Hopes of tackling two problems: Building a new hospital and Brexit

- Advertisement -

AT the start of the year the news was dominated by two major ongoing stories: Brexit and plans for Jersey’s new hospital. By now, some Islanders had perhaps begun to tire of the topics. But as January began, at least they had renewed optimism that both would be neatly dealt with and be a distant memory by the end of 2019…

Sadly, this wasn’t to be the case. There were lots of hospital-related developments during January, all of which achieved the seemingly impossible – taking the project back, and then back again and then, remarkably, all the way back to square one. First of all, Environment Minister John Young rejected the planning application to build the hospital on the current site following a recommendation from an independent UK planning inspector that the project should be refused. By now, the whole sorry saga had cost more than £38 million. A week or so later, Deputy Russell Labey popped up with a proposition calling for the States to scrap the existing plan to build the new hospital on the Gloucester Street site and write off what had been spent so far. The Council of Ministers later announced they would back the proposal when it came to be debated the following month, and so the Future Hospital team found themselves starting afresh.

While all this was going on, a team of French architects were offering to do the build for £90 million – a fraction of the more than £400 million forecasted by ministers. But it seems no one was really taking them seriously, and they since appear to have gone quiet.

Islanders were facing more pressing issues in January – the prospect of having nothing much to eat. As Theresa May prepared to get her deal through parliament, some retailers were warning that the importation of fresh produce to Jersey would be under ‘serious threat’ post-Brexit. The Co-op tried to reassure Islanders, saying that stockpiling was under ‘active consideration’. As it turned out, locals didn’t really need to worry about any Brexit disruption to supply lines during 2019.

As the public sector pay dispute rumbled on, various groups began taking industrial action. During the middle of the month, about 250 teaching assistants and Customs officials went on strike. Teachers then announced that they, too, would be striking. The Customs action caused some disruption to ferry crossings to St Malo. The problems were compounded by the ‘gilets jaunes’ demonstrators who blocked the French port – before they were dispersed thanks to the French police and some tear gas.

Public sector workers strike action in the Royal Square Unite Prospect..Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (26500309)

A news item that did nothing to reduce the anger felt by many public sector workers was the revelation that £3.3 million was spent on government interim senior appointees during one 13-month period, and that the temporary head of Health was being paid £27,000 per

The previous year’s general election had become something of a distant memory… until two Deputies and a perennial failed election candidate found themselves in the Magistrate’s Court for failing to declare their expenses in time. Deputies Hugh Raymond and Scott Wickenden, and Bernie Manning, who stood unsuccessfully in St Helier, were all charged with breaching the Public Elections Law – and the two politicians faced losing their seats if found guilty. And then someone with a legal mind had another look at the numbers and, rather embarrassingly for all concerned, it turned out that as many as 42 other candidates could have breached the same law. If everyone had been charged and convicted, 18 sitting Members would have lost their seats. The prosecution was quickly abandoned and all three walked away with their heads held high.

Meanwhile, on the hill above St Helier, Fort Regent was continuing to edge in front of the Hospital in the race for the ‘Building Most in Need of Demolishing and Starting Again Award’. An independent report concluded that the centre should be closed as a sports and entertainment venue, as it was ‘simply not fit for purpose’ and was a ‘ticking time bomb’ of health-and-safety challenges.

Meanwhile, the States voted to outlaw smacking children. The proposition, brought by Deputy Mary Le Hegarat, was adopted by 38 votes to 3.

As its money troubles worsened, the JSPCA announced that it was closing its boarding kennels. It was later announced that the charity had taken out a £500,000 loan facility to provide working capital for ‘reorganisation’.

Bergerac’s car was hoisted out of the Jersey Museum after being the star attraction of the 1980s exhibition featuring cultural icons and fashion from the decade as well as technological wonders such as the VHS video recorder and the Commodore 64 computer.

Bergerac's car is removed from the 80s exhibition in the museum                      Picture: JON GUEGAN. (26499905)

As frustration over Brexit, the new hospital and the public sector’s pay continued to rise, a Jersey road seemed to sum up the anger felt by many Islanders as it apparently attempted to blow itself up. Onlookers were left shocked and perhaps a little bit scared on the afternoon of the 17th as manhole covers on Longueville Road were blown up to 50ft into the air. The road was closed and people were advised to stay indoors as engineers tried to work out what was going on. The exact cause of the explosions remains a mystery.

The Jersey Lifeboat Association, which formed following the St Helier RNLI debacle of a few years back, announced that they had fully paid for their all-weather boat, Sir Max Aitken III, and were preparing to be formally declared a life-saving asset.

JLA crew         Picture: ROB CURRIE. (26500145)

By the end of January, Jersey had escaped the snow storms which had brought large areas of the UK to a standstill. But it was still a wintry scene on the morning of the 30th as a heavy hailstorm turned parts of the Island white.

The drastic shortage of housing in the Island was laid bare in a report that said that almost 7,000 additional homes – equivalent to a small town – would be needed in the next decade.

But perhaps the biggest story of the month was the tragic deaths of footballer Emiliano Sala and pilot David Ibbotson after their plane crashed into the sea off the coast of Alderney. Mr Ibbotson was flying the striker from Nantes to Cardiff when the accident happened. By the end of the month, renowned shipwreck hunter David Mearns had joined the search for the bodies and wreckage. The story would go on to dominate national and international headlines throughout the year.

Pilot David Ibbotson.. (26500376)

Emiliano Sala is a new signing for Cardiff City FC. Possibly involved in plane crash /  missing plane off Les Casquets in Alderney.. (26500373)

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.