Sunday, 22 July 2012

Is ESC falling off a cliff?

It looks to me as though the Education, Sport and Culture ministry is accelerating toward a cliff edge.  I have already noted in previous posts the odd and rather unsatifactory handling of the announcement of the introduction of  user pays charges for the Instrument service.  Recently letters went out to parents and guardians of students to be offered a place next year.  Having cancelled the explanatory meeting, and not advised of any revised date we now have a wholly unacceptable position.  Parents are now being expected to make decisions on whether to accept an offer but having no information on the charges the department proposes to make on the use of the service. But this little episode is just a taster of things to come.

You may be aware that the Treasury Minister is about to launch his 3 year medium term financial plan, to cover the next three years.  I think that is probably a good idea, though I may well not agree with its contents.  It was therefore a great surprise to me that the Education Minister recently gave a four year commitment to protect the grant to fee paying schools.  Whatever you may think of that particular policy it was a pretty strange thing to do ahead to the MTFP.  I did query this on Twitter with the Treasury Minister who replied it was because  'the four years are 2012 to 2015. In other words this year and for next 3'.

That answer raises further reinforces a problem that I had already identified.  The next States elections are  due in Spring 2014, so how can the Education Minister give assurances beyond that? The States reiterate with depressing frequency that one assembly cannot make binding decisions on another , so it seems to me the minister has exceeded his authority in givng his 4 year commitment.

Shorter term there is a more politically  explosive problem looming.  The department is still expected to meet the cuts savings under CSR.  By far the largest part of the budget goes for education.  It is inevitable to meet CSR targets for the year that education will bear the brunt.  Having preemptively ring-fenced the private schools  subventions, the savings will have to fall on the remaining States schools. To put in bluntly the poorest parents in our society will have their children's education services disproportionately  impared in order to protect the service provided to those who can afford to pay some toward it.

Thanks to the electoral commission we can now see another problem occuring too. A couple of them are off to Barbados on Monday, expenses paid, albeit economy at £7,000.  It seems to me odd that we can afford to pay for this trip,  to find information that is largely already available at sites such as  However we do not have the money to support competitors going to Bermuda for the Island Games in 2013.  They clearly can only compete and represent us if they travel there. I think the claim of the poorer competitors rather more compelling than that of the Electoral Commission.  That's another legitimate claim on the already very squeezed pot.

Possibly the Education Minister is trying to finesse the Treasury Minister in his new plan to secure more funding. On the evidence of the way user charges have already been announced in principle, and the partisan decision making in favour of the already more priviledged makes me convinced this is a very cynical and deeply inegalitarian game of favourites being played by the minister.

Friday, 20 July 2012

With media like this, who needs facts?

Cheaper Living The cost of living is on the way down in Jersey. Those are the headline and sub of a piece on ChannelOnline. At least that's what they would like you to think.  I have copied the text below taken at 8:31 am as I expect it will magically quietly morph when their genius is unmasked.

 "Keen food prices have helped push down the current rate of inflation to 3% compared with 4.7% three months ago, but the effect of last year's hike in GST has now fallen out of the statistics and that is chiefly responsible for the fall. In the last 12 months food prices have risen by 2.5% - the lowest increase in two-and-a-half years. Motoring costs went up by 6% and alcoholic drinks rose by 5%."

 A gross failure. Inflation of 3% means price (cost of living) increases. Never let the facts get in the way of a good headline, eh? Seriously if our media can get such a basic thing totally wrong, what chance have we of them inquiring into or investigating in detail anything that requires thought and knowledge to be applied?

Saturday, 14 July 2012

BBC Interview with Stuart Syvret

Courtesy of the BBC I have an mp3 and permission to post so the usual week limit on iplayer can be overcome. This interview with Simon Jupp was given 29th June following the series of articles in the Guardian newspaper, particularly this secrecy culture

If the player does not show, try this link: Stuart Syvret BBC interview

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Music meeting update

Further to my posting yesterday
I see on twitter that the meeting has now been cancelled.  I cannot say that is related to my posting, because I simply do not know the reason for the canellation.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Who pays the piper?

A letter has been sent out from the Jersey Instumental Service. I believe it has gone to parents of pupils who currently use the service, but its contents are clearly of impact on future parents too.

 There is to be an 'information evening' on the 12th July at 7pm, Janvarin School. Giving just 3 to 4 days notice and only, as far as I know, to exisitng parents clearly limits the potential for interested parties to attend.

 The essence of the letter is that the States are expected to introduce charges for the service during the autumn term 2012. There is, of course, the usual soft soaping that goes along side such proposals. These include extending the range of instruments and ensembles, and significantly reduced charges for families on low income etc.

 Without numbers it is difficult to make detailed comment, but some observations do need to be made. It is not logically possible to state you may give significant reduction unless the amount you are intending charging as the standard is itself significant.

 Ensuring the financial future of the provision (of the service) is cited as the reason for the charges. However is seems to me extending the range of instuments, number of ensembles and improved support for schools as quoted in the letter is certain to increase costs. It is quite possible that the charges to be levied are actually paying for expansion and improvement of the service. The case will need to be shown with crystal clarity why the current offering would not be financial viable in the future.

There are deficiencies with the current system, not least the fact there seems to be insufficient opportunities to enable all who wouold wish to participate. Currently students do an aptitude test. Needless to say those who have had some previous musical education are at a great advantage. Would this be redressed by the new system?

 Inevitably if there are charges, there will be those on low incomes who will not be able to afford them and whose children therefore will be unable to take up an instrument, even if they do have some significant natural ability or aptitude.

 The most likely outcome of these proposals is that the poorest will be excluded while those who can afford it get a better service. A classic Jersey 'solution'.

 People who have concerns about the proposals are invited in the letter to contact the Head of Jersey Instrumental Music Service (Dr Graham Cox) on 832230.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Scrutiny and the Ogley pay off

This is the link to the Public Accounts scrutiny follow up on Ogley Pay off

Scrutiny Report Compromise Agreements

Note: The following findings are the overarching main findings from the Committee’s review. There are further findings within the report, however the Committee wishes to focus on the following and the recommendations which arise from these.

2.1 The decision to accept the amendments to the contract of the former Chief Executive
Officer was taken at a time when money was not subject to the restraints faced in 2012.
There had been no succession planning which had left the Island extremely vulnerable
and the post holder had become pivotal in the change to Ministerial Government which
left little choice given the desire to retain the officer’s services. The decision was nonethe-
less flawed. There had been no formal risk assessment or thorough investigation of
the options available between receipt of the request to revise the contract on 2nd March
2005 and the acceptance of the changes on 9th March 2005.

2.2 The change to the States of Jersey Law to have Chief Officers accountable to their
Ministers left a fracture in the lines of responsibility that continue to cause problems
today. When viewed alongside Ministers being ‘corporate sole’ and therefore not
responsible to the Chief Minister, the double fracture in the lines of responsibility create
confusion in the management structure at the highest level of the organisation.

2.3 Given that the decision makers may have been keen to retain the Chief Executive
Officer through the pinch point of the change to Ministerial Government, no time limit
was placed on the unusually generous agreement of 2.5 times salary. It appears that
this was simply not considered, leaving the huge cost to be met at any point the officer
might leave further down the line. This was unacceptable and expensive.

2.4 The result of the two breaks in the lines of responsibility of both the Chief Minister and
the Chief Executive Officer render them impotent. They are powerless and isolated.
Their duties can only be carried out with the good will of their “subordinates” and the
strength of character they can bring to bear.

2.5 In examining the termination of the former Chief Executive Officer’s employment, there
were many failures revealed.
· Performance management was woefully inadequate.
Compromise Agreements: Following up the investigations of the Comptroller and Auditor
· The fractured lines of responsibility allowed the Chief Minister of the day to do
nothing, despite his recognition of the problems brewing.
· The Code of Conduct for Ministers is deficient and offers no sanctions for
· There was no management intervention in the longstanding deterioration in the
relationship between the Minister for Treasury and Resources and the former
Chief Executive Officer.

2.6 It is the combination of these failures that left no option but to pay the £546,337.50 to
the departing officer.

2.7 There is no clear demarcation of boundaries between policy setting by States Members
and operational implementation by officials. Blurring these lines can lead to
destabilisation of relationships and derailment of operational matters rendering them

2.8 Despite the blurring of roles between the Minister for Treasury and Resources and the
former Chief Executive Officer, the real concern is that, even knowing about the
difficulties, the then Chief Minister took no action and in so doing allowed an already
pressurised relationship to deteriorate to such an extent that the former Chief Executive
Officer decided to invoke the terms of his revised contract.

2.9 Relating to other compromise agreements entered into by the States over the last five
years, the Committee noted that the private sector has no issues with compromise
agreements. They are used as a tool for many reasons and money spent is recouped
over the following period.

2.10 The existing Human Resources Department is not fit for purpose in order to meet
modern day Human Resources requirements for the public service.

2.11 There is a place for compromise agreements as a management tool when appropriate
but all the other management structures must be in place first. Every agreement should
be considered on its worth, based on good performance management records and
consideration of the options available. It is only by meeting those standards that there
can be any hope of convincing the public that value for money is being achieved.
Compromise Agreements: Following up the investigations of the Comptroller and Auditor

2.12 Looking at the way forward, the Committee notes the willingness that the current Chief
Minister shows in bringing forward changes to ensure these mistakes are not repeated
and looks forward to seeing the production of timelines for their introduction.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Jersey in Transition (JiT) events July

  • Thursday 5 July, 1.30 - 3.00 pm: Baking group. We make sourdough bread, banana bread, Irish bread, ciabatta, carrot cake, scones, etc. Potluck lunch usually included.
  • Saturday and Sunday 7 and 8 July, 10.00 am to 6.30 pm: The West Show, West Show Association Field, off La Grande Route de St Pierre, St. Peter. JiT and J-CAN are jointly producing a stand with an emphasis on organic growing and local, sustainable agriculture. In particular we shall be showcasing the wheat organically grown at Vermont Farm by JiT member John Hamon, stoneground using renewable water power at Quetevil Mill by a combination of JiT and National Trust for Jersey people, and baked into delicious wholemeal bread and cakes by the JiT baking group. There will be free samples to taste. Do come along and find our stand if you're there, and if you possibly can spare the time, please add your name to the rota linked below to help man the stand for an hour or so during the weekend too.
  • Monday 9 July 7.30 - 9.00 pm: Grow your own fruit and veg, Trinity Manor garden visit, Trinity Manor. Follow the directions to the steam museum from Queens Road. This is where group member Emma works and she says that the gardens are just looking their best right now. It is a private garden so please let us know if you want to attend as numbers will be limited to about 15.
  • Saturday 14 July 1.30 pm: Jersey Organic Association Summer Meal, . Along with the Slow Food Movement, Jersey in Transition have been invited to the JOA summer meal. Bring a dish to share, as well as your own crockery, cutlery, drink and glass. If wet, in a polytunnel. Meet the chicks and chickens, and see where some JiT Make-and-Mend goes on too. 
  • Thursday 19 July 7.30 pm: Green Drinks, The Townhouse, New St, St Helier. Simple and unstructured, but an opportunity for serendipity and a force for good. Join us for a drink and chat.
  • Saturday 21 July 6.30 - 10.00 pm: JiT Summer Celebration!!! The Cottage, behind Francis Cooke Gallery, Trinity Hill, Trinity. Summer picnic on private lawns. Ashika, the drumming band, will entertain from 7.00 to 8.00. Please bring food and drink to share, blankets etc to sit on, and your own picnic utensils. Alcohol is allowed. Unfortunately, there is no wet weather plan - so 'weather permitting'. This is the time to celebrate our achievements and our growing transition community in the island. Please do come along.
  • Tuesday 24 July, 7.30 pm: JiT General Meeting, "The Boardroom", The Townhouse, New St, St Helier. The monthly meeting where we pull everything together and see what it looks like. All welcome.
  • Saturday 28 July 7.30 pm: Film night: The Power of Community: How Cuba survived peak oil, St Brelade's Youth Club, Communicare, Quennevais Rd, St Brelade. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during their difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens.
Upcycling (sewing) at Harbour Gallery, St.Aubin,  will re-start in September

For details e-mail   or