THE new Chief Minister and the recently elected States Assembly have started to make their mark on the political landscape. Two decisions this week have completely opened up the debate on the proposed Hospital site.
On Monday Senator John Le Fondré announced that he was setting up a political board to examine the reasons behind the rejection of alternative town sites at Overdale, the Waterfront and People’s Park as well as the out of town sites at Warwick Farm and St Saviour’s Hospital.
Unlike the previous administration where decisions were taken by ministers behind closed doors, this board will include at least two back bench members – Deputies Trevor Pointon and Rowland Huelin – as well as the Health Minister Deputy Richard Renouf and both Assistant Chief Ministers. The aim of the board is to consider the site selection, to take evidence from interested parties and to clearly communicate what they have done and how they reach their conclusions. Importantly, their key concerns are to support patient care and provide value for money for the taxpayer.
Senator Le Fondré offered States Members a more inclusive government in his bid for Chief Minister and this is the first tangible sign of the new style. This first board is likely to have some lively discussions. Constable Chris Taylor and Deputy Renouf, now both elevated to ministerial positions, hold very different views on the Hospital project.
Constable Taylor is a long-standing critic of the current plan and tried unsuccessfully to call for a review in April with the old Assembly. At that time he lost his proposition with 25 votes against and only 19 for. Deputy Renouf was the only member of his Scrutiny panel to oppose that proposition and now as Health Minister, he also opposed Deputy Russell Labey’s proposition to extend the remit of the independent planning inspector to consider other sites.
Deputy Labey won his proposition easily this week with 34 votes in support and just seven against. The significant shift in opinion reflects the impact of the recent election. Only a few continuing Members changed their minds between April and July. Three Constables and one Deputy did not support Constable Taylor’s review but did support Deputy Labey’s. Just one member, Senator Mézec, moved in the opposite direction. Unlike his Reform Jersey colleagues and in contradiction to his vote in April, Senator Mézec chose to vote against this new review. I wonder why?