'Consultations, with all their flaws and narrow outreach, can be no substitute for a democratic vote'

- Advertisement -

By Anne Southern

IT’S now getting on for a year since we elected a new set of States Members (I won’t say a government, as voters had no say in that). Given that all the previous States Members who were members of the new Alliance Party were so roundly rejected by the electorate, and Reform Jersey doubled its number of States Members, it would seem that the mood was for change. Yet in those 12 months what have we seen but dither and delay?

There has been a total failure to deliver any ambitious projects. Changing the plans for the new hospital was designed to save money, and yet we will end up paying more for an inferior product that I have lost all hope of seeing in my lifetime.

The plans for Fort Regent have been abandoned, though the gym and sports users have been moved elsewhere – to inferior facilities. I can’t see how time and getting used to something new will make the Springfield gym any better or solve the parking problem, as the Assistant Minister suggested.

The Waterfront plans also seem to have collapsed.

But these major projects are not necessarily at the forefront of the concerns of those Islanders struggling with a cost-of-living crisis. What is being done to help those who can’t afford basic foodstuffs? A majority of States Members, even one who had supported it in her manifesto, voted against Deputy Kovacs’ proposition to remove GST from food. A proposition to control rents and improve housing security was defeated only to be replaced with an in-committee debate on a white paper prior to consultation ie. more delay.

Consultation seems to me to be another word for either doing nothing, or doing what they wanted to do in the first place and claiming that it’s what the people want.

This was apparent to me when I was asked to respond to a badly constructed questionnaire outside the Coop the other day. How representative of public opinion would it be when most people just rushed by? Question 1 was: Did I think healthcare should be free for all? Having answered in the affirmative to this one, the next – Did I think healthcare should be free to the disadvantaged? – was rather superfluous, as was the question about whether those who could afford it should be asked to pay. I agreed that I would be prepared to pay more for a free health service, but there was no space for me to say ‘As part of a fair system of taxation’. Or that ‘This begs the question, of whether we actually need to pay more? Can the government no longer afford to pay for our healthcare?’

Many people are already using their savings for operations to restore their eyesight or mobility because of long waiting lists. No space for any of that – so I suspect most people will say they are unwilling or unable to pay more and the government will use this answer to bring in more charges.

At least they have at last made GP visits free for children and increased the subsidy to offset the exorbitant cost of visiting a GP, though the cost is still not negligible. We now apparently have a plan for the new hospital as a result of lengthy consultation, but it looks to me like the proverbial camel – a horse designed by a committee. How much healthcare could have been delivered for the costs of this delay?

I have looked back over the main points of the independents’ manifestos from a year ago, and really we should not be surprised at this lack of action. The promises were vague and various. Nothing about the cost of living. Nothing about the cost of healthcare, though quite a few wanted to re-visit the hospital project. Nothing about high rents. Only Reform Jersey had a comprehensive plan for solving the Housing Crisis – others may have made a brief statement about increasing supply and help with home ownership. It is telling that the Chief Minister made a point of ‘listening’ – a clear indicator of not having a plan of action.

A government has a four-year term to make an impact and improve the lives of the people they serve. Surely they should have a plan for delivering that as soon as their knees are under the table. (How many times have we heard ‘I will hit the ground running’ at the hustings.) But given that we have a group of people with disparate views elected on a pick-and-mix assortment of vague values and promises, we can’t expect any coherent action for some time, if at all.

Until the people of Jersey overcome their antipathy to political parties, so we can have a cohesive government which can start to enact its manifesto promises from day one, we can have no democracy. Consultations, with all their flaws and narrow outreach, can be no substitute for a truly democratic vote.

- 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.