It’s good to talk – but it can be expensive

It’s good to talk – but it can be expensive

It was no surprise to discover that the Chuckle Brothers (or to give them their correct title, the Council of Ministers) collectively spent £7.7 million on consultants in their three years in office – double what was spent when we did things just as ineffectively but by committee.

A consultant is a person who provides professional expertise to clients who require a particular type of knowledge or service for a specific period of time. More than one is known as a consultancy. Whether they come singularly or in a clutch, their existence is justified by that wonderful general phrase ‘economies of scale’. The argument usually goes along these lines: It’s not economically viable to employ a workforce, expert in all areas, so the cost of consultants is value for money for the expertise they bring, as dictated by circumstances. Or similar excuses to that effect.

We have all come into contact with at least one consultant in one of their myriad manifestations – and I am not referring to the nice hospital consultants who, no matter what the costs, serve this Island very well.

How, I pondered last week, does one select a consultant? Do you take him at his word that he will cure all your ills, solve every problem and point you in the right direction? Or do you consult another consultant? And, once this consulting has been completed and the consultant pockets the cash and moves on to the next gullible victim, how do you know he has done a good job? How do you imagine senior civil servants feel when they contrast and compare the performances of their various consultants, only to discover that they made a bum choice? Kerplop! As Old Blue Eyes sang: ‘Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant.’

IT is impossible to feel any sympathy for an overpaid consultant, but when it comes to cormorants, especially the little colony that inhabits an old oak tree in Queen’s Valley, it’s another kettle of fish. If I were a cormorant I would be seriously considering buying a bulletproof vest or changing my eating habits, as Jersey fisherman are considering swapping their rods for guns.

Not many people know this, but cormorants have a great deal in common with consultants, yet are far more efficient. Apparently, as few as ten birds can strip a lake of a sustainable fish population in six months.

How many consultants did it take to strip Jersey’s public purse of £7.7 million in just three years? It is illegal, unfortunately, to cull consultants, but cormorants can be dispatched to the great fishing grounds in the sky without a fair hearing. Jersey’s freshwater anglers – those blokes who perch on the edge of reservoirs in all conditions for hours on end to catch fish and then throw them back again – are feeling the pinch. They have tried various unsuccessful and expensive measures to deter the cormorants, and have even spent £4,000 on fish refuges (places where no doubt the poor, stressed fish receive counselling and a nice cup of maggots).

The desperate anglers face running out of fish unless the cormorants are culled, as EU regulations ban the importation of fish to replenish the stocks. No doubt we can blame some consultant in Brussels for that brainwave.

Meanwhile, the usually tranquil grounds of St Ouen’s Manor have become a battleground between Health Protection officers (those who administer Jersey’s Nuisance Law) and the Seigneur, Philip Malet de Carteret, and Vibert Marquees. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that if you play loud music – as you do at weddings, parties, balls or whatever – inside a PVC marquee, the noise is likely to travel.

Having ventured west from their base camp at Le Bas Centre at the behest of a neighbour, a tad irked by being disturbed by loud revelry, Jersey’s versions of the dreaded elf ‘n’ safety brigade sallied forth through the manor’s historic gates to serve an abatement order on the Seigneur. Vibert Marquees also received one for good measure. Take that, St Ouen!

Herein lies a dilemma, as my sympathies are split between the parties. Having attended marquee events at the manor on many a warm summer night, I can recommend the experience to one and all (except for the extortionate taxi fare to get me safely home to the east of the Island).

There are many late-night events which disturb people all over the Island, none more so than in St Helier, where, unlike occasional venues such as St Ouen’s Manor, residents suffer from multiple sources of noise pollution every night. A reasonable person can tolerate the odd disturbance well into the early hours when it is one-off or an infrequent occurrence, but when it happens every weekend – or, horrendously, every day and night – then due consideration must be shown because what is a source of pleasure or business to some is a nuisance to others.

What is noise nuisance? It is any significant and unreasonable emission of noise that affects another reasonable person in a significant and unreasonable way. It is more than annoyance and much more than the mere detection of noise.

Noise nuisance takes many forms: loud music, car alarms, DIY and construction work, garden machinery, car engines, agricultural plant and machinery, scramble bikes, fireworks, bird-scarers, aircraft, sporting activities, barking dogs and many more. If the complainant cannot resolve a problem amicably with the perpetrator, he or she has no choice but to call upon the appropriate authority.

I don’t know the ins and outs of the circumstances surrounding the impasse in St Ouen other than what has been reported in the pages of this newspaper. Whatever the reasons why the matter is likely to end up before the Royal Court, it highlights the issue of noise pollution in such a small community as Jersey, where people live so close together and there is limited space to undertake all the activities the population sees as its right to enjoy.

I sincerely hope that the ‘battle of the manor marquee’ can be resolved amicably. But whatever you do, don’t call in the consultants.

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