Before getting stuck into my “What’s On in the States” blog, a quick note on data protection: if you’re receiving a copy of this blog by email, it’s because you signed up for updates via my website. Because you chose to opt in, there’s no need to re-confirm your interest, as other emails have probably asked you to do; but if you want to stop receiving updates at any time, please just use the link at the bottom of the email to unsubscribe. (Equally, if you’re finding these updates unhelpful, but have suggestions for improvements, please feel free to send those my way!) Now is a good time to mention that a “Fair Processing Notice” explaining how Deputies may collect and use data in our various roles is available on the States’ website here.
Now, on to the blog …
The States will meet twice in June, and both meetings are significant. The first meeting starts on 5 June with updates to the Policy and Resource Plan, and is followed by ordinary business of the States. The second meeting will begin on 26 June, with consideration of the States’ Accounts. This update deals with the first of the two meetings.
Billet d’Etat XV – 5 June 2018 (read it online here)
The only item to be considered on Tuesday 5 June is the Policy and Resource Plan – 2017 Review and 2018 Update (read it here).
There are twenty-three priorities within the Policy and Resource Plan: summarised here.These are the areas of government business which the States considers essential to deliver within this term. On average, that’s just over 3 priorities per Committee – reasonable and achievable in theory, but some of the policy areas are naturally very complex.
The aim of the Policy and Resource Plan was always to find a coherent way of prioritising the work of government towards a common goal (in this case, making Guernsey one of the “healthiest and happiest places in the world”), and to ensure that resources were there to support what we collectively deem to be the essential work. It has hit many of the same problems of all the government service plans and strategic policy plans that came before it, but it is at least helpful to be able to have these periodic debates where we look across the whole business of government and assess whether we’re doing the right thing.
The priorities for this term include economic development generally, and specific initiatives relating to air and sea links; Brexit (not perhaps a priority we’d have chosen, but we can’t fail to respond to the changes happening around us); digital connectivity; and the enhancement of the Town Harbour area. The transformation of secondary and post-16 education and lifelong learning is, unsurprisingly, an important priority in light of our decision to remove the 11-plus. There is also a general focus on improving education outcomes overall. On the side of home affairs, priorities include an equally broad look at justice policy (from fraud to hate crime, domestic abuse, sexual offences and modern slavery), and a specific focus on security and cyber security.
Health-related priorities focus on prevention (promoting good health and wellbeing), as well as transforming the working of the health and care system in light of our changing population, and ensuring there is effective regulation in place. The States also agreed a number of flagship policies – including Supported Living and Ageing Well (to provide sustainable long-term care to an ageing population); the Children and Young People’s Plan; the Disability and Inclusion Strategy; and the creation of a new welfare system known as Income Support – which it falls to this States to deliver.
From an environmental perspective, government priorities include energy policy, infrastructure, and affordable housing. Population management is an ongoing priority for the States, as is work to meet international standards, and the establishment of a medium-term financial plan.
This debate allows each Committee to provide an update on how it has progressed the priority work that falls within its mandate. It also allows P&R and the Scrutiny Management Committee to give their views on how the overall process is working – P&R’s views are in the body of the policy letter, while Scrutiny have submitted a letter of comment.
There are five amendments to the Plan. The Soulsby-Tooley amendment makes it clear that HSC will be re-assessing the way we make decisions about funding (medical) drugs and treatments, as part of our overall work on the health system. The Le Clerc-Langlois amendment asks the States to confirm its support for ESS to work on introducing a full Equality Law (including protection against discrimination for disabled people and carers), rather than working on separate discrimination laws for different disadvantaged groups within society. I’ve written a couple of twitter threads here and here which might be helpful in explaining the impact of this.
My first amendment, with Deputy Hansmann Rouxel, removes a number of proposals relating to performance measurement which, we thought, risked adding too much bureaucracy and artificial deadlines that would draw officers away from work on the actual priorities. (This one should be replaced by a compromise amendment from P&R next week, after a discussion about our concerns.) My second amendment, with Deputy Tindall, directs a review of the Transformation & Transition Fund, which is supposed to provide start-up funding to transformation initiatives, but which seems to have been very slow to get off the ground – and, anecdotally, is pretty difficult for Committees to access. We understand that P&R are happy to accept this amendment. Finally, the Soulsby-Prow amendment directs P&R to work up SLAs with Committees so that, as more and more support services are centralised, there is a clear agreement of the standard of service that Committees need, and where accountability sits if things go wrong – an amendment which links in with the Chief Executive’s first annual report (attached to the P&R Plan), more so than the policy priorities.
Following the P&R Plan debate, which could overspill into Wednesday, we will move on to the ordinary States’ agenda.
Billet d’Etat XIII and XVI – 6 June 2018 (read it online here)
The States of Election (which includes Jurats, Church and Parish representatives, as well as Deputies) will meet first to elect a new Jurat.
Statements and Questions
After the Jurat election, there will be update statements from the Presidents of the Committee for Employment & Social Security and of the Transport Licensing Authority. There do not appear to have been any questions submitted for this States Meeting.
There are three statutory instruments to be noted by the States. These include a change to liquor licensing fees, an addition to the medical benefit list and, most importantly, a development relating to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers law – the law which governs what the State is, or is not, allowed to do, in terms of surveillance of citizens, interception of communications and data, and so on.
Under the law, the Bailiff is required to appoint a Judge of the Court of Appeal as “Commissioner” – a role which is responsible for overseeing the way in which powers are being used under the law. The Bailiff may also appoint “Assistant Commissioners” who have had experience as judges. This ordinance would allow the Bailiff to appoint Assistant Commissioners from non-judicial backgrounds, if they fit the other criteria for the role.
These statutory instruments have been made and will continue in force unless the States decides to annul any of them. But there are also six items of law to be approved by the States.
The European Union (Brexit) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2018 explains how European law will apply in Guernsey before and after ‘Brexit’ (the day the UK leaves the EU, expected to be 29 March 2019). At the moment, the European Communities law allows EU law to have effect locally: that will be repealed on the day the UK leaves the EU. But the existing body of EU laws, that we’re used to working with, will be preserved until a decision is made to stop or change it. This allows for a gentler, more considered transition, in which we can ensure that we don’t suddenly lose critical parts of our legal framework without having a clear alternative in place. The law does, however, give the Policy and Resources Committee, and its equivalents in Alderney and Sark, substantial powers to repeal or amend, so there is still a plausible risk of this happening without proper consideration of the policy implications.
The International Trade Agreements (Implementation) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2018 is also part of our response to Brexit. If the States wants to enter into new international trade agreements, it will need to be able to recognise those agreements in law. It may also similarly need to be able to recognise the outcome of trade disputes arising under those agreements. This new law should give us the power to do so – but it doesn’t commit us to any particular international trade agreement, for the time being.
The Income Support (Implementation) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 and the Alderney (Application of Legislation) (Income Support) Ordinance, 2018 are among the last steps towards putting the new system of welfare benefits, known as Income Support, in place. The new system is expected to go live in July, and Employment & Social Security have been working hard to make sure everyone who’ll be affected is contacted. (If you think you should have heard something, but haven’t, please get in touch.) This ordinances confirm in law, for both Guernsey and Alderney, the changes which the States have agreed – including new benefit rates and allowances, and the introduction of an “extra needs” allowance. For more information about the Income Support scheme, see: here.
The Income Tax (Guernsey) (Approval of Agreement with San Marino) Ordinance, 2018 is a routine approval of an updated information-sharing agreement about tax matters, under the Income Tax Law. The full range of agreements is available here.
The Electoral System Referendum (Guernsey) Law, 2018 (Commencement) Ordinance, 2018 puts into effect the law governing the island-wide voting referendum, which will take place on 10 October 2018. The law includes provisions about campaign groups, spending, and how the vote will be carried out, among other things.
Propositions and Policy Letters
There are two further items of business, both from the States Trading Supervisory Board. One relates to the replacement of the cremator, and the other to the management of States’ land and property more generally.
The Replacement Cremator and Emissions Equipment recommends replacing the current cremation equipment at the Foulon, which is nearing the end of its useful life, with two new bariatric cremators. The changes would require some redevelopment of the Foulon site, and changes to the current parking arrangements – leading to more parking, but further away from the crematorium.
The policy letter notes that there are drawbacks to this option, especially in respect of accessibility and memorialisation. Disappointingly little information is included in the policy letter, with Deputies referred to an outline business case which is available at Frossard House – from a governance perspective, this is a poor approach in terms of ensuring States Members have considered relevant information ahead of the debate. Having considered the policy letter and the business case, and discussed it with fellow States Members, I’m not convinced by the recommendation, and am considering whether anything constructive can be done at this stage to pursue alternatives.
The policy letter on Optimising the Use of the States’ Land and Property Portfolio sets out a new operating model for the management of States’ properties and land, which follows the general trend of centralising support services across the States. As ever, the aim is to support more coherent use of States-owned space, and to increase value for money and improve customer service. The States’ Trading Supervisory Board anticipates that it will need £1million in start-up funding from the Transformation and Transition Fund to make the necessary changes.
There is one appendix report (which won’t be debated unless someone tables a motion to do so): the annual report of the Responsible Officer (the senior doctor who is responsible for ensuring that doctors working locally remain ‘fit to practice’, in line with GMC requirements). The report covers appraisals of doctors, revalidation recommendations, management of concerns and referrals to the GMC. It notes ongoing good progress with this regulatory regime, which is still fairly new to Guernsey.