We will support introducing an elected Speaker to preside over States sittings and to undertake outreach work to promote democracy in our Island by engaging with schools, businesses and civic groups to improve how they interact with the States Assembly.” – Reform Jersey 2018 election manifesto ‘Working for a Fairer Island’

Following the announcement made in the States Assembly on Tuesday by the chairman of the Privileges and Procedures Committee that they were unable to reach a decision to bring a proposition to establish an elected Speaker, Senator Sam Mézec has lodged a proposition to enable the States to decide to end the dual role of the Bailiff in time for the retirement of William Bailhache in October.

Senator Mézec had been pressuring the PPC to bring forward proposals since the election last year, whilst a working party had been established to investigate potential options. However, this work reached an impasse this week as no consensus in support of the working party’s proposals emerged.

Reform Jersey party chairman Senator Sam Mézec said - “Numerous reports have been published which have said that it is unhealthy that Jersey does not have an effective separation of powers between the courts and the States, and legal advice provided to the government has indicated that our current system puts us at risk of human rights challenges in the future.”

“The States Assembly has never before had the opportunity for a straightforward vote on establishing an elected Speaker and leaving the Bailiff to focus on his court duties, and now the time has come to make that decision in time for the retirement of the current Bailiff.”

“I hope that the Assembly will take this decision to take our democracy into the 21st century and meet democratic best practices as are well established around the world

The amendment is due to be debated in the week of 30th April.


THE STATES are asked to decide whether they are of opinion •

(1)         to agree that –

(a)         the States Assembly should select its Speaker either from amongst the elected members of the Assembly, or by appointing a person who is not a Member of the Assembly but who would be eligible for election to the Assembly;

(b)         the States Assembly should select a Deputy Speaker from amongst the elected members of the Assembly;

(c)          the selection and appointment of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be the first items of business for any new States Assembly and, should either office become vacant during the term of an Assembly, be the first item of business at the next scheduled meeting of the Assembly;

(d)         the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be elected to serve for the duration of an Assembly term, or for the remainder of the Assembly’s term if (for any reason) they are elected mid-term;

(e)         the process for electing the Speaker and Deputy Speaker should follow a similar format as those for the election of the Chief Minister, Ministers and Scrutiny Panel Chairmen;

(f)          provision should be made for the Speaker and Deputy Speaker to resign and/or be removed from office by the States Assembly;

(g)          the Speaker should be required to act impartially, and be seen to act impartially, at all times. To that end, the Speaker may not lodge propositions, table questions, participate in debates or vote on propositions. Upon being elected, the Speaker would be required to resign from any membership of a political party;

(h)         the Deputy Speaker should be required to act impartially when chairing meetings of the Assembly and undertaking official duties related to their role as Deputy Speaker. When not acting as Deputy Speaker, the Member elected to this post may continue to lodge propositions, table questions, participate in debates, vote on propositions and sit on scrutiny panels;

(i)           the functions of the Speaker shall include –
(i)           fulfilling all the functions of the Presiding Officer as set out in the States of Jersey Law 2005 and the Standing Orders of the States of Jersey;
(ii)          representing the States Assembly both within Jersey and overseas;
(iii)         promoting the development of the States Assembly and democracy in Jersey;

(j)           the functions of the Deputy Speaker shall include –
(i)           fulfilling the functions of the Speaker in the absence of, or at the request of, the Speaker or at any other time when the office of Speaker becomes vacant;
(ii)          supporting the Speaker in representing the States Assembly within Jersey and overseas;
(iii)         supporting the work of the Speaker in promoting the development of the States Assembly and democracy in Jersey;

(k)          the additional resources required to support a Speaker and Deputy Speaker should be provided for within the current structure of the States Greffe;

(l)           the Bailiff should remain as the Civic Head of Jersey, continue to swear in Members of the States Assembly in the Royal Court, Preside in the Assembly during the process of electing a Speaker, and be invited to Preside in, or address the Assembly, on ceremonial and other appropriate occasions;

(2)         the Privileges and Procedures Committee should bring forward all necessary actions, including legislative amendments, to implement these changes in time for the Assembly to select and appoint a Speaker and Deputy Speaker at the meeting of the States on 22nd October 2019.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Please Vote Lyndsay Feltham for Deputy of St Helier No. 3/4 district on 27th February

Westmount resident and public servant, Lyndsay Feltham, has announced her candidacy in the upcoming by-election in St Helier No. 3/4 district.

Mrs Feltham was born in Jersey and has spent over 12 years working as a public servant, both in Jersey and for the State Government in Western Australia.

I am standing in this election because I want to support the delivery of positive change for the benefit of the Island. I am standing as a Reform Jersey candidate as I believe that we can deliver more together, working as a team.”

I firmly believe that it is the duty of the government to maximise the value of the services that it provides to the people. For me, this does not mean austerity-driven budget cuts and a continuous drive for savings. It means keeping people at the heart of decision making, encouraging public sector innovation, and involving the community to co-design the services best suited to meet their needs. More listening and more action.”

Party chairman Senator Sam Mézec said “we are really pleased to be supporting Lyndsay in the by-election. She has an in-depth knowledge of the political issues facing the Island. Her experience working in the public sector in both Jersey and Australia, as well as supporting her mother’s campaigns when she was younger, will be invaluable in making her an effective States Member from day one.

Notes for the editor

  • Lyndsay was educated at Grouville, Le Rocquier and Hautlieu Schools, and has a Masters degree in Cultural and Media Studies and a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts - Enterprise Management.
  • She is 40 years old and lives in the district, with her husband and daughter.
  • She is the daughter of former St Helier No. 3/4 Deputy Shirley Baudains.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Enemy of the Parish System - the Jersey Way in action

At the end of my last blog, I said that even though I was not an enemy of the Parish system, I would inevitably be portrayed as one for trying to hold the system and those involved in it to account.

Oh how right I was! I seem to have struck one hell of a nerve!

It is a very long running tradition in Jersey that if you stick your head above the parapet or try to speak truth to power, the establishment types will do what they can to run you down and publicly disparage you, even if they're not able to use facts to do so. This is part of the "Jersey Way" that Francis Oldham rightly criticised in the report of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry. It is also symptomatic of the undemocratic nature in which Jersey is run. When you do not have a proper democratic culture, many do not know how to properly respond to democratic criticisms, so you get what I have faced over the last couple of weeks.

My full blog which made several observations and criticisms of how the Parishes administer themselves and contribute in the States Assembly can be read here - http://sammezec.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-parish-system-what-democracy.html

In short, my main criticisms centre on these points -

- The Constables routinely bring forward propositions in the States to reduce democratic participation.
- Many Parish meetings are held in private, with virtually no information put into the public domain about what happens at these meetings.
- Elections for Parish positions are not held in a transparent way

Treason! How dare I make these observations which are totally untrue, and how dare I speak when I am clearly so misinformed and ignorant!

Or at least that is the response from sections of the Parishes.

The first full response to my blog was published on Tony Bellow's blog, by someone called Adam Gardiner. It can be read here - http://tonymusings.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-truth-about-parish-system.html

It is titled "The Truth About The Parish System" which is a pretty gutsy name, given there is not much truth in it.

Both myself and local blogger Gabriel Carter attempted to publish responses on this post, but for some reason Tony has not published any of them. Obviously when it comes to the Parishes, the debate is closed.

Mr Gardiner attempts to make 6 corrections, which were either demonstrably not true, failures at being pedantic, or not actually corrections at all, but a rather justification of the status quo.

You may wish to have both posts open in separate browsers to follow along, otherwise my commentary would look messy if I copied every reference point.


The first "correction" is that I am wrong to say that the Comité des Connétables recently brought a proposition to the States to reduce polling hours for elections for the position of Procureur de bien Public to 12pm to 8pm.

This is a bit of a weird correction given that what I said it just true. Like... it just is. It happened. The proposition was lodged (P.89/2019) and the debate happened.

The Public Elections Law currently says that public elections must have polling hours from 8am to 8pm. The Comité wanted to change it to 12pm to 8pm. That's the fact. That's what happened. It's all on public record.

His "correction" centres on a pedantic point that the law used to state that polling hours for Procureur elections were reduced, but after an oversight in subsequent amendments to the law, this section fell away and the situation reverted to the full polling hours instead.

Well, sorry Mr Gardiner, but regardless of whether the law was expressly changed or simply fell away, both have the same effect. The law was changed, and the Comité tried to change it back.


His second correction revolves around my comments that the Constables wanted to move a proposed public referendum from a Saturday to a Wednesday, because holding it on a Saturday would be a "nuisance".

You see, it wouldn't be a nuisance, it would just be impractical...

It is bizarre reading a correction that isn't a correction, but actually reiterating the exact point I was making. It's not a nuisance, it's just impractical. Ummm... what's the difference?


Thirdly, I was wrong to say that the Constables increase the number of signatures required to call a Parish Assembly from 4 to 10, even though that is exactly what I did. But I'm wrong to say they did it, because they were right to have done it, apparently.

That isn't a correction, it's just a subjective justification for their actions.

Although he makes a fine dig at Reform Jersey for being ones to complain about signatories anyway. Again, this is another example of facts not mattering, because if Mr Gardiner had paid real attention to our nomination form debacle, he'd know that the Royal Court ruled that our nomination forms were valid and legal. But, whatever, facts don't matter!


I'm not sure the fourth "correction" needs addressing, given that it clearly isn't a correction. I made a justified criticism of the Parishes holding important public meetings at times that are inconvenient or unattractive for most Parishioners. I preferred to watch the England match in the World Cup, rather than going to my Parish Rates Assembly. But, hey, the 99% of us St Helier residents who prefer football to Parish Assemblies are wrong, and the 5 or so people who did turn up are right!


Fifth, I said that there is no information online whatsoever on when the Parish Roads Committee election are.

Mr Gardiner says I am wrong.

Perhaps he can have a quick check of www.parish.gov.je and tell me where there are any details of when the next elections are. If not the exact date, at least the month or year.

Of course, they are no where to be found.

He says that all Parish Assemblies are advertised in the Gazette. This is true. They are advertised with a few days notice.

It is also quite amusing that when I point out that St Ouen did not have even the names of their Roads Committee members on their website, Mr Gardiner attempts to pin it on me for not letting St Ouen know they had not done this. But, I suppose everything is my fault.


Sixth, I said that (at the time of writing) there was virtually no information online about the upcoming Procureur nomination meetings, so prospective candidates or Islanders who were interested could be aware of them. He said I was wrong to say this, even though the record shows that what I said was accurate. I don't even know why Mr Gardiner bothers taking this stance when it's just nothing more than naysaying.

He says that vote.je was set up for general elections, not parish elections. Unfortunately for him, that isn't the relevant distinction. The law in Jersey defines elections as either Public Elections or Parish Assembly Elections. The former is a full public ballot, the latter is a meeting in the Parish where the vote is taken then and there. Procureur elections are Public Elections, exactly the same as Senators, Deputies and Constables. Vote.je was set up to cover Public Elections and has in the past covered Procureur elections, but did not do so this time.

My whole argument is that putting this information online is not difficult when there already exists the right forum to do it.


Lastly, the final point isn't even an attempt at a correction, but just a last ditch attempt to condescend to someone from behind a computer screen.

He says "SM chose to go into politics and needs to understand that not all agree with him."

This is just condescending and patronising. It's also illogical. If I believed everyone agreed with me, why would I have published a blog which overtly said at the start that there is not just one perspective on how the Parishes are run? If I thought everyone had the same opinion as me, I'd have kept quiet because I'd have had nothing to write about.

He then says "debate and consensus is the way to achieve change and is called democracy - whereas peddling misinformation on a website is not!". I couldn't agree more, but maybe this pot should leave the kettle alone.

Here's my take on it - If you're going to throw your toys out of the pram because you don't like what someone stands for, use facts and reason. Don't claim someone is pedalling misinformation, when actually you are the one who has got pretty much everything wrong.

The second batch of criticism came from the newly elected Constable of St Ouen, Richard Buchanan. This can be read in the JEP here - https://jerseyeveningpost.com/news/2018/08/14/criticism-of-parish-system-on-ministers-blog-rejected/

First things first, I like Richard. He's a sensible guy and has made some good contributions early on in this term. We have different perspectives on politics, but we both care about the Island and I've enjoyed working with him so far. We can have our banter with no hard feelings.

But he does use words like "misinformed" and "lack of understanding" without really elaborating to show what exactly it is that I've got wrong.

The central point he takes issue with is when I said that the Parishes (except St Helier) hold their Roads Committee meetings in private. He says that no one has ever asked to attend a St Ouen's Roads Committee meeting, and he probably wouldn't say no if someone did ask.

The problem though is that there is virtually nothing online that says what the St Ouen's Roads Committee does, when it meets, what the agendas are and the records of the minutes. If I wanted to go observe discussion on something, I don't have that information accessible, and this is part of the problem.

In fact, until just a few days ago, there was no record on the St Ouen website that they even have a Roads Committee! The names of the members were not even published.

In all fairness to Constable Buchanan, when I pointed this out to him he immediately corrected it and it is now one of the most detailed pages on the Parish website.

But much more needs to be done to improve access to information and therefore engagement with the system, and that is a discussion we need to have.


Just one final development to report on -

Since I published my blog which criticised the lack of information on the nomination meetings for Procureur de bien Public, 7 Parishes have held their nomination meetings. Apart from St Helier, the rest have not published anything on their websites to let their Parishioners know what the results of those nominations were and if there is a contested election.

When they have published the nomination meeting details in the Gazette, some have done so with just 5 or 6 days notice.

I stand by every word when I say that the Parishes are awful at promoting these elections.


You can now donate to Reform Jersey! Just click the link below.

Your donations will go towards our campaigns to make Jersey a fairer society.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

The Parish System - What Democracy?

A couple of years ago a senior Constable said in the States Assembly that Jersey's Parish system was a 'beacon of democracy'.

It's a nice thought, and you can see where he was coming from.

We have this rather unique system of local government where, at least once a month, a public meeting is held which any Parishioner can turn up to speak and vote for or against a binding motion on matters within the Parishes competency. Not only that, but Parishioners set the budget and vote on what level of local tax they pay. Pretty nifty! Where else trusts its population to be the sovereign decision makers in this way? Not many places I can think of. Isn't that wonderful?

Well... no. It isn't wonderful.

As lovely as the concept may be, the fact of the matter is that the Parishes are far from the democratic beacons they theoretically could be. In many instances, they actually operate in way which is unashamedly anti-democratic.

I'm provoked to get this off my chest here because of a recent incident in the States Assembly where the Comité des Connétables was so brazen in their contempt for democracy, that even I was a bit surprised at the hubris they showed.

The States recently debated P.89/2013 which was brought forward by the Comité des Connétables to change the law to reduce polling hours in elections for Procureur de Bien Public from 8am-8pm to 12pm-8pm.

Yes, you read that correctly. They actually went to the efforts of bringing a proposition to the States to reduce the amount of time that people can turn out to vote in.

On an Island which we know suffers from appallingly low election turnouts and poor engagement with Parish democracy, they wanted to make it even less convenient to take part.

There is no reason for doing this at all, apart from the Parishes finding facilitating elections to be a bit of a nuisance and wanting to mitigate it.

Well, I'm sorry to say to the Constables, that democracy is meant to be a nuisance. It's difficult, it's noisy, it costs money and it often doesn't go the way you want it to. But it's democracy and it's sacrosanct.

This move was anti-democratic. The States saw through it and managed to embarrass the Constables enough into withdrawing it when some of the new Constables stood to speak out against it (which is a positive sign).

But this is not an isolated incident.

The day before, the Constables brought an amendment to move a proposed referendum from being held on a Saturday to being on a Wednesday instead. Something which was done purely because holding a public vote is a nuisance for the Parishes, irrespective of the obvious fact that a Saturday would be more convenient for the vast majority of the voting population to vote on.

Just before the recent election, the Constables brought a proposition to change the law to introduce a new criterion for being allowed to stand for election as Constable, that you must be a British citizen. That requirement did not exist before. A group of politicians, 11 out of 12 of whom did not face a contested election last time (some have never faced one), actually went out of their way to reduce the number of people who could potentially be candidates for their office.

In 2014, just after the previous election, the Constables brought a proposition to increase the number of people that are required to sign a letter forcing a Parish Assembly on a proposition, from 4 to 10, despite there having not been a single example of Parish Assemblies being called vexatiously.

As well as these clear incidents of the Constables trying to roll back democracy in Jersey, I think it is worth passing comment on a few other areas that just show how dead the system is.

Parish Assemblies

These are the regular meetings held in the Parish Halls for Parishioners to vote on matters which the Parish is responsible for. Anyone can turn up and speak, or even propose amendments or their own propositions.

In theory, it doesn't get more democratic than this. In practice, it is no such thing.

Turn out at Parish Assemblies is very low. At the St Helier Rates Assembly last year, aside from members of the municipality, there were 5 members of the public in attendance. I couldn't tell you how many were there this year, but I bet it was pretty poor too, seeing as the meeting was organised to be held at the same time England were playing in the World Cup Quarter Final (I was watching the match, not at the Town Hall). Would it have been too difficult to just have it on another night? There really is no excuse for this.

But, ironically, on an occasion where there is a big turnout for a Parish Assembly, they can't even get that right either.

For example, earlier this year there was a massive turnout for a Parish Assembly held in St Lawrence to decide whether the Parish Church would be extended provide toilet facilities. Initially, the Constable refused to hold the Parish Assembly at all, even though 10 Parishioners signed a letter demanding one (as they are entitled to under the law). Then eventually she had to cave in, and decided to ban the media from attending! You couldn't make it up.

In the end, 500 people turned up and could not be adequately accommodated in the Parish Hall, with people having to stand outside in the freezing cold for hours.

There is no reason whatsoever why that meeting had to be held in the Parish Hall itself. They could have convened in a bigger premises to accommodate everyone, but chose not too. This was unfair and inconsiderate for the attendees, and will no doubt have put people off taking part in this sort of thing in future.

Roads Committees

These committees are the closest things we have to local councils. Their members are elected at a Parish Assembly every 3 years.

There is no information whatsoever online about when these elections will next take place. Some Parishes don't even have the names of the people who serve on them on the Parishes website.

Apart from in St Helier, all of their meetings are closed to the public, so there is no accountability.

The most recent election in St Helier took place on 20th December, a few days before Christmas, with an ad hoc hustings beforehand which the organisers made up as they went along.

I met with the previous Comité to suggest to them that it would actually improve engagement if they synchronised these elections so they could publicise them together and create a real focus on Parish democracy. I left with no confidence that this simple idea would be adopted.

Procureur elections

On 12th September there are due to be elections for Procureurs de Bien Public in each Parish. The nominations are imminent and there is almost nothing at all on vote.je or the Parishes websites about this role and how to become a candidate. At the time of writing, only 5 Parishes have confirmed when the nomination meeting will take place (which they are doing with just a few days notice).

Honestly, how difficult is it to sit down and consolidate this information and just stick out a press release so people are able to figure out what is going on?

Honorary Police

The Parishes have struggled to recruit to the honorary police for several years now. St Saviour was fined £5,000 in 2015 for not being able to meet their legal obligations in filling particular roles.

Earlier this year two former Centeniers publicly stated that they feared the honorary police system will die out unless work is done to reform and modernise it. They were instantly dismissed by the new chair of the Comité.

So far the most innovative suggestion made by the Constables has been to raise the age at which you have to retire from the honorary police. I wonder if they realise that all that does is delay the problem reaching a head by a few years and doesn't actually solve the underlying recruitment problems.

I have been concerned about all of this for some time, and now is my opportunity to do something about it.

Since my appointment as Minister for Housing and, more recently, Minister for Children too, I've been getting to grips with being on the "other side" of politics, trying to make a difference in government rather than shout from the opposition benches. It's a very sobering experience and I'm finding it frustrating how slowly the wheels seem to turn to be able to impact change. But it is still early days and I'm rearing to go and looking forward to developing on some of the things we have begun behind the scenes (watch this space!).

But one thing which is giving me withdrawal symptoms is that I am now not able to ask questions on the floor of the States Assembly of Ministers. In the last Assembly I was 2nd on the list of members who asked most questions (Geoff Southern was number 1, of course), and I believe that question time is a fundamentally important way of holding the government to account. But now with my new responsibility, I have to ask my questions round the ministerial table and make sure there is early feedback as policies are developed so we get things right.

I am delighted that my new colleagues Deputy Alves and Deputy Ward are taking up the mantle and proving to be excellent contributors in the Assembly right away. But, as for me, since I can't ask my parliamentary questions of my ministerial colleagues, I can ask the Comité des Connétables questions and hold them to account on Parish matters in the Assembly.

Now, most right thinking democrats know that the Constables shouldn’t be in the States anyway, but since they’re there, I am making it my intention to hold them to account for everything they do.

They are not the beacons of democracy some think they are. In fact, they are showing themselves to be the opposite.

It's sink or swim time. Modernise and get with the times, or become an irrelevancy.

I happen to think it's important to have a healthy democratic municipal government system and I want to see it thrive in Jersey. This doesn't make me an enemy of the Parish system, although that is certainly how they will try to tar me for having the sheer nerve to hold them to account.

If you are concerned by any Parish matters at all, please get in touch and I'll be happy to try to raise these issues in the Assembly.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Agreement between Senator John Le Fondré and Reform Jersey on the formation of a government


Following constructive discussions and negotiations, Reform Jersey States Members are committed to supporting the candidacy of Senator John Le Fondré in the election for Chief Minister on 4th June 2018.

This support is offered conditionally on the understanding that both parties agree to the following terms –

Shared objectives

Over the last 4 years, Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré have both voiced their concerns in the States Assembly over the direction Jersey was moving in under the incumbent Council of Ministers. Both recognised the disillusionment many members of the public feel about Jersey’s political system because of the dysfunctional way the States has often worked.

In his candidate statement for Chief Minister, Senator Le Fondré explains his concerns over the way that the benefits of economic growth have not been felt by most Islanders, many of whom are now worse off today than they would have been five years ago. He says - “We simply cannot allow this situation to continue and have to develop policies which address the complex socio-economic problems to provide real opportunities for all and not just a few”. This is a sentiment shared by Reform Jersey in their manifesto ‘Working for a Fairer Island’.

Whilst Senator Le Fondré and Reform Jersey have often taken different positions on States policies over the previous electoral term, both stated in the general election campaign that they wished to see a more inclusive government for this term and wanted to work constructively with others to see public services improve. Both parties believe that the election results demonstrate a mandate for change in line with this vision.

Whilst Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré have previously differed in their policies on improving the standard of living for Islanders, it is now agreed that this should be a key priority in the next Strategic Plan, with a focus on reducing poverty.

Both Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré placed significant emphasis in their election manifestos on the importance of ensuring Jersey is represented at the highest levels throughout the Brexit negotiations to ensure that Jersey’s place in the world is secured.

It was a stated priority in Reform Jersey’s manifesto that the next government must implement the recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, which Senator Le Fondré has also included in his candidate statement for Chief Minister.

Forming a government

If elected as Chief Minister, Senator Le Fondré will initially nominate Senator Sam Mézec for the position of Housing Minister, then, following the introduction of the upcoming changes to ministerial government, he will be nominated as Minister for Children.

Other Reform Jersey States Members will contest further ministerial posts on 7th & 8th June.

In the event of them not being voted into other ministerial roles, Assistant Minister positions will be offered to Deputies Montfort Tadier (in Culture) and Geoff Southern (in Social Security).

Working together in government

It is agreed that no version of collective responsibility shall apply to Reform Jersey members in government which would require them to vote against what was committed to in their manifesto. Where their political positions are irreconcilable, they will agree to disagree.

It is agreed that Reform Jersey members will have the absolute freedom to pursue their 10 key election pledges, both inside government and from the backbenches.

Reform Jersey members will continue to robustly oppose any policy which they believe will exacerbate poverty on the Island.

Reform Jersey members in government will abide by all parts of the Ministerial Code of Conduct and will not use information obtained in their government capacities for party purposes.

Senator Le Fondré has committed to improving communication amongst Ministers and Assistant Ministers, including ensuring that all Assistant Ministers are able to access all the information provided to their Ministers.

Policy agreements

It is agreed that Jersey’s Income Tax and Social Security Contributions systems will be examined to determine the appropriateness of potential reforms (including those specified in Reform Jersey’s manifesto). Further work will also be done to assess the relationship between taxation and Income Support (including the disregards) and work shall be done to review the supplementation system.

It is agreed that the Minimum Wage shall be progressively increased towards £10ph, with consideration given to benefits in kind provided by employers in agriculture and hospitality.

It is agreed that legislation will be introduced to define zero-hours contracts in law and regulate them to end their inappropriate use.

It is agreed that improved parental leave provisions, access to dentists for children and cheaper access to GPs will be aspired to, subject to sustainable funding mechanisms being found from Social Security Contributions reform.

It is agreed that a working party will be set up to consider how further responsibilities on local matters can be transferred to the Parish of St Helier, in line with commitments for urban regeneration.

It is agreed that discussions will begin with the Jersey Electricity Company to explore options for increased use of renewable energy in Jersey.

It is agreed that workforce modernisation negotiations will be re-opened, with the principle of collective bargaining restored.

It is agreed that a Policy Development Board on Social and Affordable Housing will be established, which will work with the Housing Minister to research and develop a fair rent regulation system for social and private accommodation. Social housing (i.e. Andium) rents will be frozen whilst this work takes place. Further work will be done to agree measures to encourage unused properties to be available on the market, including an empty property tax. An investigation will take place on external purchasers of property to reduce that demand.

Duration of the agreement

Both Reform Jersey and Senator Le Fondré sign up to this agreement in good faith, on the understanding that both parties wish to serve in Jersey’s best interests for the four-year term. If one party to this agreement does not uphold their obligations as stated, then the other can withdraw from the agreement if no reconciliation is possible.