Sunday, 30 December 2012

From the horses mouth - why the bus drivers went on strike again.

Dear all,

I thought that the last post would be the final one of the year, but I was sent this document by a reader and felt it was too important not to share.

Today we had another strike from the Connex workers (this one being fully balloted, not a wildcat strike like the last one) and my views remain unchanged from what they were in October.

It is clear from the information provided here, which I have provided links to, that there was always an understanding and intention that all bus drivers would have their terms and conditions automatically transferred unaltered. This was done on the basis that the last time there was a transfer, the same problems were encountered, so they couldn't be allowed to happen again. In fact, so determined were they to make sure there wasn't a repeated scenario, that they were absolutely unequivocal in specifically saying that the transfer had to be of the exact terms and conditions and not just "similar".

You would think that this undertaking would be enough to make it happen, but apparently not. And of course we have had the same thing happen to the scrap metal workers who have mostly lost their jobs because of a failure to provide for a TUPE transfer in the tender.

It is clear that the TTS Minister was either totally incompetent, or purposely engineered this situation to impose the changes.

Either way, I don't believe he is fit for the job, because ordinary people have paid for his mistakes with their jobs and livelihoods. And it frankly makes me angry to hear him be so complacent on the radio, dismissing any suggestions that it is unfair for hard working folk to lose their jobs on Christmas Eve, for goodness sake, on the basis that "the tender process was fair" when it so clearly was not.

And how convenient this all is for the first strikes at the beginning of this period of discontent to be from the bus drivers, rather than a profession that is far harder to demonise, like the nurses. This coupled with the populist upcoming proposition from Constable Rennard on States Members pay is all just part of the overall strategy to create a consensus that public pay increases are unacceptable in any circumstances. And the principle that those in positions of authority have the right to bully those below them and force them to accept worse conditions.

But anyway, have a read of this. It is what the bus drivers hung up at the bus station during their strike and is well worth a read.

Happy new year!


Following the Channel Report news article on the strike and Deputy Lewis, I wanted to address the points that were made there.

The report can be read here -

Here Deputy Lewis says that the dispute is about the overtime arrangements and how it is worked out, which are not part of the workers terms and conditions package, but are part of an "informal agreement". Since it is part of this informal agreement, it does not constitute a part of the transfer, which has been an exact transfer of the standard terms in a week.

This is absolute nonsense and would not stand up in court for one moment.

It is my view that there is absolutely no way it could be considered an "informal agreement" in the legal sense of it.

Why? Simply because for something to be a legally binding contract, it needs to satisfy these three elements -

  1. There must be a clear agreement (consisting of an offer and acceptance). 
  2. There must be consideration (i.e. what is actually transferred between the parties, e.g. money, goods, a service etc) that has passed between both parties (it cannot just be a one way transfer). 
  3. There must be an intention for it to be legally binding.

Note, that it is NOT a requirement for there to be a written document with a signature on it at any stage. If all contracts had to be written down to be binding, we would spend most of our lives signing papers because we can enter up to dozens of contracts every day. And when things are written down, it is also not a requirement for all of it to be consolidated in one document. All that matters is proving that those three elements are present.

When a bus driver works overtime, all three of those elements are so blindingly obviously there. If a driver worked a few extra hours and was not paid for that work, the employer would be sued and it would fall under breach of contract. Despite it not being written down, it would be implied into any contract anyway because it was obviously a proper arrangement in employment and the usual business practices are adopted.

This is basic contract law. It was not an informal agreement, it was a wider part of their terms of employment and should have been transferred along with the rest of the contract.

"The amounts of overtime that some drivers were doing with Connex do not comply with health and safety."

Well there are a few things to be said there. If Connex were operating under standards that were not health and safety compliant, then TTS should be coming down on them like a ton of bricks. Given the mistakes he made on referring to the law before, I am unsure when he says it isn't compliant as to whether he means that in a strict legal sense or not. There is plenty of things that aren't safe, but aren't covered by health and safety laws yet, but the phrase may still be used to refer to them by laymen (which he so evidently is). Given that no action was taken against Connex, I'm inclined to think that he is not actually saying there has been a breach of the law.

This coupled with the fact that the hours that can be spent behind a wheel for bus drivers is exactly the same for taxi drivers and coach drivers etc so are all of them in breach of health and safety too? If they are, why on Earth is the TTS Minister just focusing on the bus drivers when he should be pursuing all of them?

An interview with one of the bus drivers can be heard here from 02:07:20 -

It is clear from this that one of the workers primary concerns is keeping the public safe (and of course it would be because if a bus is crashed a driver will be hurt too!) and they are happy to have limits put on them over how many hours they can drive.

Their view is that imposing contract changes on the bus drivers does not address the problem, which can only be fixed by legislation.

If Deputy Lewis was genuine about his supposed desire to limit the hours they could drive, why did he not bring it up in his negotiations with the workers earlier in the year, before the tender was put out? Why did he bury his head in the sand and wait until it was too late and industrial action became inevitable? This was totally irresponsible of him. If he didn't know that such a change would annoy the workers, then we really have to wonder if he is fit to be the minister.


Why more bus strikes?

Back in 2002 when Connex took over the running of the bus service in Jersey it was placed in to the tender documentation that all staff were to be transferred with their terms and conditions unchanged, Connex abided by this with the exception of the shift allowance that had been awarded as part of a pay negotiation prior to them starting the service. The public services committee (now TTS) overruled Connex's claim that they had no knowledge of this pay adjustment and upheld the conditions of tender that stated they had to pay this to relevant staff. A Judicial Greffe enquiry was then carried out into the problems that had been caused over this pay deal that culminated in an official response in Aug 2005. The findings of this were that the wording of the tender was not clear enough and they recommended that the wording should be changed regarding the T&C to state that all staff should be transferred 'with T&C similar or no less favourable , the committee responded by saying that THEY felt this was still open to misinterpretation & that they HAVE ALREADY changed the CONTRACT TO RUN THE BUS SERVICE IN JERSEY to state that any renewal of the contract or any new tender MUST TRANSFER ALL STAFF WITH THE EXISTING TERMS & CONDITIONS SET AT THE INITIAL DATE OF THE TENDER PROCESS, (available at the States assembly web site, document no R.C.58/2005, recommendation 4). The Chief Minister also made a commitment to follow the Cabinet Office Statement of practice for TUPE (Transfer of undertakings & protection of Employees) which protects employees in these types of situations.
This is why we feel the need to show our anger at the failure of the Transport Minister to protect employee rights and his failure to follow his OWN DEPARTMENTS conditions of contract.
Recommendation 4
In the absence of “Transfer of Undertakings: Protection of Employment” Regulations such as are in force in the United Kingdom, in the event that a Committee or Minister has to give an undertaking as to future terms and conditions of employment it should be “on terms no less favourable than those in force on [the operative date].”
The Committee does not understand how the inclusion of the term ‘no less favourable than’ will ensure that the shift allowance experience cannot recur. If the tender documents had included this phrase, the Committee believes the issue could still have arisen and tenderers could have submitted bids on differing terms and conditions but still fulfilled the ‘no less favourable than’ clause. However, the Committee does accept that absolute clarity as to employees’ terms and conditions must be ensured in any future tendering process. To this end, the Committee had already amended the Conditions of Contract for Local Bus Services agreed between the current operator and the Committee (of which the Committee of Inquiry had received a copy) to include a clear statement regarding the operative date. Clause 18.3, which refers to ‘Consequences of Termination’, includes the following conditions –

“ On expiry of the Contract . . . the Committee shall . . . . require in any tender documentation that the incoming service provider submit proposals that ensure that all of the Contractor’s staff . . . . are taken on by the incoming service provider on the same terms and conditions as apply at the date of the issue of any tender documentation. . .”

What this revision does is to ensure that ‘the operative date’ is not some months in the past – as it was during the tender process under review where the 1st August date had been agreed by the States during the Bus Strategy debate – but is current and relevant. The Committee believes this will ensure that all tenderers submit bids on the same basis and any change to terms and conditions can then be accounted for subsequently.


2.8.6 Deputy S.G. Luce of St. Martin:
I do not want to repeat Deputy Southern’s question but maybe I could be a little bit more specific.  Would the Minister tell the Assembly whether it is his intention to transfer terms and conditions from Connex to the new buscompany?

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Yes, as I say, it is all under negotiation at the moment with the preferred tenderer, CT Plus, that all the basic conditions would be carried forward.  With regard to pay, I think they would be linked to the 2011 pay scale.

2.6.4 Deputy G.P. Southern:

Using the Minister’s own words, what responsibility does the Minister accept for his failure to learn from the trials and tribulations of the previous contract change and to address and minimise the risks associated with the transfer process this time?  There was seemingly a failure.  Here we are a fortnight on from the 10th October meeting and we have had a strike.  Surely the Minister must agree that he has not succeeded in minimising risks.

Deputy K.C. Lewis:

Under the circumstances, I think things have gone very well.  Great play has been made of clause 18.3 on the expiry of the contract or early termination, I will not go through the whole thing, but is taken over on existing terms.  But the proviso is: “Provided always that the contractor shall fully co-operate with both the committee and the incoming service provider by providing them both with such employee information as is reasonably necessary for the committee to compile any tender documentation and for bidders properly to price their bids.”  That was very slow in forthcoming.  There was a document I have here from Deputy Southern as of several weeks ago which is… I believe it could be one of the driver’s documentations.  Employee name redacted, address redacted, salary redacted, pensions redacted.  This was insufficient information for the bid to be compiled.  This is why we have the problems now.  

The successful tenderer's submission

6. HCT Group is the parent company of CT Plus Jersey Limited ("CT Plus"). HCT Group's response to the second stage of the tender process was submitted under covering letter dated 14 June 2012. This response was submitted on the basis of a "seamless transfer of staff".
HCT Group stated:
"…we will not change any of the staff terms and conditions we have been made aware of in
the first stage tender documents, for the first nine months of the contract."

Questions asked by Deputy Geoff Southern and answered by Deputy Kevin Lewis (TTS)

(iii) On what date did the Minister satisfy himself that CT Plus were fully aware of the terms and  conditions under which Connex drivers were employed?

(iii) This was undertaken, as for all tenderers, as part of the First Stage Tender evaluations  between mid October 2011 and end of January 2012.

(iv) If this was after 14th June 2012, what reliance, if any, could be placed on the HCT Group  response of that date, if before, why have those guarantees of no change to terms and  conditions terms not been met?

(iv) CT Plus bid for the 2013 Bus Operator’s Contract was on exactly the same like for like basis as the other tenderers. Of course as a charitable Social Enterprise CT Plus’s company’s structure and motivation is different to the traditional corporate model, as it does not have to return a dividend to shareholders, but reinvests any money made back in the community where it is generated to create social good, such as transport for older and disabled people or community groups or training for the unemployed. This aspect of CTPlus’s operations was excluded from the quality / cost tender assessment as it was not part of the evaluation criteria.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

2013 - A Year for Campaigning

Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all reading this. The past year has been a mixed one for myself personally, but one of the most positive parts of it has been the feedback I've gotten from readers of this blog and those that support the aims of Reform Jersey.

Politically, the year has not been what it was hoped it would be at the start of the year. After last years election and Senator Gorst becoming Chief Minister, plus the prospect of an independent Electoral Commission beginning it's work, many (including myself) thought we were seeing the beginning of a time where politics became less petty, people worked together more sensibly and real progress could be made in Jersey. None of this has come to be. The divisions that existed before the election have been exacerbated, not calmed. It's business as usual and the States has not improved it's image amongst the public one iota. The old popular cynicism will only have become deeper entrenched by this.

Jerseys political culture needs a real kick up the backside to kickstart a transition to a society in which we can have serious debates and discussions, based on ideas rather than personalities, and where people are actually encouraged to participate and we can breed a culture of activism where ordinary people are empowered.

With any luck, this next year will be a politically unique one for Jersey. If all goes as it is supposed to, we will have our first proper referendum (not including the CET referendum in 2008, which doesn't really count). If all parties treat it with the seriousness it deserves, this should be something that we in Jersey have not experienced before, outside of the usual parameters of an election.

The people of Jersey will be given the choice over whether we democratise our electoral system or whether we continue to have an archaic and undemocratic system. To most in the democratic world, the answer to such a question is blindingly obvious, but, alas, this is Jersey, the battle will not be easily won.

I have been told that we should expect the final recommendations of the Electoral Commission to be published on the 11th January. From then, presumably the Privileges and Procedures Committee will need to work out the practicalities, the date, the question etc. It will be our job to help facilitate that process, insofar as the public can do with lobbying. When we know for definite what shape the referendum will take, it will be the time to start a proper campaign. We will have to divide into different sides, which will inevitably be coalitions across the usual divides, and have a public debate and campaign the likes of which has not been seen in Jersey before. It will be an opportunity for people to get involved who wouldn't in an election (simply because it's about putting yourself on a platform for a job at the end, rather than a principle) to knock on doors, hand out leaflets, get discussing etc.

The role of bloggers and the media will also be something interesting to observe throughout all of this. The BBC and Channel TV have so far done a very good job of covering the works of the Electoral Commission and giving equal airtime to people with different views on reform. The Tom Gruchy blog has also done an excellent job of gathering political people for interviews on reform and gain perspectives from various different sides. I'm optimistic that they will carry on playing the role they should and host proper debates in the campaign. What I hope is that they will realise how important an event this will be for Jersey and will afford it the priority in coverage that it deserves. If people witness a proper campaign and public debates, with a media properly facilitating it, it will have an impact on how future campaigns work and how people expect elections to function. If it is done properly, it has the potential to be a model and set a precedent for future elections and debates in Jersey.

The JEP will inevitably be partisan in their coverage and editorial line on what side they take. They have already made it clear with their opinion columns where they stand. If that is a taste of what is to come from the paper in this campaign, then we must brace ourselves for their every attempt to poison what has the potential to be a good episode in Jerseys political history.

The first report from the Electoral Commission argued that there should be two referendum questions. The first would ask the voters to approve the reformation of the composition of the States. The second would be to then ask if the Constables should be a part of that new States. The case for such a procedure has been intellectually trashed, not just by myself but by many others who wrote to the commission to point out how such an idea is flawed.

My guess is that the only way that it is possible to proceed with a way of reforming the States but retaining the Constables is by asking a single question, but with three possible answers, and letting voters rank their preferences in order, rather than ticking a single box. That isn't my preferred solution, but I'm fairly sure that is what they will propose.

What remains to be seen is whether they will go as far as to recommend an upper chamber or the STV voting system. I would find it funny to see them reject the idea of STV, but then propose a referendum that uses a weighted voting system to get the most accurate result.

So the challenge for myself and those on the same philosophical page as me this year is to snatch up this opportunity with this referendum to get active, encourage others to join us and create an organised campaign that shows what democracy is all about.

All of this, tied in with the fact that Jersey now has a new commemorated day of celebration in the form of Jersey Reform Day, hopefully this new day will be utilised properly to engage with people to understand what the 28th September 1769 was all about and galvanise people in at least a small way to understand that what will lead to improvements in Jersey is the mass participation of ordinary people.

Alongside all of this, we also have the looming spectre of unrest from public sector workers and the bus drivers. I've made my views clear that I support ordinary people taking action if they are being treated unreasonably. The bus drivers were purposely misled so that changes to their terms and conditions could be imposed and any strike would be futile (as this next one in the coming days regrettably is). Public sector workers have not been properly negotiated with and any imposition of a pay deal is not the right way to go about it.

A few days before Christmas I had a drink with an old friend from primary school who now works in the public sector and had checked his bank balance the other day only to find that his 1% consolidated pay had already been given to him, despite the fact that he never agreed to it. He is naturally very uncomfortable about this, because the condition for the pay rise on the 3rd year is accepting "modernisation of the terms and conditions" (read as - "reduction in standard of terms and conditions") which he knows nothing about.

How all of this fits in with what I mentioned before about public involvement in politics, I don't know. I fear it might not be positive in the way that the electoral reform campaign can be. I just hope the unions can put forward a positive case for their actions and I'll do what I can to help.

Having seen what the bus drivers have gone through, the scrap metal workers and also others I know who are working for companies that are being sold, it is clear that Jerseys employment protection laws are totally inadequate and Jersey desperately needs a TUPE law like the UK has. Maybe that can be a campaign for the unions to do that can be their equivalent of the electoral reform campaign.

Anyway, it's not quite 2013 yet, so a couple of days of relaxing until getting stuck in to a new year of progressive politics! Have a great new year!


Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Rebuttal to JEP Propaganda 3 Re Plémont

I listened intently and followed all of the online coverage as the battle for Plémont took place in the States earlier this week. Once the result had been called and the proposition to buy Plémont had been lost, it was time for members of the various classes of States Members to give their Christmas addresses to the assembly to reflect on their performance over the past year. Ignoring the slightly irritating fact that no-one saw fit at any point to thank the electorate, one thing that all members (including the Dean and Bailiff) did mention was how well the last debate had been carried out and how it was a credit to the assembly to have been able to debate something that was so divisive across the usual political lines but (with a few exceptions) conduct it in a well mannered way that produced a result that no-one could cry foul play on.

All in all, I would have to agree with all of that. As I said, there were a few exceptions but I've heard a lot worse. However, reading the JEP you would not have even vaguely gathered any of that.

The worst of all was this astounding opinion piece -

I'm going to wager that whoever wrote this pathetic piece didn't even listen to the debate. They just can't have. It is so far from being an even vaguely accurate representation of what happened that no reasonable sound minded person could have sincerely come to the conclusions that are arrived at in this article. They just can't be serious.

But before I dissect it bit by bit, my own position on the matter -

I made my views on Plémont clear before the debate in a previous post and then happily published an alternative point of view from Daniel Wimberley. As with all things, when you read more on a subject, listen to debates and hear points of view from all sides of an argument, you gradually become more informed and aware of the criticisms of your point of view, and so you have to refine your position taking all of that into account. Sometimes you can even be totally swayed and find yourself on the other side of the argument after evaluating it all. Throughout the debate I honestly found myself wavering on aspects of my original views on Plémont.

Senator Bailhaches opening speech on the proposition can only be described as brilliant, by far the best speech I've ever heard him give. It was passionately delivered, it used all the right language and used all the sorts of persuasive tools that make a great speech. That's not to say that I agreed with everything he said, much of it I strongly disagreed with, but simply how he delivered it was wonderful. I've given a few speeches in my day and know that there is a real art to it, and he must have spent a good amount of time in a room by himself practising delivering it rather than just writing something down and reading it out aloud on the day.

Most importantly, what his speech did was make me conjure up images and feelings towards Plémont that was exactly what he wanted people to feel when they made up their mind on how they would vote.

I'm flying back to Jersey on Sunday after having been at uni for a few months and I know that I'm going to do what I can't help but do every time I go back which is look out the window at Jersey as it approaches on the horizon and look forward to that feeling I'm sure we all get as we walk down the stairs from the plane and think "I'm home". And I remembered the very first time I came back to Jersey after the development at Portlet had been finished. I came back by ferry from England and remember the sinking feeling I had in my stomach as we sailed around the corner and I looked up at what had once been one of the most beautiful parts of the island now in the shadow of what can only be described as a monstrosity. All of this made me think a lot harder about how valuable that site at Plémont really is and how maybe it is actually worth spending the money on.

But despite all that, as with all States propositions, the devil is in the detail and you have to put emotion aside and think pragmatically on whether the specifics of what is being proposed are actually right.

It became very obvious in the debate that there was actually a clear majority in favour of saving Plémont, the problem they had was with this specific proposition. Some members had a staunch principled opposition to compulsory purchase. Senator Ferguson objected on the basis that compulsory purchase is only acceptable during times of war and any other time it is just theft. Some members felt they could not possibly sign up to a proposition that didn't have a definitive price on it which they were being asked to pay. Some felt it was wrong to have just concluded a debate on the Medium Term Financial Plan and then focus on something that they didn't believe fitted in that context and should have been dealt with before those commitments were made. Some felt that the developer had not been treated appropriately by the politicians and had he been treated better it may have been possible to come up with a settlement that benefited all parties and avoided a compulsory purchase and potentially high costs. And then there were those that thought the best option was to loan the NTJ the money to buy the whole site, rather than let them buy it from the States after they had made a loss.

All of these were legitimate worries that the proposition made no attempt to settle and on balance of it from that it was, in my and most members view, a poorly constructed proposition. It was made worse by what I think was a very poor decision from the Treasury Minister who only spoke in the debate at the very last minute rather than getting their early to frame the debate. Since he is the person that signs the cheques, it wasn't right for him to let the majority of the debate go on without a statement from his perspective on the funding implications, which is what much of the opposition was about. Contrast that with his Assistant Minister who spoke quite early on and in opposition to the purchase.

That is where the failing lies. Had any more assurances been made on any one of those points of objections, the vote would have been won. But it was lost because it just wasn't done well. Senators Bailhache and Gorst were too complacent and clearly thought they would be able to pass it by playing to the emotions of other members. As a result, we as an island a now a poorer place.

When something like this happens, the most important thing is to reflect and come to terms with what went wrong so that lessons are learnt for the future so this sort of thing doesn't happen again. And this is why the JEPs opinion piece is so inappropriate because it does nothing for reconciliation but instead tries to use the issue to make petty political points with no grounding whatsoever. And from a paper in such a position of power as the JEP is, being so widely read, it leaves impressions in people that are not helpful for the island.

So lets look at the article itself.

It starts by making all sorts of comments about how insignificant the amount of money was going to be or the message the move sends out to developers etc, there isn't a huge amount to say about that because it's a legitimate difference of opinion that doesn't particularly fly in the face of the facts as they are.

Then we have this paragraph - 

"The intellectual poverty of that argument set the tone for a dispiriting display of this disappointing States Assembly at its worse, with the added irony that the vote was in effect swung by the decision of the spectacularly ill-titled Environment Minister, Deputy Rob Duhamel, whose position on the Council of Ministers is surely now untenable."

I'm not sure he was listening to the same debate as me because I think there were excellent contributions from both sides of the argument and there were plenty of bad arguments from both sides (including the pro side) too. But to single out Deputy Duhamel is totally unfair. The vote was not swung by any particular member because it would have only taken one from any of the 25 to change their mind (or get their ring-binder in the way) and the vote would have gone the other way. But why should his position on the Council of Ministers now be untenable? The Health Minister Deputy Pryke and TTS  Minister Deputy Lewis voted against the purchase, and the Economic-Development Minister was against it too. Even the Assistant Treasury Minister was against it!  The proposition was specifically brought forward by Senator Gorst as an individual member, rather than with the backing of the Council of Ministers, and so it was a free vote that all ministers were allowed to express a view on either way without breaching collective responsibility. In fact I think that the fact so many ministers were against it shows how poor a proposition it must have been if they could not be convinced by their colleagues that it was feasible.

"The defeat of the Plémont proposal must be a personal disappointment to its lead advocate, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, who made an apparently irresistible case with skill and eloquence. It must also weaken the position of Senator Gorst, whose first year in office ends not with a decisive assertion of his influence over the House but with an embarrassing failure to win an argument on a major matter of policy direction."

I've acknowledged that he started the debate with a very good speech, there is no doubt about that, but a States Member that falls for a good speech is not a good States Member. We want members who are capable of looking past any spin and going through things like this with a critical eye and be sceptical. But whilst Senator Bailhaches opening speech was good, his closing speech was not. He wasn't particularly convincing and he made a few jokes that didn't go down very well about other members being "amateur valuers" which was meant to belittle them. Not really the best way to win friends and influence people.

I certainly agree that Senator Gorst doesn't have any influence over the House, but that's because the strings are being pulled by the more dominant Senators Ozouf and Bailhache. But by no stretch of the English language can this failure be considered a failure to win an argument on a "major matter of policy direction". It was no such thing. Plémont was not part of a major policy direction, it was a one off case. Had it been part of policy it would have been brought forward by the Council of Ministers with a three line-whip, not an individual in a free vote.

Though isn't it odd how the JEP seems to be far harsher on Senator Gorst than Senator Bailhache, especially given it was more a failure of Bailhache than Gorst?

"It is, meanwhile, difficult to resist reaching the conclusion that some who voted against the proposition did so merely because it was brought by the former Bailiff, perceived by them as the embodiment of the so-called establishment."

Of course it is only really difficult to resist reaching that conclusion if you didn't actually listen to the debate and hear the arguments that were being made. No personal attacks against Senator Bailhache were made by any member. Though, the article is wrong, it was not brought by Senator Bailhache, it was brought by Senator Gorst who nominated Senator Bailhache to speak in favour of it. Why he couldn't bring it in his own name isn't clear. Maybe it has something to do with his core complaint in his election campaign against members who bring up matters for debate that have already been discussed.

But here comes the most pathetic part -

"Indeed, the spectacle of dyed-in-the-wool left-wingers flying in the face of the public good and supporting a development which will be of benefit to an extremely wealthy developer and those with the very substantial means required to buy property on the site’s projected luxury estate was an exercise in the absurd."

Ignoring the frankly idiotic and childish assumption that left-wingers have a problem with anyone with substantial means, to say it was "in the face of the public good" is subjective but to then say that this was ruined by the left-wingers is such a pathetic attempt to play petty politics on something that was never a right or left issue, and was reflected by the way the vote turned out.

In fact it's so illogical given that the left-wingers make up a minority in the States and so therefore the right-wing majority is capable of passing whatever legislation it likes, so long as they are united, and on this occasion they were not united, so arguably it would be their fault. Gorst and Bailhache only had to convince one more right-winger to agree with them, but they couldn't do it. It is their personal fault, not the fault of any particular caucus in the States (not even the Constable caucus!).

My blog alone has dispelled this idea that it is a right/ left issue by the very fact I have published two posts, both from a left-wing perspective that reached opposite conclusions. Not only that, but the JEP itself even published a letter from Daniel Wimberley outlining the progressive case for purchasing Plémont and another by Deputy Power outlining why he was against it!

A list of which members voted which way can be found here -

It's worth noting that even though Senator Maclean (that well knowdyed-in-the-wool left-winger) was not in the island to be able to vote, he had sent an email to all States Members outlining why he was against the purchase, so it would have been 24-26 had he been there.

Just looking at that list you can so clearly see that plenty of left-wingers voted for the purchase (Deputies Tadier and Maçon, Senator Breckon etc) and plenty of right-wingers, including ministers, voted against it (Senator Ferguson, Deputies Baker and Bryans). You'll also note that the Constables were split on the issue, but with a small majority against the purchase. So perhaps the JEP could alter their editorial position on the Costables as the wisest and most "in-touch" of all States Members...

But one of those "dyed in the wool left-wingers" is Deputy Tadier who very consistently votes against the Council of Ministers, sometimes being in a group of just 5/6 members that vote contre, actually voted for the proposition. Not only did he vote for this proposition but he was even part of a band that had been campaigning for the purchase and released a song in support of it. The song which, in my opinion at least, contains rather Socialist lyrics (the bits in English that I can understand anyway) with lines like "when will those with deepest pockets give something back to the island that's dressed you so well". So this petty attack on left-wingers is totally unjustified.

What the JEP can't stand is that the proposition failed on it's merits, and there is no excuse for it other than it just wasn't thought out very well, despite being led by the JEPs favourite Senator. So to make sure his reputation stays intact, they try and divert attention away from legitimate failings onto others that had absolutely nothing do with it and it's utterly contemptible. How can the island progress if we can't honestly pin-point our problems accurately and learn how to overcome them in a sensible way?

So as the title to the article says, it is indeed a very sad day for Jersey, but not for a single reason that this ridiculous article has disgracefully tried to attribute it to.

One tweeter said to me "Imagine if in the Constables referendum they are voted in by one vote. The JEP will proclaim it as a victory for common sense". Quite.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

A Guest Post from Daniel Wimberley - Why Plémont Matters.

Tonight something a bit different. I have a guest posting from the former Deputy for St Mary Daniel Wimberley who has decided to wade into the debate on the future of Plémont. He disagrees with what I posted a few days ago on the subject and has dissected my argument bit by bit, which I am always grateful for.

Since the proposition to buy the land has been made by the Chief Minister and his assistant, for those on the progressive side of politics it would be almost instinct to oppose it for that reason only. But here Daniel has put forward a case from a progressive point of view that may carry more weight, so please have a read and share your thoughts.

For the record, I am happy to do more guest posts if readers see any value in them, so I'd appreciate if anyone wants to share any views on that idea in the comments section, or give ideas on who to guest and on what topic.



This Plemont issue is important as it throws so many of the key issues facing Jersey into stark relief. There is the question of private interest versus the public interest.  There is the question:  what do we actually care about? Then there is the confusion around ideas such as economic growth, population, and Jersey’s so-called “poverty”.  On all these questions, Plemont is a test case for the left. Which is why I wrote this piece.

At the outset, I declare an interest – I am firmly in the “return to nature” camp, and I do see that, on the face of it, it might seem hard to justify the likely cost of purchase. But please hear me out. I will just look at a few things Sam said in his Plemont post of 23rd November.

1    “The building work will even help stimulate the economy a bit.”   “unemployment is a huge problem at the moment,”   “Coupling that with the unemployment and rising population, it's going to be tough. I call that a mess,”

Indeed. Large-scale (for Jersey) unemployment coupled with a rising population on our tiny island is a mess. But both of these things have been brought about by the policies of our ruling elite, and I believe it has been deliberate.  If it is not deliberate, then it is a shocking indictment of their incompetence. Consider how strange this really is: rising population at the same time as unemployment is rising.


An ever-rising population ensures housing scarcity, which ensures high prices in all parts of the accommodation sector, including the value of the underlying land, which increases between 80 AND 200 TIMES in value when it is passed / zoned for building. Plenty of money to be made all round, then.
Those who say that the Plemont deal would cost the taxpayer too much might like to reflect on the fact that land prices are so grossly inflated in Jersey precisely because of the POLICIES OF OUR RULING GROUP. It is not Sam’s fault, or mine.
And when I proposed in the States that this massive increase in value should be taxed as it was an entirely unearned gain, it was voted down. How strange! Strange, I mean, that our States members should put the advantage of landowners above the interests of Jersey as a whole. Or then again, not so strange, depends how cynical you are.


Unemployment is high only because of the ludicrous numbers let into the island by the powers-that-be. There is supposed to be a tap for controlling inward migration – whoever was holding the tap was holding it wide open. Why? To keep labour costs down. And to hell with the consequences for the island. Same story again. (That is my explanation – has anyone got a better one?)

So to say that we must create yet more jobs for those mistakenly let in – where does it end, please?  It is a policy which will end up concreting all the island, not just Plemont.

What IS the population we are aiming for? I am not saying “send people away”. I AM saying: when people leave (as they do, about 2500 a year (if I remember correctly)) then gently close the tap of inward migration, so the population stands still, and then manage the jobs market carefully. This would solve a lot of our problems . . .

2  “This at a time when there are pay freezes all around, public spending is being cut . . .” and “The money is much better off going into . . .”

This is the classic right wing argument. You cannot have subsidised sporting opportunities / art and music festivals / a police authority / cleaned beaches / proper child protection / health promotion (delete whichever you personally do not think is essential) because we need the money for a new hospital / the refurbishment of Les Quennevais / a consultant to tell us about the future of the Finance Industry (select whichever you think is absolutely necessary).

But of course, we can have both / all of these things. Jersey is a wealthy well-run jurisdiction with large reserves, as our Treasury Minister tells us (often). So what exactly is the problem? The answer is ideology. We simply do not spend enough on our public services. That is why islanders have a hospital with sewage running down the walls. And why our dear States voted against putting any kind of filters into the chimneys at the former Bellozanne incinerator, preferring to run an incinerator which was poisoning their own citizens.
Yes, we do look after the roads, we do run a school system, we do have a fire service and so on.  We run the ordinary facilities of civilised life, but when it comes to our heritage we quibble and wobble.  When it comes to the town park it takes 12 years to get anywhere because fundamentally it is seen as an option.  It is seen as something that would make life better but it is not essential, and when it comes to our landscape, it just does not seem to matter. But these things DO matter.

3   “spending such an excessive amount of money in this case is totally unacceptable when Jersey is in the state it's in.”

Jersey may seem like it is in a mess, but as some commenters pointed out, Jersey is not really in a mess. It is one of the richest places on earth. The reason we have the problems I described above. Is that Jersey spends a lower proportion of its wealth on its public services and facilities than virtually any other rich country, (and most of them have economies in better shape than ours – but that is an aside).
Also, we have apparently not heard of the concept of investment. We hear often about the need for sound business minds in the States, and yet we do not do what every business does – namely borrow to invest for a better future.

We pay for capital assets with a life of 30 or 40 years with CASH. Not sure why we do this. No other government does this, no business does this, no household with a mortgage does this either. It prevents us from grasping a whole host of “spend – to – save opportunities, because “there is no money”. It is crazy and has held us back and turned the government into a NO CAN DO government instead of a CAN DO one. That is why, in Jersey, so often, good ideas get strangled. No oomph, no drive. Just inertia.  Looked at this way Plemont is being bought by 100,000 people and it will last rather more than 100 years. Does not look so expensive then, does it? (taking 100 years as the figure, I make it 75p each per year.)

4   “The plans actually look quite nice”

That is a matter of opinion. Or is it? Jersey farmhouses do not sit as a rule on cliff-tops. The old chaps knew better than that. Nor are they built in clusters. For better or worse, the Jersey farmhouse is a rugged statement of self-reliance, hard work, and wealth, and it nearly always stands on its own. . And yet it is proposed to build an entire hamlet of them. Also, the old holiday camp buildings were horizontal in their overall effect, and thus less obtrusive – the new 2½ stories high “farmhouses” will stick out (up) like sore thumbs. It won’t be as violent a difference as at Portelet but the principle is exactly the same – we will have swapped horizontal for vertical on a very sensitive site.

Aesthetically it is a complete nonsense, it has no cultural legitimacy, and in planning terms, as the Inspector pointed out in his report, it would NEVER get planning permission in normal circumstances. So why on earth are we giving this proposal the time of day?

5   “When they say "return it to nature", well, there hasn't been any nature on that site for over 150 years from what I can gather.”

I am not sure if Sam said this or a commenter. Whatever. I am not sure what this means. However, the plan is NOT to build on the existing footprint, but to take virgin Green Zone land to the South. This is “nature” now, if hedges and a green field count as nature, and if it is built on it would become “suburbia”. Removing the old ruined buildings would indeed be the first step to returning that land “to nature”.

6   “would-be developers who are actually coming up with good ideas and, frankly, being very generous.”

Crumbs. Trevor Hemmings is worth £400 million or so:  before the crash the poor chap was “worth” over £1 bn. When is enough enough? And yes that is a moral question. And yes, moral questions belong in the political arena. What else is politics about? He is not being generous. He got the entire former Pontins property portfolio for a song, £30 million (in the year 2000), he has long since got his money back on the deal, generous would be to say – ‘OK in this case I can see the extreme beauty of the site and the gain to the people of Jersey, I will sell at the “bracken price,” you are the government- you have the right to purchase the site.’ I have not heard anything remotely like this, but one lives in hopes . . .

7   the question of private interest versus the public interest

I asked in the last debate about buying Plemont:
“Maybe we should start acting like a government.  It is the rights of the landowner, who in this case bought the land purely as a speculative investment, compared to the right to enjoyment of the public and why do we not do the right and decisive thing?  We could calculate the value of Plémont as part of his £30 million purchase of Pontins, divide up that asset and estimate how much he actually paid for Pontins.  We could add inflation and perhaps his fees and negotiate on that basis.  Why do we have to negotiate on the basis of an inflated value?  Why do we not show that we mean business?”

My starting point for speaking like this is the fact that Trevor Hemmings has enough money already. The government is there to weigh precisely these conflicts. In this case: his interest versus the public interest – it is a no-brainer for me.  So it was for instance a crass mistake not to include the whole site in the Coastal Park.
In conclusion, it pains me to see progressives marching under the right’s banners on this.

“We can’t afford to buy Plemont” even though Jersey is still one of the richest places in the world. Even though we would like to do this, we can’t. I have heard a Constable say exactly this in a debate about a miserable penny-pinching cut in a Business plan debate –“I do not want to do this but I have to”

“It will help create housing” when the shortage has been wilfully created, and will continue to be created.

“It will help create jobs” when this is not the answer to our mis-match between people and jobs. We need solutions, not stop-gaps which succeed only in putting off the day of actually tackling the problem.

I suggest that, from a progressive political standpoint, the arguments for not buying Plemont do not make sense. 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

If you really love Plémont...

I just want to make a very brief post tonight to try and counter some of what is being said by what is, admittedly, a very well run campaign by the National Trust of Jersey who have announced that they have received pledges of £2.5m to help purchase the Plémont site to return it to nature.

They've named their campaign "Love Plémont" which I think is very unfair. When I was a kid I used to go to Plémont all the time, my family used to eat at the café up there quite a bit and I used to love exploring all the caves. I love Plémont too, but I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in what the NTJ are proposing. I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the whole process, but I'm more going to write about my general instinct on the whole thing.

We found out today that the States debate on the compulsory purchase of the headland has been delayed until the 11th December so that a valuation can take place following the housing plans being given planning permission. There is also going to be a public meeting on the 5th December.

Now that planning permission has been given, I think it's time for the Chief Minister to back down from his proposal and admit that we are getting an excellent deal from the owner of the land and we really should snap it up without causing a fuss about it.

We have two options on the table - buy the whole area and return it to nature, or let the developer build some housing on it and return some of it to nature.

Leaving it as it is, is not an option. The problem has been left unresolved for far too long and the Pontins site is an eyesore (not to mention very unsafe) that needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

The second option sounds admirable at first. At a time when the population is going up, housing inevitably needs to be built, we decide to take a piece of land on the coast and safeguard it for the future to make sure that it is kept green and unspoilt. Well that sounds lovely, but then we find out how much it's going to cost and who is footing the bill. It's impossible to put an exact figure on it, but the £2.5m raised by the NTJ is only a small proportion of it and the final price could stretch into millions more than originally anticipated (I recall seeing a valuation of £8m before the planning permission was given) and it will be paid for by the taxpayer.

This at a time when there are pay freezes all around, public spending is being cut and we're in desperate need for a boost to the economy to get jobs created. The least it will cost us £6.5m, which is £6.5m more than we should be spending on it.

Alternatively, we have a proposition on the table for someone to come and knock down Pontins and build a few modest houses there and even donate a chunk of the land to go back to nature. How much will that cost the taxpayer? Nothing! The building work will even help stimulate the economy a bit.

Here's an artists impression of it* -

See, it looks great! The red lines indicate where the current Pontins building is.

Now, after what happened with Portlet you can understand why people are keen to protect areas like this from development. Portlet was a disaster and something like that must never happen again. But this is nothing like Portlet. The plans actually look quite nice. It's not exactly building Canary Wharf on it, it's like a little hamlet. And a large part of it is going to go to nature anyway.

When they say "return it to nature", well, there hasn't been any nature on that site for over 150 years from what I can gather. So, if there is going to be a bit of development on that land, at least it's somewhere that doesn't currently have any nature on it, rather than taking another part of our coast an ruining it.

My enjoyment of Plémont was never in anyway inhibited by the existence of the old Pontins site and I cannot imagine that it would be even vaguely improved by the addition of a field up there. So spending millions to do that seems logicless to me, particularly when there's a way to get some land back and build a few houses for free.

Both possible outcomes are an improvement from what is currently there, but one is very expensive and the other will cost us nothing. There are far better things the money could be used on.

Some have complained that the houses there won't be affordable for most people. Okay, maybe not (though that doesn't mean they're un-sellable), but then how does it help those that need affordable housing for the States to throw away millions of pounds that could otherwise be spent building cheaper houses, or helping first time buyers get on the ladder, or even building new social housing?

The economy is in a mess and unemployment is a huge problem at the moment, so to spend all this money on a field seems totally illogical to me. The money is much better off going into projects to help create jobs, or into wage increases for nurses and teachers etc, or a tiny part of it could go to stopping this ridiculous £500k cut to higher education funding!

But by the fact that such a fuss has been caused over this, I really do worry about what message the government (and the people of Jersey involved in things like Love Plémont) are sending out to would-be developers who are actually coming up with good ideas and, frankly, being very generous.

It's the same with the David Place/ Bath Street proposals there were a while back where some developer wanted to come in and knock down that hideous old Odeon building and the surrounding buildings to build it up into new shops/ restaurants with offices and flats above. Some bright spark somewhere decided that the Odeon was a "historically significant" building and so couldn't be knocked down, so the developer backed off. Another great opportunity wasted.

When people come up with these ideas, we should be ready to snap them up, not be incredibly ungrateful as we have this time round. This developer even wants to donate land back! I mean, how brilliant of them! Obviously not every idea is a good idea so I'm not saying let anyone come here and build something, but for stuff like this we need to adopt a totally different attitude.

Since the vote is coming up on the 11th December, I want to urge people to get in touch with their States Members just to make the case to them that spending such an excessive amount of money in this case is totally unacceptable when Jersey is in the state it's in.

That's what our States Members are for, so don't be afraid to email them. I sometimes do it myself and they're always very nice and respond pretty quickly to me (I've even had replies early on a Sunday morning or been rung up at 8 in the evening for a chat about it, so just goes to show that it's not a 9-5 job).

If Love Plémont can be as organised as they are, those on the other side of the argument need to step up and make it clear to our representatives that we will not accept such a waste of money from a government that does not have the right priorities.

Rico Sorda has done some good blogs looking at the politics behind the upcoming vote and predicting who will vote each way based on their record and based on who is the one proposing the purchase -

It's going to be particularly interesting to see how Senator Ozouf votes, given that in 2010 he made an excellent case to support his voting against a compulsory purchase of the site, and since then nothing has changed to affect his then argument.

Emails are here -


Senator Paul Francis Routier M.B.E - 
Senator Philip Francis Cyril Ozouf -
Senator Alan Breckon - 
Senator Sarah Craig Ferguson - 
Senator Alan John Henry Maclean - 
Senator Bryan Ian Le Marquand - 
Senator Francis du Heaume Le Gresley, M.B.E. - 
Senator Ian Joseph Gorst - 
Senator Lyndon John Farnham - 
Senator Sir Philip Martin Bailhache - 


Connétable Daniel Joseph Murphy - 
Deputy Carolyn Fiona Labey - 

St. Brelade 

Connétable Stephen William Pallett - 
Deputy Sean Power - 
Deputy Montfort Tadier - 
Deputy John Hilary Young - 

St. Clement 

Connétable Leonard Norman - 
Deputy Gerard Clifford Lemmens Baudains - 
Deputy Susan Jane Pinel - 

St. Helier 

Connétable Alan Simon Crowcroft - 
Deputy Judith Ann Martin - 
Deputy Geoffrey Peter Southern - 
Deputy Jacqueline Ann Hilton - 
Deputy Shona Pitman - 
Deputy Trevor Mark Pitman - 
Deputy Michael Roderick Higgins - 
Deputy Andrew Kenneth Francis Green M.B.E. - 
Deputy James Patrick Gorton Baker - 
Deputy Roderick Gordon Bryans - 
Deputy Richard John Rondel - 

St. John 

Connétable Philip John Rondel - 
Deputy Patrick John Dennis Ryan - 

St. Lawrence 

Connétable Deidre Wendy Mezbourian - 
Deputy John Alexander Nicholas Le Fondré - 
Deputy Edward James Noel - 

St. Martin 

Connétable Michel Philip Sydney Le Troquer - 
Deputy Stephen George Luce - 

St. Mary 

Connétable Juliette Gallichan - 
Deputy John Michael Le Bailly - 

St. Ouen 

Connétable Michael John Paddock - 
Deputy James Gordon Reed - 

St. Peter 

Connétable John Martin Refault - 
Deputy Kristina Louise Moore - 

St. Saviour 

Connétable Sadie Anthea Rennard - 
Deputy Robert Charles Duhamel - 
Deputy Roy George Le Hérissier - 
Deputy Kevin Charles Lewis - 
Deputy Tracey Anne Vallois - 
Deputy Jeremy Martin Maçon - 


Connétable John Le Sueur Gallichan - 
Deputy Anne Enid Pryke -

* - picture is stolen from the Love Plémont facebook page.