Thursday, May 21, 2009

Justice seen to be done (choose own punctuation:- "!"/ "?")

21st May
I’m sure that JDA supporters are shocked at the harshness of the fines imposed on Geoff and Shona in their court case, and disgusted with the coverage the JEP gave to Rod (bad loser) Bryans enabling him to express extreme views, in addition to their unsympathetic editorial.
Their fines could not have been heavier if they had engaged in the bribery, fraud and interference with the ballot that some have inaccurately accused them of. Even if you take the view that as they broke the law and needed to be punished, these fines are outrageous for hard-working deputies who have no means other than their States Members’ pay. Moreover, any unbiased person who attended the hearing could not fail to be shocked by the evidence that was presented about the course of the debate that led to the introduction of this law. Many States members were of the opinion that helping someone to complete an application form constituted interference with the ballot, and others seemed to think that this law would bring them into line with the UK when in fact no such law exists in any other Commonwealth country. Even if this was not a deliberate device to nobble Shona and Geoff, it does seem that the IQs and comprehension skills of some States Members fall short of what one would wish.
Meanwhile, I’m sure that Shona and Geoff would like to thank all those who have sent messages of support at this difficult time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sympathy and Hope

Tuesday, 19th May

It was heartening to see that at the recent AGM, members were sympathetic to Geoff and Shona, who are facing sentencing for breaking the electoral law tomorrow. They appreciate that they were giving much needed help to people to encourage or enable them to vote. And yet the JEP still snipe at them when the question of States Members behaviour is mentioned to the point where it is hard to see that they will receive a fair trial. Current behaviour by MPs in the UK should put this into perspective. Geoff and Shona have not acted to feather their own nests, and have not been guilty of deceit any more than they are guilty of self-serving. Some may say that they have unfairly tried to gain votes, but is it wrong for them to help obtain a vote for the very people who would have most to gain from having them as States Members: the over-worked, the housebound and the vulnerable? Wasn’t the law introduced to discourage such people from voting so the establishment candidates could triumph? So please give kind thoughts to Geoff and Shona who will face the ordeal of the Royal Court tomorrow and hope that the powers that be will be lenient.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Wrong Way to Fill a Black Hole

I see today that there is to be another taxation Black Hole. Let us hope that in filling it Terry will look to those who are most able to pay in order to fill it. I fear he won’t because of the sacred cow of not raising the 20% tax rate and the fear that the wealthy, being mobile, will leave. Has he not noticed that the most mobile in our society, who are leaving because they simply can’t afford to live here, are those young professionals – from trainee accountants to nurses – not yet on the housing ladder, that we desperately need. Low and middle earners are suffering from 20 means 20 on top of the burden of GST on essentials, and I know several who are planning to leave. Of course the zero/ten policy could be re-examined, but that seems also to have sacred cow status.

This brings me to the plan to freeze public servants’ pay. It always seems to be a popular measure because of the conception of public servants as highly paid fat cats pushing bits of paper around. The reality is that the bulk of them are teachers, doctors nurses, paramedics etc. who are increasingly in short supply. You may be told that there is no shortage of teachers, but whereas this may true in the primary sector, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit specialist secondary teachers. Posts are sometimes filled with applicants that are not ideal. This recruitment difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that pensions for new appointees are worse than in the UK, and conditions of working, especially in terms of lunch duties are worse than in the UK. It seems to me that Terry is being opportunistic in suggesting the pay freeze, and has not really thought through the consequences. There is no real need for the measure at the present time, as 2% has been allowed in departmental budgets. He is exploiting fears of unemployment and the fact that many in the finance sector are suffering pay freezes. Does this mean that when those in the finance sector are receiving whopping rises those in the public sector will too. You can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t. In times of inflation, public sector workers are expected to suffer lower than inflation pay rises in order to take the heat out of the economy. It seems only fair that now the economy needs thawing out, their income levels should be maintained in real terms. Perhaps there is a case for giving flat rate increases, as the lowest paid actually put all their income back into the economy ; the argument Terry uses for opposing this is that the lowest paid in the public sector are better off than those in the private sector. Is it reasonable to justify his actions by those of bad employers who pay starvation wages?

Not Yes-man enough for the Job?

Congratulations to Geoff for putting up such a good showing when standing for Health Minister. Many thought he gave a much better speech than Anne Pryke, but of course the Chief Minister’s choice prevailed. Once again Terry has not dared to have someone who is not a ‘yes’ person amongst his ministers. Interestingly the JEP Comment, while conceding that as a champion of the underdog Geoff would be suitable for the post, said that as a leading figure in the ‘opposition’ he did not seek consensus. But without opposition where is the need for consensus? At the moment we seem to have dictatorship rather than a drawing together of ideas. To quote William Blake ‘without contraries is no progression’.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

An Undesirable Consequence of Zero-Ten

Deputy Geoff Southern has always been willing to stand up for public sector workers, where others see them as scapegoats and soft targets. So, it came as no surprise to me that he was arguing a case against freezing their pay in these troubled times this week.

On the other hand, I do not feel that it was quite as sharp a line of reasoning as I have come to expect from him. Indeed, restricting their spending power does keep that money out of the economy. However, that money has to be withdrawn from the economy by taxation in the first place, to be available to pay salaries with. At least as much, and probably more of the tax will be taken from local taxpayers as will be locally spent by the civil servants who are paid with it.

Before Zero-Ten, of course, we looked to raise as much tax as possible from overseas. In those days, States wages were an effective trickle-down mechanism for bringing that bounty into the local economy. However, the Zero-Ten proposal quite explicitly stated an intention that local residents should become the principal source of tax revenue, and set about slashing the take from those who use Jersey from afar without being genuinely part of our economy and community.

Geoff's ideas could become right again, if we could dismantle Zero-Ten. The catch being now, that it would be difficult to abandon it at this stage, without frightening away more business than we got back into the net. It does need to go in the medium term, but it will have to be whittled away in a subtle series of stealth taxes. Before that, though, we need to find another generation of political leaders as shrewd as those in the 60s, who saw that tax capture would bring us far more prosperity than just skimming what went round inside the island. The present Ministers don't seem to get that they are on an unsound path at present.
Dave Rotherham