Jersey minister brands 'cancel culture' accusation 'utter nonsense'

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THE minister overseeing several large government projects which have been shelved or amended – including the new hospital and Fort Regent – has strongly rejected claims that decisions have been politically motivated.

Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet said the idea that the government had adopted a ‘cancel culture’ in dropping schemes started by the past Council of Ministers was ‘utter nonsense’.

The phrase was used by Deputy Lyndon Farnham, the most senior member of the past administration still in the Assembly, to describe the new government.

Yesterday, the JEP reported on ministers’ recently published ‘Delivery Plans’ and highlighted several key projects that were ‘on hold’ with no delivery date.

These included a new combined ambulance and fire headquarters and sports facilities at Le Rocquier School.

Deputy Binet conceded that ‘on hold’ was not the best phrase to use and ‘work in progress’ would have been more accurate.

‘Let’s take the hospital, for example,’ he said. ‘It’s not really a cancellation; it’s an alternative approach, for reasons that we explained several months ago, including changed circumstances and affordability, given the completely new global climate.

‘And with the Fort, the previous government’s Future Fort plans was a feasibility study that was costed out when borrowing was at 2% and inflation was low.

‘It indicated that without a casino, it was going to lose money, and with a casino, it possibly could break even with a fair wind.

‘You’ve only got to apply the new circumstances to that scenario. It was a feasibility study; not a project that anybody had passed or promised.

‘So, we’ve not cancelled anything; we’re just not proceeding with an idea.’

Deputy Binet added: ‘I would suggest that this whole concept of “cancel culture” comes from a frustrated politician, whom I like very much but who hasn’t got a great deal to do.

‘If there’s any political motivation in this, it’s coming from my friend Deputy Farnham.’

Referring to the ‘on hold’ ambulance and fire headquarters, Deputy Binet said he believed there had been ‘some misunderstanding’ within government documents.

He said: ‘If there’s work in progress, we’ve incorrectly chosen to write at the end of it “on hold”.

‘In fairness, if we use the wrong terminology in a written document, people take you on your word. “On hold” should read “work in progress”.

‘The whole business of relocating the fire and ambulance services isn’t on hold; it’s very active at the moment and right in the centre of our agenda.

‘It’s not within my gift to say more, as it has to come from the Future Places Ministerial Group, but we’re on the cusp of announcing some form of analysis because the blue-light relocation is the first domino that has to fall in order to free up space for a new three-form-entry primary school.’

Deputy Lyndon Farnham Picture: ROB CURRIE. (35221938)

Despite the minister’s firm denial, Deputy Farnham maintained his view that the government ‘appeared to be cancelling feasible projects for no clear reason’.

The former Deputy Chief Minister, who was responsible for the now shelved single-site Our Hospital project, said: ‘Ministers’ actions speak louder than words and I am simply responding to their actions, which appears to be cancelling key projects without due thought or consideration to the impact on society.

‘My criticism is not personal to any member of the new government; this is bringing forward a debate about its cancel culture.

‘I simply cannot see how the government has had the time to seek and consider advice on these things. As an elected States Member, I am doing what I was elected to do. I have many calls from people who are disappointed, concerned and confused about what is happening.

‘These are serious issues that we are dealing with, including the building of a new hospital, where the future health of thousands of Islanders is at stake.’

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