Saturday, 3 December 2016

Those pesky kids again

About a month ago there was a piece in the JEP on mental health and kids under 10.
It troubled me , especially the bit more than 800 children referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services since 2011 were under the age of ten.  So I did a bit of sniffing about.  Since we are talking sensitive stuff and children and professional services it was never likely that anything substantive would be obvious.

However I did come across one very worrying thing told me by several sources concerning autism spectrum children, particularly asperger's.   There is a facility to  request an assessment for ASD/Aspergers.  No problem with that.  However my information is that if school suspects a child might be autistic spectrum, it is policy they cannot  indicate or suggest that is the case.  I cannot fathom this.  It means a child having some difficulties can go right through school getting no help  even though school is aware there might be something amiss that can be diagnoses and assisted.  It relies on parents being aware and knowing enough to ask specifically for the right assessment.

 There is a quick summary of Aspereger Syndrome at The UK policy and  practice on autism is at 

Two other things I came across reading up n this.  It is not uncommon for high functioning  people to only get assessed /diagnoses late in life.  There is an inheritance trait, though no specific gene influence is known.  The parent becomes aware and gets assessed because the child has been assessed.  That's only adds to the concern about the non disclosure policy in schools - parents might  find they have and can be helped too.

The other is the reported  tendency for people with high functioning ASD to be found disproportionately in some jobs, such as notably engineering.  Eg


I'll relate you an anecdote of my time at University when I was  a Student Union Officer.  One of the supposed perks of holding  one of the execute roles as I did few over 2 years was tickets to the various balls and Hall parties that happen annually.  There were quite a few  at Nottingham University - at least 15 a year.  I never knew quite how it became public but in my third term of office it was revealed I had never actually taken any of these free tickets to these events. There was quite a commotion about it.  Some saw it as good news- more tickets for the party goers on the executive, others  thought it inappropriate -all the exec members had a duty to represent the SU at such things. In the end they had to have a vote on it and I was instructed to go to a least one.  I never had a problem doing  formal events where there was a protocol, I was even able to give  impromptu speeches to  large student gatherings.  But  going to that party was easily the most daunting of all the  things I had to do.  Without clear rules/reference points I was lost.  

So you will not be surprised I think  to know that I recognised some of the traits in the  material I had been reading. I took an online test just to see. I wasn't even borderline but way into the typical scores for Asperge'rs people.  Of course it is not a formal assessment, or a diagnosis.  But its not a surprise.  Of course there might be other reasons fo rsome of the traits that are picked up by that test.  Being  in care as a child for starters.  I don't know anything about my first year of life, but learning at the age of about 7 that the people you thought were your parents aren't and understanding, if only in a vague way, all that you think is solid and safe might be changed at the stroke of a pen by some anonymous bureaucrat might have had some influence  too.

What am I going to do about it? Nothing.  What point is there in seeking a diagnosis and putting a label on things  now. Whatever the cause for my  rather unusual scores and tendencies re unstructured social groups and understanding  individual people, I've made it to my mid 50's in far better shape than so many who have been through the care system , or had a disorder analysis (the two are probably correlated too). The world is just going to have to learn to deal with me as I am just I have had to cope with it  the way it is.  My one regret is if I do have Asperger's I may have unwittingly lumbered my children with issues I'd rather they didn't have to deal with.  It might be a different matter for some other child or parent out there struggling  for whom an assessment and diagnosis and a bit of help realy would make a world of difference. 


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Good advice

Despite my technical backgound, or more likely  because of it, I've never had a smart phone.  The same applies to cars, those little bubbles of isolation.  So I think I can be excused for posting this.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Taxing matters

I have been rather amused by the sudden realisation by the middle class of Jersey that their so wonderfully effective and efficient low taxing government is costing them more in tax than if they lived in the UK.  It has long been thus for some lower earners.  Actually it has also been the case for many who save and invest personally too  - if they had taken advantage of the UK's (now defunct) PEP's and still going  ISA's.  There are indeed a few who have amassed a tax free million pot.  See How to be an ISA millionaire Even at the FTSE100 dividend yield of  around. 3.5% that's £35,000 income  tax free.  Of course Jersey has no equivalent to these tax efficient saving and investing schemes

For lower earners the problem is the Jersey government's inability to comprehend that  increasing tax thresholds don't help those who fall somewhat below the thresholds.  In the  UK many equivalents of child allowances etc are credits - paid items, not exemptions.  In effect they boost income rather than allow a reduced tax bill.  It makes a difference because of course in Jersey once you are a 0 rate tax payer that's the end of the benefit.  So if like me your income is  below the thresholds by more than  a child's allowance, that allowance is worthless. That situation  does not occur in the UK where tax credits are paid.

Nor is it the case that such people will be  cushioned by having social security benefits.  The ability to claim those is quickly eroded by the  impact of capital  the potential claimant may have.  And this is not just theoretical stuff.

Each government department in Jersey  has a different perception about what is and isn't in need of assistance.  Equally each appears to think any income or assets you might have can be applied to offset any help you might get from their department alone. You can lose several times over as the same capital or income is used against you by each department  that might otherwise help.  It is a fine example of the inconsistent approach of a piecemeal  non-system without any common coherent thinking.  It is unsurprising given we elect individuals who have between them  no coherent strategy and each policy is a cobbled together compromise of individualist  foibles and interests. There is no plan or design or underpining philosophy here.

Thus it is quite possible to be in the situation I find myself.  No income tax, health charge or care charge to pay because our income falls way short of the threshold in marginal taxation.  Since I am not an employee I don't pay class 1 social security.  I am theoretically liable to play full class 2 social security ( ~£6,000 per year!), but even they have realised you cannot get blood from a stone.  Asking people with income  significantly below the tax threshold to pay that sort of money is madness.  So I have an exception. Of course I'm not entitled to most benefits and not building my pension contribution.

You might have the picture from the foregoing that we are not exactly rolling in it.  But the Education Department would disagree.  If either of my bright children want to go to university in a few years time I am, according to them, so well off that we wouldn't get a penny in help with the living costs or tuition fees.

I'll leave it to you dear reader to figure out the logic of how you can be so poor as to not be liable for tax or social security payments but simultaneously be so well off you can be expected to find £60,000 plus for each child to go to university. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

No, Ministers

There is a consultation out on pay, technically actually remuneration, for Ministers. Ministers are post holders - usually such people are not paid for work, they are remunerated. (The same is often true for directors of companies, but the Manpower returns seem unable to grasp the essence of post holders are not employees).  It isn't a States consultation, but the States Member's Remuneration Body.  The details are at States Members Remuneration beyond 2018.pdf

The consultation quite explicitly asks about the Chief Minister's  remuneration because they have more responsibilities.  "In the first instance we suggest that pay differentiation should apply only to the Chief Minister, who undoubtedly has significant additional responsibilities when compared with other members. In our view, a supplement of 15% of salary (in other words £7,000 (after rounding) at the present level of salary) would be appropriate. This would apply from the election of the Chief Minister in 2018".

A lot in that proposal rests on what is meant or understood by responsibility.  For the longest time in politics generally to be responsible meant to be answerable for , to be held accountable for.   Especially in the British parliamentary system , the Ministers were the temporary public face while the unseen unheard civil service was the  semi permanent advisory and implementation mechanism.  If things went wrong in their department, the Minister was held responsible, could lose their post, though more likely would  be expected to resign. It may not even be  mal administration,  just error of judgement. 

In theory the tough sanction on the Minister puts  proper focus on them properly and fully scrutinising what happens in their department.  Ignorance is no defence.  There is a feeling these days that far from taking responsibility, Ministers are inclined to try to defend the failings.

It is arguable under such a system when working as intended more responsibility, ie more things to  take the flak, and possible lose your position for, deserves a higher remuneration to compensate for the higher risks.

The question now is are Jersey's Ministers, including the Chief Minister, really responsible, accountable for anything?  Just last night we saw civil service officers being put up in front of camera to defend policy, not the minister. When was the last time a Jersey Minister resigned over failings in their  department?  Are they accountable, really?  I'd say not, and if not, the argument for increased remuneration is  faulty.

There are other arguments for not increasing, or actually decreasing, Minister's pay relating to research on performance and incentives.  See
But that's a different debate and not one the SMRRB is ever likely to want to consider - being composed largely of the very people who would under such  logic be paid less.....

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Not good enough to be true?

It is often said that if an investment looks too good to be true it probably is.  I read in  the  report of the winding up of  Lumiere Wealth that investors were being offered 14% return on their money from a couple of Brazilian investments.  See  That may well sound too good to be true in the current low interest rate environment.

It is of course very sad that people have lost significant sums of money in the scheme .  However it is not really fair to say the investors were being unrealistic in hoping for a 14% return.  To add great insult to injury, the Brazilian stock market index has gone from 45,000 in  October 2015 to around 60,000 today - a gain of 33%. See brazil stock-market

Monday, 3 October 2016

No stamp of approval

Jersey likes to crow about the various companies based here, everything it seems from African mining to international arms traders. Here's one that many people have heard of, Stanley Gibbons.   But I'm guessing this wont make the headlines of the local commerce friendly media.
The board of directors are listed You might recognise a few local names, a former chairman of the JFSC, and another former chairman of CI Traders. . It has been going 150 years, though was only brought to Jersey about 5 years ago as I recall.

Nothing dodgy there, surely a sound investment prospect?

So here's the annual report out today. Not good.

Most of the directors listed on their web site stood down over the year it seems. Rats jumping the sinking ship is the metophor that springs to mind. Actually the company appears to me to have come within a day or so of being suspened from AIM for not producing the report on time. Here are a few snippets.

Following its acquisition of Mallett plc in October 2014, the Company learned that government regulators in the United States were investigating transactions that had occurred since 1 January 2010 involving a former client of Mallett Inc., Mallett's New York-based subsidiary. The former client is not a related person or affiliate of the Group. This issue had not been disclosed to the Company by the directors of Mallett plc during the due diligence process prior to the acquisition.

Buy back
In fact, whilst the new management team has already acted swiftly to resolve the first two cash outflows detailed above, it is the last element which has both proved more complex to isolate and represents a more fundamental deterioration in the Groups core business. It is now clear that the non-cash sale/reinvestment profile of the Stanley Gibbons Investment division`s investment contracts, sold between 2005 and 2013, which also retained an element of contractual buy-back, also fuelled the worsening net debt position. The Group no longer offers investment plans with contractual buy back options of any kind .
 A number of the Groups previous investment contracts, Guaranteed Minimum Return Contract ("GMRC" and the Capital Protection Growth Plan ("CPGP") both were contracts that had an element of contractual buyback. The contractual buy backs within the CPGPs were at a level of the original purchase price and within the GMRCs were above the purchase price to include a finance charge. This finance charge is recognised in the profit and loss throughout the period of the contract. These contracts were sold between 2005 and 2013 and have resulted in a restatement of prior year earnings relating to open contracts as at April 2014, as described in note 31b).  The GMRC and CPGP contracts ceased to be sold in April 2011 and December 2013 respectively.
Revenue recognition
 The Board has revisited the accounting treatment previously adopted in connection with certain transactions and has concluded that it was not in accordance with the applicable accounting standards. Accordingly the Board has decided to adopt some, significantly changed, accounting policies in the presentation of the accounts. These have resulted in a restatement of prior years' results and a substantial write-down of balance sheet assets. These changes stem largely from fundamental errors in the accounting treatment previously adopted, most notably of investment product "sales" recognised in previous years. 
Comments from the  auditors 
 Matters on which we are required to report by exception
In respect solely of the limitation on our work relating to the matters identified above in the Basis of Qualified opinion paragraph:

    we have not received all the information and explanations we require for our audit; and
   we were unable to determine whether proper accounting records have been kept.

We have nothing to report in respect of the following matters where the Companies (Jersey) Law 1991 requires us to report to you if, in our opinion:

    proper returns adequate for our audit have not been received from branches not visited by us; and
   the financial statements are not in agreement with the accounting records and returns.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Greenacres Farm

Autumnal rain has arrived finally.  I'm not complaining - the soil needs it and I have made great progress in the field while the dry spell lasted.  Wet weather jobs have been piling up so it is a chance to catch up on those.

Things are not loooking so rosy elsewhere however.   People may be aware that Brian Adair has had his organic business up for sale for a while.  I know there have been interested parties, but so far nothing has materialised.  He was the first certified organic producer  in the Island and has a well established  business with a strong customer base.  If thats not viable or attractive as a business , then some serious questions need to be asked politically of ministers about what they do think is valuable and worthwhile in the Island. 

 In reality the answers will be made obvious today in the States  with the MTFP  debate.  It comes down to one thing  economic growth - the magic fairy dust that, like entropy in thermodynamics and dark matter in cosmology, has to be conjoured up conceptually to make the number work according to the the theory.

Unsurprisingly  I have been asked by a number of people if I am going to take on Brian's business.  I suppose it is an obvious question as I do go on so much about organic food, have some experience as a smalholder and  have run a few successful businesses in the past.   I have not entertained the possibility previously.  There are several reasons.

What I do in my own field is not a commercial operation  - I don't intend it to be. It is informal research based on my observations of that might constitute a bioethical food production system.  It is deliberately small scale and  in the last few years devoid of all mechanisation.  There's the first problem - scale.  Brian's operation would need at least 2 people to work as a  market garden/horticultural  concern, based on Eliot Coleman's maximum 2.5 acres per person observation.  Plus of course I'd still have my fields to manage and maintain. That means going back to a walk behind tractor at least, and that takes me away from the direction I have been experimenting on.

Another reason I havent entertained it  was commitment.  I am at an age where I have probably energy and time for one , perhaps  just two big projects left in my life.  Big projects I think of as those that require 'all in' effort - typically starting a new business  is like that - certainly those I have done before have been.   In the current state of organic production locally it certainly would  have to be an all consuming commitment.  If I were to do that it would have to be the right project.  There is a sort of opportunity costs here - other projects would have to be ditched or forgone.

All that  (and more) before even looking at the commercial figures and viability.  It is a fact that in Jersye  access to the land is controlled.  Even if you own fields you are not allowed to work them unless  you have permission! There are financial requirements of marginal profit  be a bona fide farmer (£40,000 per year) and to occupy  good agricultural land, or even more than a few vergees of less favoured land you have to qualify financially (interestingly they appear to have dropped the main income from farming  obligation that used to exist, I wonder why ;) ) See Land Control

There is a facebook group looking at the possibilities for saving the farm .  See  The groups s interested in a Community Supported Agriculture model. It has worked elsewhere. There's a useful UK site on how that might work  at  Community Supported Agriculture.  The Soil Association also has promoted CSA for organic production.  It is certainly a better bet than hoping the States of  Jersey will support organic agriculture in the Island!

I posted on that group some  thoughts about how this might go forward.  I've reproduced them below.

I know people are interested in CSA, but there may be another way to do this. If you have seen any of my rantings over the last 2 years you will know we have been losing certified organic land and growers for some time. Warnings fell on deaf ears politically. We have long had a problem in Jersey that farming and horticulture is viewed as a purely commercial activity. It can be done that way of course- that's how you get the agri chemical industry. But it needn't be. 2,500 years ago Hippocrates said (in greek of course!) Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. I've posted a link below to a scheme in the USA taking that literally.

It isn't just immediate human health we need to consider either. There is the health of the soil and less well known to many is its ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Possibly the last great hope for avoiding significant climate change. And there is the diversity and abundance and health of the eco system and biology around agriculture and horticulture - the water quality, wildlife and the psychological benefits of access to deep nature.

Put that lot together and it suggests to me a different approach , a different mind set is required. Not a commercial venture but a social one. Not a financial imperative, but a health one. If you think of it as a business the particiapnts expect a return. If you think of it as a charity , you get a different answer. Its not incompatible with CSA you can have supporting subscribers and charities can and do have volunteer workers and paid professionals. 

The question is whether you are in it just for what you can get out of it, or for what good can come out of it.

In Jersey we have low-income people with diabetes and high blood pressure. So what about this bleedin' obvious idea from the USA. Load fresh fruits and vegetables into a refrigerator truck and drive it to a health clinic. To improve the diet have a doctor write a “prescription” for food . Even better if it were local wholesome organic produce.

Monday, 12 September 2016

An interesting informal scale

I came across this idea a few years ago, but I've realised more recently it is probably applicable rather more widely than  its original purpose.  I have a dim recollecton of something similar applying to communication and IQ. 

It is important to point out that this is an informal scale.  There is no science or  evidence behind it, just observation that it kind of fits.  It is a logarithmic scale in 10 divisions and it applies to people so level 10 is just 1 person , level 9 10 people, level 3 100 and so on.  As it happens level 10 would be 10billion, a very crude approximation to the humans on the planet.  That's one reason the scale has appeal.

The other observation is  that wherever you are on the scale anyone a level or two higher is sort of cool, 3  levels higher is a touch nutty, and more than that is crazy. Similarly,  one level lower are ignorant, three levels back are all but intolerable!

The original scale was done by Paul Wheaton and refers to permaculture .  I was rather amazed to see I have had meetings with and have conversed and corresponded with two of the 10 people at level 9 on the original scale.

 There is an easier to read version of this graphic at Wheaton Eco Scale

I haven't done the figures, but I suspect global wealth fits a similar pattern.  I can imagine athletic ability is also similarly distributed.

If you  want to know where I fit on the eco scale,  I'm not saying!  Judge where you are and figure out if I am a nut  or intolerably far behind.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Who is this 'no hoper'

It is quite excruciating when former States members display their  disregard or ignorance of democratic concepts. So I wasn't  impressed to  read Mr Shenton's view on hustings at
no hopers are ruining the political hustings for voters

There are a few problems  not just with the principle as it applies to proper democratic processes, but also with a few practicalities.  I'll start with a couple of them.  Take Donald Trump.  Widely perceived as something of a joke candidate and no hoper at the start of the process he is now a contender for president of the United States.   Or what of Abraham Lincoln who was a serial election loser before he was eventually elected to that same office.   See Abraham Lincoln failures  And what about the psephologists predictions for the last UK general election or the BrExit referendum, both of which they got wrong.  So how do you determine a priori who and who is not a no hoper, or indeed a shoe in winner?  If you cannot do that  Mr Shenton's proposition is a farcical piece of nonsense.

It may surprise Mr Shenton to know that hustings are not principally about entertainment.  They are historically for the benefit of those voters who wish to see the candidates perform and hear their views, deriving from a time when many voters might be illiterate.  Just as elections are not reality TV pop culture voting , not least because it is about a lot more than simply winning. People can and do take to the elections process to argue a political case - it may be unaccepted by the electorate, but nevertheless very useful and important.  It takes time to gain widespread support for change and new ideas.   We use democracy to do that as it is the least worst option, and it enables those ideas to be raised and tested in public.  That's a good thing, not to be suppressed, Mr Shenton.

The former Senator  bemoans the lack of engagement with the public, yet he proposes a mechanism that  would do nothing to increase the choice and variety on offer to the electorate. Indeed his main aim seems to be to narrow the options  by excluding what he concludes to be no hopers.  I ask how is that going to increase participation, who is going to turn out to vote if there is no one presenting a view they support (as indeed some have commented about the absence of a deep green candidate at the last general and this recent by election).

Another problem with his proposed mechanism is the fixed rate.  It wouldn't put off wealthy  'no hopers' but it would be disproportionately  arduous on poorer candidates.  Perhaps if he had proposed a deposit of  1%  of gross wealth that would be more equitable, but still contrary to the democratic  philosophy.   And I guess that's where we really see what is going on here.  Mr Shenton would have an election limited to the choices of comfortable off candidates who subscribe to a narrow view of politics .  More a personality selection process than any political choice.  That's one sure way to undermine  the whole system, including the participation rate.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

By election result

Congratulations to Senator Ferguson, shame on you Jersey.

An abysmal turnout, a lack of factual background material available to the public on the candidates and their past voting and political records and a situation not helped by an outdated first past the post election system.  

The outcome.  We elected a senator who said on radio she'd have supported UKIP at the last UK election, is sceptical to put it mildly on climate change, and opposes most renewable energy options. Of course none of that was mentioned on her election leaflet.  She did talk and write about opposing new taxes/charges, but forget to mention she voted for GST  and against exemptions when she had the power to do so in the States.  Maybe she has changed her mind, we might have known had there been anything like debate in the election and detailed reporting in the press on issues rather than caricatures and snide observation on husting attendance.  

This isn't working, but how to change. It isn't arguing about  electoral change and constitution . It isn't angry letters to the JEP (though that might help you feel better), it is to take back the communications between the activists and the public, not let intermediaries and commercial interests have a stranglehold .  Online helps a little with that, but not enough  - it needs activists on streets year round connecting with  people  face to face , door to door.  Very old fashioned, very effective, almost impossible on any meaningful scale without structure and organisation and resources.   
Don't get mad, get active!

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Senatorial by election eve of poll

It is not easy picking a candidate to vote for.  No one has impressed me with any great grasp of the ecological and global challenges that will impact Jersey and in which we have a moral  obligation to play our part.  Nor have I been impressed that some very important extant local issues have been barely mentioned, eg the Committee of Inquiry and its implications.

Council of Ministers supporters are very thin among the candidates.  Only Mary O'keefee Burger seems to be fully behind their programme. Given several astounding gaffes from her they are probably thinking they would be better off without her support.  She isn't going to get elected anyway. Nor is Nick Le Cornu or Mike Dun.  

Mike Dun's  campaign is arguably the most logical.  This result won't change the CoM or their policies in any material way.  So a single issue campaign is not a problem. The 20 month  tenure of the successful candidate tallies fairly well with the Brexit timetable .  It could have significant implications for Jersey, particularly in trade and labour.  But ecologically it is largely irrelevant. If you think Brexit is the overriding concern of our time or if you want a Senator who questions everything Mike might be your candidate.

On paper  Hugh Raymond is exactly the sort of candidate Jersey likes.  Extensive business experience, including in finance, public service as an honorary officer, and several other  public roles.  Despite what Mr Ocean claims, he probably is the dependable safe pair of hands type option.  My impression is he is doing better in the country parishes than might be supposed, but not so well in urban areas.  He has several times mentioned climate change and also questioned the volume of cars owned locally.   

Christian May is doing well amoung younger professionals.  He has run a positive campaign on the whole, whilst trying to distance himself from the Council of Ministers. He is going down well amoungst liberals and many professionals who like a conscience salving  bit of social progress to go alongside their otherwise business as usual agenda. He has made a specific point about climate change impact locally a few times (a definite plus) and university access.  I like a lot of what he has foccussed on (but then I am a liberal so that's no surprise) on the social agenda, but I am unconvinced he has it to take a real fight  to the Ministers in the assembly if it came to it. He will do well and has a chance of winning.

Sarah Ferguson  appears to be doing well.  Probably this is down to her opposition to CoM policies on tax and finance.  Some of her analysis here is good, but her record of voting  for GST  and against exemptions for food does not chime with her current position on the hustings.   She has tried toning down her climate change scepticism, but after the St Ouen husting she reinterated to me her opposition of renewables on some sprurious tax ground leading to  fuel povery to pensioners (that is not renewables, that is down to  regressive tariff structures).  She might appeal to right wingers/libertarian types , but it is definitely a no from me.  

Stevie Ocean's policy platform makes no political sense to me.  He is very well known, and usually that plays well for candidates, unless they are associated with problems or perceived failure.  Guy de Faye is also very well known, but comes with 'baggage'.  It will be intriguing to see which one polls better, but neither seems set to become senator this election.

Reform's candidate is Sam Mezec.  He as spoken well at the hustings and has made some impact with his campaign.  He hasn't been as strong on environmental matters as I would like.   If your politics are social democratic, Sam is your candidate.   He is in with a chance of winning, all depending on the turnout in St Helier and some of the other urban areas.

Lastly there is John Young.  His performance hasn't been the most polished, and his leflet isn't eye catching, but the content has been overall pretty decent.  Definitely on the progressive side, and with a track record of asking awkward questions and bringing, sometimes winning, propositions to the assembly.  He has been consistent on the built environment and utility scale renewables, if like the others rather lacking on ecological matters.  From my non scientific survey he is getting a good proportion the deep green votes, not that there are enough of those to give anyone a victory.  

Sunday, 4 September 2016

A touch of dissonance

I was amused by a small posting on the web site about the successful (aren't they always?) fact finding trip by the assistant ministers to Estonia.   Digital fact finding

Of course in the days before Tim Berners-Lee put the world at our fingertips, it was generally necessary to do trips like this to find out  how things are done differently elsewhere.  It is good to be open minded about what others do.  That is one of the ways we learn and improve.  However  there is something dissonant about this trip.

Estonia is a digitally fired up country, perhaps the world leader when it comes to e-gov. Jersey has spent tens of millions of pounds of public money on the fibre project Gigabit.  The question has to be asked therefore is e-gov anything like it is cracked up to be.  The bandwidth is there, the technology exists, but if we cannot get facts on a relatively open government like Estonia  through digital, is it ever going to deliver?   It doesnt register very highly on the credibility stakes to have assistant ministers doing a marketing pitch on something , but then failing to adopt  the policy aims themsleves.  Why could they not  teleconference, what exactly did they expect to find out with their senses about digital what couldn't be done, well digitally?  

They are not alone of course.  We have a sustainable transport policy of sorts, but we have reserved car parking spaces at the airport so ministers and assistant ministers can  demonstate their commitment to the policy!  We have cuts to all sort of services to save money, but strangely the States member's pay and the expenses allowances remain sacrosanct.   

If our elected ones really want to see higher turn out in elections, more participation in the machinery of governemnt, they could do an awful lot worse that demonstrate some practical  leadership on  those things they spend so much time talking about.  Start to close the credibility gap or it is only going to get worse.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

By election husting St Brelade

A spot of gentle rain  and a nice reduction in temperature are very welcome.  So an early finish for the day and I've a chance to review another husting recording,  This one is St Brelade .

Before I get to another very good question , a quick comment on a couple of the speeches.  Sarah Ferguson majored on a very valid point about the shift of tax burden  and particularly the way local trading companies can be used to avoid almost all tax as long as you don't distribute profits.  Top marks for speeches from a green point of view however must go to Guy De Faye. He nailed the population growth problems and previous target busting, back to the days when 80,000 was the limit!  Better yet he actually explicitly stated the economic growth model of the CoM is bust.  The only one to do so to date that I am aware. 

The question was put by friend Glyn Mitchell who asked if it wasn't time to put more emphasis on the environment,soil and ecology rather than on the economy.  There was also a concurrent question about supporting the MTFP, so I have included that here.

MD charges are a hidden tax. EU might change that as Brexit will cause examination. Might fail their tax considerations. He attended Dr Ingham talk. Some small scale work locally. Doesn't know if Jersey soil and agriculture were ever environmentally friendly. Should be an environmental candidate on the hustings talking about this. Brexit will affect it.

CM Could not agree to MTFP in its current form, especially health charge and commercial waste charge. On environmental consequences we have to be aware of negative effect of industry and not looking carefully at Jersey's environment. Future Jersey plan needs to be put into action including climate change and global warming impacts for low coastal areas. We are not prepared. See consequences at St Aubins bay. Have ideas from SOS – need to do more.

JY. On the health  tax he will bring an amendment to put on hold until sorted out. Will vote against MTFP if that fails. Last 20 years working on  environmental matters. Proud of what has been achieved. But environment is  taken for granted in Jersey. Strange as it attracts people and is put at risk all the time. In times of economic stress environment goes even lower on priorities. Population & limiting its growth is at heart. Need urban dev plan – too densely populated in urban areas -traffic too.

SO  Glanced over MTFP quickly. Need IQ over 200 to understand. Should be thrown out as unworkable. Stealth taxes ridiculous. On environment St Aubin bay -sea lettuce, Seymore Tower infestation  of asian crabs, Dont know what we can do but they are a problem. Should put sea lettuce on fields for fertilizer. Big machine is a waste of time & money.

SF. Has record for bringing propositions against budgets. Would bring amendment for charge to be held back until promised review delivered. One of few positive EU directives is requiring rotation of crops. Awaiting SOS testing outfalls. Part of St Brelade dev group on landscape building density & tourism facilities. Have to keep nice for tourists. Identification of brown field sites for new houses.

NleC Right wing candidates will be supporting MTFP. Don't be fooled by words saying they wont do it., they will they are loyal to govt. CoM are implementing austerity programmes -preserves income of the rich. Would be great to see an environmental candidate here Greens should get themselves together and get more candidates for the coming general election. Put pressure on govt that is indifferent to such issues.

GdeF MTFP latest version has to be masterpiece of obfuscation. Need code breaker to decipher it. Very unlikely to be able to turn around the collective responsibility of CoM with their lickspittles and camp followers seeking preferment who will vote for it en masse. Will try on key points. Like accepting charges in principle without defining workings. Not fair. Keen on environment was a member of Greenpeace at school. Also need perspective. Sometime environmental things cost a lot of money. See Guernsey recycling debacle.

SM no force on heaven and earth persuade him to vote for MTFP. Problem doesn't matter how squalid some members will vote for it because the minister tells them too. Amendments will only have 1 day to be laid after election.  He will lay an amendment as deputy anyway. On environment COM doesn't think environment makes money so they ignore it. Should be self sufficient in energy. Have local talent like SOS, Glyn to make changes, don't keep bringing in UK consultants.

HR. Been involved with MTPF. Biggest problem is get to end and its not clear if you can do it. See comments of home affairs minister  on impacts on fire, police etc. more work goes to parish and Hon Police. There are areas you will have to support. Sporting programme is losing people. Vice chair of Racecourse, negotiation with environment Department on keeping character. 32,000- registered cars -more than domestic houses? More sharing more public transport. Env is important.

M OK B. Sam won't be doing propositon. She had to stand down as Centenier to stand, Sam has let down St Helier no 1 (MBF Not hes deputy for St Helier no 2district!) - should stand down too. Does not like new projects when we are overspending. Main project like schools and sewage system should go ahead. Not in favour of stealth taxes to cover infrastructure spending. Environment is expensive, start with hearts and mind. Go in schools.


Monday, 22 August 2016

Are you sitting comfortably?

I was interested to hear reports today that Germany has issued new civil defence advice to citizens.  There is a summary at security-stockpiling . Sources differ slightly in the details of the leaked 60+ page report, but include up to 10 days water & food, blankets, cash, medicines, coal and wood, candles, torches, batteries and matches. It is also thought the government is setting up stocks of antibiotics, and dumps of petrol and oil round the country.

Given Germany is one of the strongest economies on Europe, and has very good air, rail and land links across the continent and beyond, this should be prompting some questions locally.  We have but one airport, and one port, no road or rail connectivity to the rest of the world.  We are far less self sufficient in physical material resources than Germany is. How much more precarious our position compared to Germany?  

Still think my one man campaign for a proper government food security strategy is irrelevant?

Friday, 19 August 2016

By election husting at St Lawrence

In a complete volte face from a couple of days ago it is now too wet to be working in the field.  So another chance to review a video recording of  hustings.  This time it is St Lawrence

By good fortune the first question was from my friend Nick Palmer. He asked 'I looked at your online manifestos and, bar two, I found no mention of your policy on climate change. Was this an oversight or do you consider it an unimportant side issue?'

As before I'll list the responses in the same order as on  the night.  Alvin  Aaron is no longer attending hustings so no answer is given.

SF        It is not clear what are the reasons for climate change.  She has been working with the Organic Community Garden at Le Marais.  Not doing gardening, just the administration!

M O'K B 'We have to protect the environment'. She has been talking to the chair of biodiversity.  We should do more with children in schools. We should engage finance industry on green finance.

GdeF    I take climate change very seriously it is a major global problem though our impact in the Channel Islands is very small. The renewable and marine energy efforts have stalled.  We have lots of rooves, little solar.  Is that Jersey Electricity's fault?

JY       Former chair of the Environment scrutiny panel. Oversaw a major report on renewables. Agreed by States but no action.  Wants to see utility scale renewables and become exemplar in electric vehicles.

MD     He is unhappy there is no Green candidate in the by election ! Brexit covers the issues such as fishing and pollution.  The last Island Plan stated we are signed up to 300 international agreements.  No one can elucidate what they are though. 

NLeC  Agreed with MD - have to intervene and push an agenda.

CM      It was in his 10 point manifesto. Effects are critical such as sea level rise. 2015 report was damning.  Have had no action.  Have to cut cars at least have more of them electric.  Tidal and wind power needed.  Clearly arises from human activity.  We will all be living in a desert, apart from those who are living under water.

SM      'Very fair question'. The 500 word manifesto focus is on things most pressing on voters minds. It is the greatest threat affecting humanity.  We should be self sufficient in generating energy, but States deficit prohibits investment.  Support public transport - stop  increasing bus fares to help get cars off the roads.

HR     We have 32,000 private cars for 100,000 population. Needs to reduce and look at electric vehicles and public transport.

SO      Parts of St Helier are blocked off. So many things we could do. Electric cars are expensive.

Quite why the 'greatest threat to humanity' isn't  important enough to appear in a manifesto, or why you have to have a 'green ' candidate to have such vital things considered is beyond me.  Perhaps if elected representatives and those aspiring to join their number took these issues seriously they might resonate with the electorate and we wouldn't have such a high electoral abstention rate? 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

An abandoned generation

It gets far too hot in the middle of the day for me to be working in the field.  So I took the opportunity to watch the first by election hustings over a long lunch. I wish I hadn't - it was unsavoury, unappetising and nearly made me wretch. I'm not referring to  the food.  The video is at St Saviour husting

I won't run you through a critique of all the opening 3 minute speeches.   I'll cut straight to the answers given to one very good question from the floor.  What are the three greatest challenges to Jersey over the next 20-30 years? 

I'll summarise the responses in the order candidates gave their replies.  There was a time limit to answer jointly two questions so some could not give three priorities.

M O'K B  Brexit, economy, education
AA           Economy . immigration (no third)
HR           Brexit, (no second, no third)
JY            Brexit, finance sector growth, population growth
SF            Brexit, banking industry, falling productivity
MD          Brexit (no second, no third)
CM          Diversify Economy, education, ageing population
NleC       Alternative for finance industry, Brexit, Inequality, Constitutional reform   (YES That is 4!)
SM          Culture of Complacency, Brexity, population
GdeF       Transport links, creative thinking (no third)
SO           Establishing a film commission , Brexit.

I'll happily accept population, and diversifying the economy is a tolerable answer, but as to the rest, I have to ask really, I mean really?   Brexit may not even happen.  If it does we cannot yet foresee the impacts or manner of it happening, it may even be beneficial.  Compared to the certain increasing challenges of climate change, food security, resource depletion, ecosystems collapse over the same timescale, I want to ask the candidates what f**king planet are you on?  It is certainly not mine! 

OK so you are not really internationalists, but what about local issues?  Does no one expect or hope for any major impact of the COI over the coming decades.  The evidence is there we  had kids in care abused over decades, but it is now just sweetness and light , all dealt with , is it? Justice?  Is there really no challenge or change required in our justice system over the coming decades? What about the galloping rate of science and technical change and the impact it will have - the surveillance and personal intrusion of having everything tracked and monitored?  Have we no ambition on renewable energy, self reliance for the coming decades? What about inclusion, participation, democracy itself? 

My overall assessment.  FAIL , the lot of them.  I'm bitterly disappointed in Sam Mezec and John Young who I had hoped might have a grasp on a few of these issues and be prepared to take them on.  The best prospect on those criteria based on the St Saviour hustings was Christian May.  He mentions climate change in his profile (as does Hugh Raymond). He talks of standing up the COM and power, but he uses all the CoM current buzz words and favoured topics (like ageing population and digital). When a One Nation Tory (as I believe he probably is) is your best bet you now things are pretty dire.

And as for my children's generation.   They have been abandoned by our aspirant politics it seems.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

It is all too personal

In an Island of just over 100,000 people officially, I guess I know about a thousand with some chance of remembering the name that goes with the face.  What does it say about our electoral system and its representativeness then that I personally know 8 of the 11 candidates nominated for the by-election tonight, and two others are somewhat familiar to me from previous elections.  I expect six of those would recognise me too.  Elections shouldn't be that personal, it really isn't a healthy sign.

Here are the candidates

Alvin Aaron
Nick Le Cornu
Mike Dun
Guy de Faye
Sarah Ferguson
Christian May
Sam Mezec
Stevie Ocean
Mary O'Keeffe-Burgher
Hugh Raymond
John Young 

Yes, I'm not one of them.  Yes, I was asked by a few people, but really what would standing achieve?  Without a detailed wide ranging and coherent thought out manifesto for government and an organisation  and some support by other elected members for that programme, nothing will happen. There are only 2 candidates on that list who from my knowledge have any grasp of the ecological and environmental issues, but I suspect neither will make it a major element of their election bid.  

Hustings as in number of are being hotly debated, but why I wonder.  In all my time campaigning in local, county and national election in the UK I never had a candidate hustings.  That only ever happened in student elections and in candidate selection meetings.  The format with more than a handful of candidates leaves no scope for debate , no means to challenge other candidates positions and policies.  Just like the vapid statements so often put out as manifestos, it reduces the whole affair to little more than a name recognition  exercise for the public.  I guess that suits those with dubious to shredded records to defend , or in our system not have to defend. 

I am not against having hustings.  I've done them and I think it is good the electorate have an opportunity to see the candidates and hear someething of them.  However it is to my mind inadequate and insufficient for the reasons given above.  

Friday, 29 July 2016

Must try harder...

I did a piece for ITV Channel News yesterday in response to an item the appeared on the Bailiwick Express site.   I believe it wasn't used.

The original piece was childcare recruitment jersey has serious image problem

I do not doubt they are having problems recruiting, but I am sceptical to say the least about the reason given.  We know other caring professions - nursing and teaching come to mind- where recruitment is also a problem. That indicates to me there is a systemic problem.  Further, I have seen no evidence of a properly conducted survey on the reasons recruitment is so difficult  in social work, let alone the results of any such survey.  

I have one other reason  why I am doubtful.  It is the nature of vocational work  like childcare.  People who have a vocation want to make a difference .  You do that by going where there is a problem or a need, as long as you feel you can change or improve things.  Well Jersey has a need, and any quick online search would confirm that.  It isn't a deterrent, if anything the opposite.

But my real anger is the  use of that tired  meme  the 'Image of Jersey'.   It has been used all along by those who wanted to refute the evidence of abuse in our care system, and by those who wanted to deny having a Committee of Inquiry. And it is the mindset that is at the heart of the problem.,  The moment someone in authority -a manger or a politician decides himself, or instructs a junior to prioritise the Image of Jersey there is a problem. The idea that it would be better to keep this quiet, not make an issue or a fuss, because it would look bad of the island, that is where the canker festers and the cover ups begin. It is the most rotten of mindsets.

I was reminded of a quote of Gandhi - first they ignore you , then they laugh at you , then they fight you , then you win.  Survivors in Jersey were ignored, their claims were ridiculed, they have continued to fight, so the next step....  It may take a long time.  You only have to look at  time it took for campaigners at Hillsborough or North Wales to see justice ( Indeed I am coming to the conclusion it will take the passing of a generation of vested interests before the real truth gets out.  Too late for far too many who suffered so much, and denying justice to many.

The piece that ITV did show:

Thursday, 14 July 2016

A consultation offer from the Borg.

If you have a mind to you can read the grand plans for the digital takeover of Jersey .  See  Digital Policy Framework  Helpfully they even tell you what questions you should consider and respond to.  My advice - dont' bother. There are much bigger better questions and issues then those you are invited to consider.

You might also wonder if it is worth your time.  As this press released item digital jersey and population office  demonstrates it has already been agreed that 30 licenses will be given to the digital sector ahead of any outcome of  the consultation. As they say in politics: never ask in public a question to which you do not already know the answer.   Where I would like to know is the research to demonstrate we do not have the skills and knowledge locally?  How does Digital Jersey  and the Population Office account for having highly skilled and experienced local software developers in the island working in other sectors ?  Why cannot it attract them (hint: it isn't about the money).

The policy document reminds me of the sort of think I used to read in the '90's working on AI systems and research.  Lots of overblown and politically unacceptable stuff from business and tech heads on what is possible, lots of big claims economically about transformation etc, but almost nothing on societal impact, ethics or principles. More of a sales and marketing pitch than a policy discussion  and certainly not a well rounded integrated piece.

How about a few quotes from the draft.

'Where will Jersey be in another 10 years?'  That is the only time frame I can see in the document.  It is not inappropriate to have a 10 year view, but tricky  - I'll come on to some the technological changes others expect to happen in the next ten years another day. See if you think some of these other quotes make sense on a ten year view, if  they are in fact acceptable at all.
“Digital technology will be the backbone of Jersey's economic activity”.   Bye-bye finance?

“Digital will be the default format for all economic activity”. Yes by default Jersey Royals will be exported digitally.  3D print your own Royals on demand , perhaps.   

How about page 7 " Government has responsibility to ensure every Islander has the skills they need to thrive in a digital economy."  Sound sensible to you?  How about if I rewrote it as Government has responsibility to ensure every Islander has the skills they need to thrive in a finance based economy  or Government has responsibility to ensure every Islander has the skills they need to thrive in a car based society." NO.

The centrally planned economy dictated from our authoritarian overlords doesn't stop at telling us what jobs we may work at.   Under government digital transformation we have 9. Develop and implement an effective Digital ID for all Islanders.
Yes under the new totally digital economy you will be uniquely identified.  Every move interaction and location will have the potential to be tracked, logged  and preserved by the government for what means?     You think they wont?  Not our nice friendly cuddly Government, surely! 

Try this then, they are thinking to collect your personal data to sell to private companies.  Truly.  
Make better use of government data for the benefit of the public and private sector: Alongside the direct advantages of moving government services online, Islanders will also benefit indirectly from the wealth of data these services will provide. This data will enable public officials to make better policy decisions, based on more detailed and up-to-date evidence. Furthermore, if this data could be made available to the private sector, the benefits could be multiplied. The public sector – both government and state owned companies – in Jersey collects a wealth of data that, if disseminated appropriately, has the potential to be a useful raw material for digital businesses in the Island.

I like the throw away comment, cited as a challenge " A small minority of Islanders still do not have access to the internet".  They will be complaining that using cash  undermines the digital economy next.  That is the choice people must have in an open society.  It may be very inconvenient  to Ministers perception of the Island as a business , but we are not all slaves or State employees. 

I have a different way of looking at these things.  I see computers/ IT /digital to be the servant of people, not the tools to trap, ensnare  and control them.  I think Government should be a tool of the people....

If you give up your freedom to really choose for a few paper token of fiat currency , you will end up with no individual identity, no personal choice beyond which part you would like to be in the great machine.  

Sunday, 26 June 2016

We can have our say , sort of.

There's a lot more to the arguments both ways over this if we're being serious.  But with so many constitutional issues  around we really ought to give some thought to this Facebook posting.

"There is an impish thought that came to me while I was directing traffic for the Sunset Concert yesterday. It just wont go away, so I'm going to put it on paper and see if that helps.

Quite a few people in Jersey were pretty peeved that we didn't have a vote in the recent referendum. Logical of course as we have never been in the EC/EU we cannot have a referendum to leave . The only way we could have a vote would be to have a referendum to join the EU ! What constitutional merriment that would be for the UK trying to leave. 

The main obstacle to us being in would be open borders. We are already densely populated. But the States population policy is such a dire failure even on their own targets would it actually make any difference? Worried about VAT, why? - we already have it effectively called GST. If Luxembourg and Gibraltar can survive in we surely could too.

Membership would get rid of the discriminatory passport stamp for Islanders, would allow farmers to claim agriculture subsidies. We might even be able to get help for projects like rebuilding sea defences and putting in solar and tidal power. Our finance and local banks would keep passporting rights so they could trade around Europe when UK entities might not when they leave.

In effect we flip the whole relationship to retain a degree of distinctiveness and differentiation from the UK. Jersey and the other Crown dependencies have always thrived on being the same but different.

So there it is. The proposition - Jersey should seek formal membership of the European Union."

Monday, 20 June 2016

Such a small thing...

It raining now, so with the branchage preparations done  I'm going to try to write this piece again.  Every time something new comes up that seems to impinge upon it.  The latest locally at least was the handling of a report by the States, but of that perhaps later.

There is something in the political air.  It can be sensed all around. The election of Corbyn as Labour leader was an early sign.  The tidal wave of support for Bernie Sanders, unlikely as he is to actually win the US Democratic nomination, and even the popularity of Trump  in his party all seem to be connected. But it goes beyond political leadership and extends to many aspect of life.  Let me give you a list to get you going.

  • Valeant
  • Takata air bags;
  • Tennis
  • Toshiba's accounts
  • Turing Pharmaceuticals / Martin Shkreli 
  • Amateur Athletics
  • FIFA
  • Volkswagen  (& other car manufacturers)

I could have added a few heads of countries, and the odd UK  specific like the police actions in respect of the Birmingham 6 and Hillsborough, and MP's expenses scandal, and now election campaign expense limit breaches too.  And I deliberately left out the banks with their continuing list of fines for failings and fixes of just about everything from the price of gold to Fx.

In short trust.  Some of them outright cheated, others conspired to mislead, some just abused their position.  That's not really new or surprising, though the scale and breadth of it seems unprecedented. in modern times.  There is a sense that different rules are applied to those in exalted positions of influence and responsibility from ordinary citizens.

Where these problems meet the political agenda is that for ordinary mortals the only source of protection from these gigantic and often very well financed organisations lays with the legal and government functions.  If you have doubts or a lack of trust in those, what do you do?

My suspicion, and I have no evidence for it, is the reason Corbyn, Sanders, Trump are doing unexpectedly well is because they are somewhat outside of what you might term the circus.  They don't run to media spin doctors, they don't have to consult private polls and research before giving their opinion on something.   They give the sense that they might actually be telling you what they think (obnoxious as it might be in some cases) rather than what they are told the electorate wants to hear.  

Some might call that character - they each have something of that, even if you find it distasteful.  They none of them falls into the grey anonymous mold that so many technical political operators do.  And it is not new. Over 2,500 years ago Solon advised  to put more trust in nobility of character than in an oath. 

There is a quote attributed to Einstein that I am frequently reminded of when I read things locally : whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

I'll leave it to readers to fill in their own list of where States members and especially Ministers have been rather careless with the truth.  Examples are not hard to recall.  I have no data to tell where Jersey would appear on a list such as the one below.  We might have some evidence when the current Shaping our Future survey results are published. (

If you think there isn't a problem to be addressed locally, perhaps you can explain to be the 0 rating  we had for civic engagement , taken from the official Figures in Jersey 2014.  Such a smal thing, so smal its not even there. I think that is somewhat indicative of a huge trust  issue.