Tuesday, 24 November 2009
We at the Voice received our usual Friday afternoon e-mail from Scrutiny on 20th November. It gave the schedule of Scrutiny hearings open to the public for the coming week.
On Monday 23rd at 9.30am Dept Mike Higgins was due to chair his Economic Affairs Scrutiny Hearing and Team Voice’s ace reporter was duly sitting outside Le Capelain Room at 9.20 am waiting to be admitted.
He was still waiting there at 11.15am and was only then admitted to the “public hearing.”
Such is the degree of contempt that our so called elected representatives have for the Jersey public.
Of course our man protested and several pathetic apologies were offered but it was just the arrogance of these people who consider themselves so superior once elected to government. Not only was the delay of nearly 2 hours totally unacceptable but permission to video record the proceedings was also refused by Deputy Higgins who invented an instant policy decision that this was “not really a public discussion” at all whilst in the same breath he protested how he was a defender of Team Voice’s battle for the right to report such meetings!
This Scrutiny Panel was composed of Deputies Higgins, Southern, Wimberley, Macon, Labey and Shona Pitman. Tim the Scrutiny Clerk took notes and advised.
Southern left at 10.40. Pitman left at 11.15 and returned at 12.20pm. Higgins left at 12.30pm for a funeral. The meeting terminated at 12.45pm.
Our man then asked if any of the Deputies would give an interview to Team Voice about the proceedings and was refused. Deputy Pitman became very angry and invented another instant policy that if we wanted an interview then we should have applied formally at the outset so that the Panel could authorise it.
Unfortunately this is not a unique example. A previous Scrutiny panel was cancelled altogether with no prior public advice but our complaints were never answered. At another hearing 3 of us sat outside for 40 minutes waiting to be recalled into the public part of the meeting and then were told it was our own fault!
The irony is that Scrutiny Panels claim that they want to engage with the public. They seek public participation yet they would rather pay to print their own “Scrutiny News” or advertise in Mike Vibert and Deputy Le Claire’s “Isle” freebie rag than allow bloggers like us to write honest and critical comments on their activities.
Make no mistake, these Scrutiny people are dangerous because they officially occupy a political void.
Yet, at this meeting there were revelations that the Airport is likely to go bust next year and that air traffic controllers are being phased out, that airport employment practices probably do not follow agreed procedures and that an absurd security fence was not required around Guernsey or Gibraltar airports.
It was also suggested that the Economic Stimulus package was often farcically inept and that many young Highlands Students were merely a parking exercise to disguise unemployment figures, that there was no definition of “small company” and that Enterprise Board staff were often incompetent to advise applicants and that the whole Jersey Enterprise project enjoyed a huge budget and needed a thorough and critical examination etc etc. There were also allegations that the States Assembly had been told “lies” in response to Scrutiny’s Depositors Protection Scheme Report.
There is much that needs to be reported on at such meetings, but the public and the “accredited press” are seldom present.
These assembled Deputies had rambled on for 3 hours without achieving much except munching through the chocolate biscuits and deciding that there were so many matters that needed to be scrutinized that they did not know where to start – and that the Intellectual Property Rights proposals were just too complicated for them!!! And they would need to employ outside consultants to make sense of the 200 pages proposition that lay before them and that a whole new Department of Intellectual Property might be needed just like JFSC in the near future………….If The Voice had been granted an interview or been allowed to video record the proceedings we could have added to general public knowledge and awareness. But this is the crazy world of scrutiny and it’s more about building up political careers than educating the plebs.
One refreshing incident did occur though. Whilst our man was sitting and waiting for entry into this Papal enclave a charming lady of a certain age appeared and asked “Can I get you anything?” Our man replied “A Colt 45 with 6 rounds would be useful” but the lady replied “I can only get you a glass of cold water”.
Our man thanked her for her kindness but explained that this would not achieve the desired result…..
Submitted by Thomas Wellard.