Friday, 20 February 2015

The Ugly Side of the Jersey Conservative Party

This past week has been by far the most difficult I have faced since being elected as a States Member almost a year ago. Not because I have faced any particularly difficult circumstances personally, but because the sheer gall of the Jersey Tories has disgusted me more than it ever has.

If a government wants to screw up it's tax priorities, that is irritating and an injustice, but we'll find a way of dealing with it and keep up the fight.

If a government wants to mess up a development project, it'll be an eyesore for years to come, but at least no one will be hurt by it.

If a government wants to damage a relationship with an important partner, we can rebuild it over time.

But what I absolutely cannot stomach is a government which has no regard at all for the needs of vulnerable ill people and is quite happy to propose and consider measures which will directly cause them unbearable hardship.

What we have seen virtually non-stop from the government over the past few weeks has been an unapologetic attack at some of our Island's most vulnerable.

It started when our Social Security Minister made the news (11th February) claiming that there would be no money to fund any potential surge in GP visits, after another GP's surgery had announced it would allow free appointments for children.

This came after the Health Minister Senator Andrew Green had said that he wanted to see an increase in the subsidy to GPs so that they could lower their prices to the public to make it more affordable, but had backed down after discussing it with the Social Security Minister.

Reform Jersey's Deputy Geoff Southern had to publicly intervene to point out that actually the Health Insurance Fund has reserves of around £86m, and could easily fund any potential surge, and that the Minister's comments were scaremongering and irresponsible.

We had the front page headline on 17th telling us that Islanders may face extra charges for health care. Finally an admission from the Treasury that we are scheduled for a £50m budget deficit by 2019 if action isn't taken now, but instead of a progressive solution, the targets are the sick, who may have to face user-pays services. The Health Minister said that all options would be on the table, when any Health Minister worthy of the title should have the guts to say that no option which includes charging vulnerable people for services should be on the table.

Finally we had the news yesterday that, from Monday, the Social Security Minister has decided that more people on Long Term Incapacity Allowance will be required to look for work, or face their Income Support being cut, and on top of that, we might reintroduce prescription charges too!

This truly is the ugly side of the Jersey Conservative Party.

If you didn't believe it before, it is now surely undeniable that austerity has hit our shores.

When discussing the prospect of raising social security contributions to fund the projected benefits/ pension shortfall in the future, not a single word was said about targeting those rises on those who are most able to pay.

You know, in Jersey social security contributions are capped on incomes up to £150,000. That means somebody earning above that amount will personally be paying a lower rate of contributions than their cleaner will (as well as paying about half the amount of income tax they would be in the UK, but that's another matter).

Rather than indicate that the government will raise necessary funds by raising that cap, instead their first option is to target people with physical and mental illnesses.

When I received the email to inform me of this (which I received just two hours after the deadline for me to lodge a question in the States on it, obviously just a coincidence...) my stomach turned and I could not believe what I had read. I passed it to a colleague who exclaimed "oh my God" as she read it.

If the first port of call to make savings is for the social security department to target sick people, then there is no greater evidence of the moral repugnance of this government. I utterly condemn anyone who, when asked where they would make savings, their first answer is "let's cut benefits for sick people".

Whilst there are indeed many people who suffer from illnesses who could work, the arbitrary answer that has seen the minister randomly choose 350 people to be targeted, seems to me to be destined to cause trouble and hardship for people who don't deserve it.

The minister says this is about encouraging people into work. But it is actually about threatening people into work, at a time when there is no anti-discrimination law for disabled people, and when it is difficult enough for people to get into work even if they aren't sick.

Deputy Tadier makes this point well here -

There are many vulnerable and disabled people in the Island who are being let down.

Myself and my Reform Jersey colleagues regularly meet people who suffer from disabilities, cannot work and are not getting better, but because of the illogical tick-box nature of impairment assessments, they can lose their benefits and there is nothing they can do about it, except just descend into greater poverty.

I know of one woman who was downgraded every year running for several years, until the department realised they had got it wrong, just 5 days before she died of her illness, having spent the last years of her life going through unimaginable stress as a result.

I know of another person who has ended up in hospital as a result of the stress that she could not handle with her mental illness when the department told her she would lose her Income Support if she didn't start looking for work.

In the UK we have heard all sorts of horror stories of people who have been forced into work after medical reassessments were made by a private (profit-making) firm seeking to meet targets, who have died from their illnesses, or even committed suicide because of the stress.

This is not the road to follow.

I say to the government, have some compassion for goodness sake.

Illness affects everybody in different ways. There is no possible arbitrary form that can decide whether someone is fit for work or if they aren't. And if they are fit for work, how do you know that the stress of being forced to look for work and failing time after time because of the state of our economy isn't actually going to affect their mental health and make them worse?

By all means encourage people into work, but you have to create the jobs first, otherwise you're simply setting up vulnerable people to face failure after failure whilst the shadow of destitution and poverty looms over them.

This is not the moral way to act.

Jersey is in difficult financial times, and there must be a serious discussion about how we get out of the situation which has been caused by successive Jersey Tory Party governments. Those discussions have to include the option of raising taxes on those who are most able to pay, otherwise it is the poorest in our society who will be hit the hardest, like they always are.

Austerity causes misery for the most vulnerable in our society, and I and my party colleagues will fight to oppose it with every last breath we have.


  1. You can oppose it but people have to face up to the fact that less money is coming in then going out.
    Everybody will get angry at having to fork out more but its the way things have gone.

    1. When you can vary tax rates, you do NOT have to face up to the fact that less money is coming in. That is entirely reversible if you implement the right policies.

      My view is that we should ask the wealthiest Islanders to contribute the same percentage of social security contributions as the rest of us before we attack the physically and mentally ill.

      I suspect most people think that's quite a reasonable position.

  2. Sam i have degenerative disc disease all so bilateral knee arthritis all so the misfurtune to have asehma and at an age when its harder to find work let alone find any one to give you a job so when the time comes i have more pills then i need to finish what the bitch is stating.

  3. It's absolutely disgusting. And utterly absurd considering we still have 1500 people looking for work. There's no point moaning about people getting "handouts for doing nothing" (ever noticed how the right wingers always seem to be irritated by other people?!) until we ever get near FULL EMPLOYMENT again. As long as there's still a sizeable number of people unable to find work (because there isn't enough to go around) then it's pathetically despicable to pick on people for having the temerity to require money to stay afloat. To include the ill in that is beyond repulsive.

  4. Just another reason to leave.
    Its an over crowded expensive Island with money running out.

  5. Why don't you bring a vote of no confidence on Pinel?

    1. Because ultimately she would just be replaced with another Jersey Tory Party loyalist who would implement exactly the same policies she currently is (on the Chief Minister's orders).

      We need to go for Gorst. The buck stops with him. He is the ringmaster in the circus that is the Jersey government,

  6. Replies
    1. Can't wait.
      The only person with power on that Stage is Rod Bryans, the rest may as well be giving speeches down the Post Horn.

    2. And if anyone wants to hear those speeches at the Post Horn, Reform Jersey will be having a party meeting there at 7.30pm upstairs on Thursday.

      Members and prospective members welcome.

      If you're this loser who hides behind anonymity posting rubbish normally targeted at victims of child abuse and anyone who dares stand up for them... probably best to just stay at home.

  7. This is the problem, nobody has any say because this Government has closed its doors and no matter what's said it will not be listened to.
    Dep. Susie Pinel is throwing her weight around and unleashing direct attacks on people she thinks should be working when there are barely any jobs for them to do.
    Surely she knows that anybody with a medical condition will be disadvantaged from employment because employers will think they will have time off so will avoid employing them.
    If they get pregnant it will be even worse.
    Food banks had better be prepared and CAB for more debt problems.

  8. To the drunken troll who is attempting to post offensive comments on this page, I will not be publishing them.

    If you wish to make your claims, you can do so at Any Questions at St Clement's Parish Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

    If you'd like the double opportunity to make a fool of yourself in public and me donate £100 to a charity of your choice, that is your opportunity.

  9. Firstly, it is not as Chicken Little as you make out. Those who ultimately unable to work won't be forced, just to provide due cause. I don't have a problem that someone has to demonstrate they can't work via Doctor's Certificate (which is simply the case). What I don't want to happen, is people just to nominate they can't work without having to prove it. That is all that is happening.

    Secondly, and most importantly, I earn a decent salary, and whilst I work predominantly in Jersey I used to have my pay paid all locally. This has now changed for the company to escape additional Social Security contributions (legally I am able to do this, with my Guernsey employment contract). I have legally minimised my taxes.

    No individual should pay more taxes than they are legally required to do. As a result, coincidentally I have check prior years, and I now donate more to local charities (not planned), who are far closer than government to ensure efficient spend in areas I have an interest in.

    So, you can try and change the taxation (whether this is Income Tax or Social Security), however the smarter individuals will simply manager to circumvent it, and potentially you end up with less than you otherwise would have. For example, in my case the amount of money I pay out in taxes has reduced across the board, and whilst I pay more taxes to Guernsey than I did in the past, I now pay considerably less in Jersey.

    Changing the law has worked against the island.

    Finally: You bang on about being the "Jersey opposition", but you aren't - your not even on a Scrutiny Panel, the true "Opposition" in the Sates. Your claims are quite hollow - but given your economic credentials, you probably will never get it.

    1. Wrong on all counts.

      Starting with your last point (because it's the funniest) -

      Scrutiny is not "opposition". Never has been. Any politician who has taken part in it will tell you that.

      But that aside -

      Every Reform Jersey deputy is on a scrutiny panel. I'm also on PPC, I'm on a PPC Sub-committee and I am heading up a scrutiny review (details to be announced to the media in the coming weeks). Reform Jersey deputies are by far the most active in States debates, and every single non-ministerial States proposition which has been brought to the States since the election has been by Reform Jersey.

      Naturally, it does the rest of your argument a big service by then demonstrating how well researched you are.

      As for "Those who ultimately unable to work won't be forced, just to provide due cause."

      You obviously haven't read my above blog.

      I am dealing with constituent casework on a daily basis with people who are incapable of working but are being forced regardless.

      Did you not read the bit about the person I know who ended up in A&E because she was being threatened with cuts to her income support if she didn't find work, despite being blatantly medically unfit for any work because of her severe mental illness.

      When your biggest problem in life is that you're paying more tax than you'd like so it disrupts your charitable givings (I'm sure most Islanders will really sympathise with that), it's no wonder that you have no idea what goes on in the lives on these vulnerable people who are being but through disgraceful hardship.

      If you are deliberately using loopholes to get around paying tax, then you are a disgrace to your Island. I don't care how much you give to charity, you should be subject to the same rules as everyone else. It's not about how arrogantly you might say you are "smarter" it's because you are richer and can afford a dodgy accountant.

      Every single Islander who lives through hardship as a result of public spending cuts is your fault, as far as I'm concerned.

  10. You are not in a position to determine whether a person is unable or able to work. It is up to those skilled in the field to determine this, so your opinion whether someone is able or not is irrelevant. Further, it is not about paying more or less tax than I would like, it is about paying what I am legally required to pay, no more no less.

    Many people do fool the system by pretending they are ill, and using "stress", hospitalising themselves to escape work. I am not saying this is the person you refer to, however I am well aware it is a very commonly used tactic due to the difficulty in medically determining whether someone is subject to stress.

    As I said - it is a commonly used tactic. As a young inexperienced individual I am sure you have yet to have the rose-coloured glasses removed.

    It is not about dodgy accountants you should be worried about, it is the equally dodgy welfare scroungers, and pretending they don't exist is confirming your complete and total ignorance. I support welfare, but those who defraud the system must be jailed, alongside with illegal tax evaders.

    1. Telling people they are just faking it to get out of work when they say they are feeling suicidal is an absolutely disgusting and disgraceful thing to say.

      It's that 'suspicion before trust' attitude that will see things get worse for these people. You should be ashamed of it.

      It's that lack of understand of mental health issues that is why we have such an appalling service here.

      Resorting to patronising comments before apologising for the lies you posted in your first post says a lot about you.

      When people talk about dodgy welfare scroungers, I always say the same thing. If you are aware of any, call the police. They're committing a crime and should be punished for it. If I ever come across any, I will walk round the corner to the police station immediately. But I never have met anyone who I suspected of benefit fraud, and I suspect neither have you (because if you had, you'd have reported them like a good citizen).

      The fact is, the money that we lose from benefit fraud is utterly minute compared to what we lose from illegitimate tax avoidance. To treat them as equal problems makes no sense at all.

  11. It is not disgusting at all. It is a fact, people do (not all of course) lie to get benefits. These people must be outed, as the problems of excessive benefits payments results in a situation whereby one person steals from us taxpayers. These people should facer the full force of the law. IT is an unfortunate situation in society that people do steal, and robbing genuine people of benefits is the worst kind.

    All I am saying is people must prove they are ill, we shouldn't just take their word for it. That is what this is about, if you are so inexperienced not to admit such fraud does take place, in quite excessive circumstances, then it only shows you lack of inexperience and certain lack of ability to take on a role in responsible government.

    Yes I have on more than on occasion, and I don't to the police, I have gone to Social Security to undertake an investigation (you should also go to SS). Two of the three I reported led to prison-sentences.

    Would you please give me figures about what is lost from tax avoidance in Jersey compared to benefit fraud? I bet you can't, so your last statements is meaningless.

    It is about proof, and your ignorance of the ways of the world only confirm that the voters were right to reject Reform Jersey, from becoming a four-person group ion the States to 3. Long may the decline continue as you pursue silly things which the majority of working Jersey don't respect you for.

  12. More rubbish.

    The Social Security Minister has introduced a new measure which says that it's purpose is to encourage (read as - threaten) people into work. It has no stated aim at all of catching fraudsters.

    They'll be asking everyone with incapacity up to 35% to start looking for work. How does that help target benefits thieves apart from labeling them all as lazy and putting the genuine cases through hardship.

    Do yourself a favour and admit that she's being cruel for the sake of it and it has nothing to do with what you've attributed it to.

    I'm impressed that you've gotten two people imprisoned. Keep up the good work.

    Nice to have lectures on ignorance and proof by someone who claimed I wasn't on scrutiny. Try again. The answers you are looking for will be in written questions on the States Assembly website. I can't be bothered to look for them because it won't change your mind that you'd rather see sick people put through hardship then you pay the tax your meant to. Plus, I'm busy preparing my latest pro-business States proposition.

    I over doubled my number of votes on less than double the turn out at the last election. So much for being rejected!

  13. Social Security is there for society to provide a safety net for the most needy and vulnerable people in society. Anyone who organises their affairs to minimise their contributions is a truly disgusting human being.

    1. If you want to pay more than you legally should, by all means go right ahead. But as Kerry Packer once told a Senate hearing after being asked whether he legally minimises tax - If you don't then you are a mug.

      Social Security, like anything else is a TAX.

      EVEN Sam's hero of the hour, Ed Milliband has been found out to be legally evading tax by organising his affairs to minimises his tax.

      Everyone does it - if they don't, then to quote one of the world's greatest philanthropists, you're a mug.

    2. I'll stick with truly disgusting human being. Social Security is there to protect the sick and vulnerable. Anyone who deliberately disguises their Jersey employment as something it isn't just to pay less contributions than the majority of similar working people is the lowest of the low.

      However you try and justify it to yourself, you are just disgusting.

      I pay top rate of everything and have never altered my affairs to reduce this and I am proud of that.

    3. A mug for feeling a duty to pay what is asked so that vulnerable people are looked after.

      Tory vermin.

    4. They are not all vulnerable. We have seen just recently people in Jersey prosecuted for stealing off the State disability benefits.

      Your rose-coloured glasses confirm you will never be a threat to Jersey government,

      Left-Wing Tree-Hugging, Benefit Scrounging Supporter Rat-Bag

    5. Benefit scrounging supporter. It's phrases like that which show why you Tories are such scum. We support the disabled, you call them scroungers.

  14. 14% of the vote - and you call that a success. 4 RJ candidates to 3. Complete rejection of a Senatorial candidate and whilst running so many new candidates completely failed to get any news one's elected.

    For an incumbent Chief Minister to get re-elected so resoundingly confirms the majority of the voting public agree with him and not you. Further you may wish to contend that low voter turnout is a symbol of apathy, however low voter turnout demonstrates the majority are happy with the status quo - they don't need to vote because the majority voting will ensure they are re-elected.

    Your left-wing moaning politics is of no new use, and whilst I come from NZ I am more Jersey than you. Take your left-wing ratbag politics to the UK and join the Socialist Labour Party - they need you more than JErsey does. Besides, you might actually experience a modicum of success if you do, wont' come from Jersey,

    The population knows you are not pro-business, wanting to increase taxes is not a pro-business approach, and the Chamber of Commerce will see right through you - to put in bluntly - we do.

    Deputy Pinel is doing the right thing, and ensuring that people who have capacity to work in specific jobs are going to do so. It is easier for them to stay at home, but soul destroying - employment will give them self-worth. Typical leftie, wanting more and more handouts.

    She is not being cruel, us voters who embraced Gorst embrace Pinel in the work she is doing. The previous Minister was soft, soft, soft. Your efforts on Scrutiny then clearly demonstrate how useful you are on it - people don't think you are, because you a a softie without any ability.

    1. Most of what you say doesn't dignify serious response.

      The JASS shows time and time again that what you say about Islanders being satisfied is just nonsense.

      I am already a member of the Labour Party.

      Reform Jersey has an excellent relationship with the leadership of the Chamber of Commerce whom we admire and respect.

      As for your views on forcing sick people into work, I refer to those of Nye Bevan.

  15. One day, your political opponents will get you stitched up, or you will probably do it yourself. You will be found to support a welfare scrounger who comes to you for help. Can see the headlines now - oh, can't wait for it.

  16. Interesting how this approach is not just in Jersey. Putting people back to work is a good thing, giving people self worth, rather than in perpetual benefits. Any attempts at doing so should be applauded, though the left here always bemoans attempts at doing so.

    Please see: