Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Future of Jersey's Honorary System

Last night at the Town Hall I proposed Geraint Jennings for election to the office of Procureur du Bien Public of St Helier.

The job of a Procureur is to look after ratepayers money better than they would their own. They are also able to deputise for the Constable in his or her absence. The role is honorary and they receive no payment for their services, merely the gratitude of a grateful public for their service.

Geraint is the author of a paper (see Appendix 1 here) written on the history and potential future of municipal reform in St Helier, to enable the capital of this Island to take on more powers and responsibility in affairs which concern residents and businesses and to provide a better democratic framework to allow this to happen.

He envisages a 'Conseil Municipal de Saint Helier' to replace the currents odd and incoherent system of Roads Committee and Procureurs. In other words, he will be the turkey who votes for Christmas, as he believes in a new system which is fit to meet the needs of St Helier for decades to come.

I stress that he is not a Reform Jersey candidate, however I am supporting him in this election as I believe his manifesto is the one which, if implemented, would best secure the ability of St Helier to provide for our residents and businesses what they need.

The election is on the 9th September at the Town Hall. I hope those who support positive change will vote for him!

Whilst this was going on, in another Parish they were holding elections for Centeniers (the senior honorary police of the Parish).

In St Helier our three incumbents were re-elected and those who were there were very grateful for their voluntary service over the past three years and for their commitment for another three ahead of them.

However, in St Saviour they once again failed to find a single candidate for the vacant post, having missed their previous deadline and having to be fined £5,000 by the Royal Court.

This follows a huge amount of work done by Constable Sadie Le Sueur-Rennard and the Parish to engage with the public and attempt to find a candidate who was willing to offer their service.

Previous to that St John had also come very close to being fined, having only found a candidate just before the deadline.

So naturally there has been a whole lot of talk about the future of the honorary system.

Various commentators have come forward with various suggestions. Hugh Raymond (President of the Honorary Police Association) has said that the age limit for Centeniers could be lifted and perhaps restrictions on which Parish you can service in may be lifted.

I think there may be some merit in those suggestions, on the basis of practicality, however I have yet to see any commentator get to what I believe is the real issue here.

Jersey has a long history of honorary service. Most of it I believe is something to be proud of, with only a few elements having an overall negative impact.

The fact we have so many people who are willing to give up their time to take up a community policing role is good, not just for that community, but also saves a huge amount of money that would have to be spent on extra professional police.

In our municipal administrations we have many people who have given up time to serve on the Parish Roads Committees or as Procureurs. The equivalent positions in the UK also do not accord salaries.

Historically being a States Member was also an honorary role. This, in my view, was always wrong and Jersey paid the price for it. We did not have a working class member of the States until 1966. Right up until the early 2000s when salaries were introduced, the public of Jersey were denied a proper democratic choice by the fact that an office carrying such a workload was not remunerated and therefore something that only those of an independent means could do so effectively.

I recently heard a Constable say that he considered his role to be honorary. I had to bite my tongue to avoid pointing out to him that that was nonsense, but those who believe things like that aren't often open to allowing facts to change their mind.

You would think that because Jersey's population is the highest it has ever been, and that these offices have existed for hundreds of years when our population was minuscule, that the greater pool of people to ask to volunteer, there would be a greater number of candidates, yet the opposite is the case.

Here is the elephant in the room that no one has thought important to mention yet -

People are more stressed out about their jobs, pay is worse and poverty is up.

Years ago most families could get by with one breadwinner, unemployment was lower than it is now and finding a new job if you lost yours wasn't so difficult.

We had the news today that unemployment has risen once again. This follows further news that of the jobs which have been created over the past year, 50% of them have been zero-hours contracts.

Is it any wonder why somebody who is struggling to pay their extortionate rent, is stressed out by their job and is facing even further tax rises might not have the inclination to want to take on the burden of giving up lots of hours of volunteering?

What will revitilise our honorary system is to accept that Jersey has been letting down our working and middle class residents and been decreasing their standard of living for years. It isn't a uniquely Jersey problem as many other places have seen that cultural shift too, but we have the ability to turn our economy round by pursuing policies which will actually improve ordinary people's lives, not make them harder.

If the government makes people's lives easier they'll be more likely to want and be able to volunteer to do something good for their community.

It's not rocket science.


  1. Very well said, What ever they say about the average wage isn't true & even if it was about £350 it only leaves about £100 for a family to live on after paying the rent of about £250 for a 2 bed house. But the wage for the normal person is about £250 so a family have to have 2 wage earners since when is it rite to take half of any ones income for rent? Social housing is supposed to be about affordable rents, but that seems to change about the time Terry Le Mann was put in charge of housing & the states decided that the rents should be 90% of the private sector. Which, any 1 with an oz of common sense would know that as soon as the gap closes the private sector increase accordingly, so the circle never ends, rents must reasonably so people have a chance to live, then some will be able to give there free time to the island.

  2. According to the most recent statistics, average earnings over the year to June 2014 rose by 2.6%, with the public sector actually seeing a higher rise (4.7%) than any other sector. If this is the case, how do you define pay being worse ?

    And what is your definition of poverty ? The United Nations defines poverty as not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one's own food or a job to earn one's living. Unemployment may be up, but I think its a stretch, by most of the UN's terms, to describe Jersey as having a poverty problem. Inequality certainly, but poverty ?

  3. "Despite its much-vaunted prosperity, Jersey spends less than 75% of the EU average on social protection. Again measured by the relevant EU benchmarks, 45% of single pensioners on the island and 64% of single parents and their children live in relative poverty. Twenty-five per cent of Jersey households need some kind of state help to get by; of a workforce of 53,000, more than 8,000 are claiming income support."

  4. "average earnings over the year to June 2014 rose by 2.6%"

    - but were these figures bumped up by huge rises and bonuses for high earners?

    "with the public sector actually seeing a higher rise (4.7%) than any other sector"

    - which means the non-public sector average was less than 2.6%

    1. Indeed. As the Freedom of Information request published recently reveals, the number of people on very very high wages has gone up considerably.

  5. I know, isn't that great ?

    The average tax take from somebody earning less than £ 50K was £ 1,944, an average marginal rate of under 4%. The average tax rate on earnings above £ 100K is closer to 20%. You should be celebrating the fact that the number of people in the latter band has gone up because it pays the bills in a far more effective way than hammering the lower paid with higher rates.

    I invite you to acknowledge the fact that having more high earners is a great thing for our island.

    And the poverty question. Realism or rhetoric ?

    You might also want to acknowledge that your statement 'Pay is worse' was factually incorrect ?

    1. Having more high earners is a great thing for our Island.

      Realism. I see it every day. Foodbank usage tripled last year.

      My statement was not factually incorrect so nothing to acknowledge. Pay levels today do not get you as far as they used to.

  6. How do you know pay isn't worse for low earners? An average of increases in all bands tells us nothing.

  7. If the statement to which I objected had been 'pay is worse for low earners' you'd have a point. But it wasn't.

    An average of increases across all bands actually tells us that average wages have gone up. Not nothing.

    I don't have access to your data which shows us that pay has worsened for low earners, and I'm sure we'd all be interested in it if you'd care to share it with the readers ?

  8. More high earners. Great, Now lets use them to raise more tax by increasing the top rate. Now that would be worth celebrating!

  9. Use them ? Referring to the people who pay the vast majority of the tax take already as a cohort to be 'used' shows your true colours to the people who actually pay the bills. Criticising those who earn well, whilst constantly attempting to have your hands in their pockets, stinks.

    1. This is where the right persistently loses the argument.

      Nobody criticised high earners for being high earners. They can carry on as much as they like.

      I just think they should pay a fairer tax rate.

    2. Fairer tax rate ? Proposing that 25% of taxpayers who already pay around 20% of their earnings should have more taken from them to give to the 75% who pay minimal amounts, or in many cases nothing, is where the left lose not only the argument, but touch with reality.

    3. If the right spent as much time proposing things to help the poor instead of helping their rich mates, maybe they wouldn't be considered so nasty.

      Sort out your priorities for goodness sake.

    4. Ah, I wondered how long mature discussion could last before you reverted to naïve political dogma and emotional outbursts. You lose.

    5. If you stand stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Genius.

    6. I don't think it is an issue about helping the poor. There are a great deal of people who do sponge of the system, these ruin it for those who desperately need the help.

      The issue is how to identify those who can get jobs but choose to rely on welfare - these people do exist. How do we stop wasting taxpayers money on these people, but give the leg up to those who are in real need.

      Welfare is to assist people to get jobs, get true worth - the problems arise when people who otherwise can get jobs choose not to and instead treat welfare not as a temporary measure, but a permanent one.

      Money should be directed towards programs, education, and basic needs rather than simply cash handouts for people. How do we ensure resources are made available to the deserving without others taking advantage.

      Sort this out, and taxes don't have to rise.

      How would Reform Jersey manage this?

  10. Anonymous, they may be the ones who pay the majority of the tax but they are also the ones who would pay a whole lot more in the UK, and so are benefitting the most from our very generous tax regime. And by the way, I am one of those and I'm happy to be used to provide a better life for those that can't afford life's essentials.

    1. What does a rate elsewhere have to do with what we pay here ? Just because another country chooses to tax their citizens at a higher rate, that means we should too ? Your comparison has as much relevancy as comparing us to some other jurisdiction where personal tax rates are a lot lower.

      And if you're happy to be used, I take it you've already been down to the tax office and asked them to up your income tax rate ? No ? I wonder why not ? Because that would mean you paying more tax than others, which you would soon be moaning was unfair.

    2. The incompetency of previous governments (of which the left played no part) has left Jersey with a £165m blackhole in finances.

      The cuts are so far being targeted at pensioners, young people and the disabled.

      Next are every other low and middle earner with new stealth taxes.

      And you're concerned about people with loads of money being asked to pay a bit more.

      The Jersey Conservative Party, everybody.

    3. Instead of relying on tired political rhetoric, try and educate yourself on secondary and third order effects.

      Anybody would think you were trying to buy votes with other people's money ?

      The Jersey Labour Party everybody. (And whilst we're on the subject of education, a comma before everybody is grammatically incorrect)

    4. Facts. Tough for a Tory to handle. My apologies.

  11. Sam, you'll never get anywhere in politics because you put a comma in the wrong place!

  12. Jon, I'm not publishing any of your inane comments.

    You get more than your fair say on the JEP website (do you think we're too stupid to realise it's you?) and your hate page on Facebook.

    You don't like it when people bring up your past so why don't you give it a rest? It keeps being brought up because of the stupid things you keep doing.

    Make a break and give it up. Your life will improve. Trust me.

  13. I am a conservative Sam, but understand conscience, looking after others and the responsibility of level headed Government. So I agree with much of what you write but what is completely ridiculous and unexplained is how the Council of Ministers with all their expensive tax funded on going consultants, can mess up the economy so badly ? They must be either deaf, blind of dumb possibly all three?
    There is always the distinct possibility of corruption of course; with so much cash in the executive travel open ended account, and other dubious quango stashes.

    1. This is why I think Jersey so badly needs a Conservative Party.

      The Tories who get elected here are mostly bad Tories and are completely unaccountable to the thousands of good Tories who I'm sure exist in the island.

      With a proper party and a proper democratic structure, the good Tories could at least moderate the bad ones and force up the ladder progressive conservative policies from the party membership.

      Even the Tory parties in other small jurisdictions are more progressive and competent than the "independent Tories" we have here.

  14. See this local accountant trying to encourage the wealthy to come here and live to pay little tax.
    Talk about looking after the rich.

  15. Not sure if original post made it through.

    Deputy Mezec, you have gone quiet on your blogs, your updates are becoming less and less. I am sure you have plenty to say, but not apparent here as your blogs were a regular, progressive and contemporary update of issues you feel need to be discussed. Good to see if updated regularly....

  16. On a serious note, will any amendments succeed this week?

    1. I doubt it. The Jersey Tories have a stomping majority and the three line whip is in force.

      What will be interesting is to see who on scrutiny's side votes with the CoM. It's important to know who considers their loyalty to Ian Gorst more important than their duty to the principles of scrutiny.

  17. The anonymous posting comments here - you are the biggest fool to ever contribute here.

    If you want dialogue with me my email address is s.mezec@gov.je.

    You won't though because you're a coward who hides behind anonymity.

    Grow a pair and stop being such a moron.

  18. Can't agree with your single Mothers allowance challenge.

    Single Mothers are slags and don't deserve any extra money.

  19. Glad that vote was lost.
    You may think its normal to have single parents but coming from a Christian background I can tell you its a blemish on our society.

    1. Religious people are a dying tribe.

  20. Replies
    1. £145 Million in cuts and this irrelevant story takes precedence at the end of a miserable week.
      Says it all really.