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Runways, elections and a party...

Runways, elections and a party...

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Runways, elections and a party...

Tuesday 13 December 2022

EYE ON POLITICS digs deeper behind the headlines to help you make sense of the goings-on in Guernsey politics. Including taking a closer look at the agenda for meetings of the States' Assembly.

Here's your EYE ON POLITICS digest for this week's States' meeting...

The two parties represented at the start of this political term may not have enjoyed the success they hoped. In the two years since, the smallest, the Guernsey Party, has shrunk a third smaller still, and the largest, the Partnership of Independents, no longer exists. 

But one party is more resilient: the States' Christmas party. On the first day of their mid-December meeting - which this year is tomorrow - States' members and officials who serve the Assembly always gather for a festive luncheon followed by crackers and a few humorous words from the Bailiff.


Pictured: States' members will get into the Christmas spirit tomorrow when they enjoy their annual festive bash.

For many years, these shindigs were organised by former Deputy Mary Lowe. In those days - when deputies could disagree without despising each other - almost every member attended and many partners too.

Attendance these days may not be quite what it was, although I'm told rumours are exaggerated of Deputies Peter Ferbrache and Gavin St. Pier organising their own separate banquets. I also understand that one kind soul has extended an invitation for Mrs Lowe to attend as a guest tomorrow, possibly in recognition of her spending many more hours in the States' chamber this year than some of those whose job it is to be there.

At one time, business for this meeting was so light that it looked as if the Assembly might not have to return after its party. But then there were resignations from committees, an IT meltdown, which meant debate on Alderney's runway had to be deferred, and a flood of questions from self-appointed scrutineer-in-chief Deputy St. Pier. 

And so it is that the States will need to sit beyond one half-day. And journalists will again be able to play the game of spotting who among the less effervescent members is first to lose the battle against an after-party snooze.  


Pictured: Concerns about the handling of a planning application to develop Leale's Yard are at the centre of Deputy Andrew Taylor's resignation from the Development & Planning Authority.

The first item on the States' agenda tomorrow is a statement from Deputy Andrew Taylor following his rather dramatic resignation as Vice President of the Development & Planning Authority on the morning of its highest-profile open planning meeting in years. 

His statement is eagerly awaited because when he announced his resignation he alleged that others on the Authority had at the very least mismanaged and perhaps even acted improperly over the Co-op's application to develop Leale's Yard.

If his statement is clear and substantiates his most serious claims, there may be trouble ahead for the Authority, even to the point where survival could require its President, Deputy Victoria Oliver, to mine the undoubted reserves of loyalty she has conscientiously built up with influential members of the Policy & Resources Committee over the past two years. 


Pictured: Deputy Victoria Oliver, the President of the Development & Planning Authority, and Deputy Andrew Taylor, the Authority's outgoing Vice President.

The Authority needs two new members to replace Deputy Taylor and - following an unrelated resignation - Deputy Bob Murray.

As I was typing my understanding that Deputies Chris Blin and Christopher Le Tissier were the front runners to secure the Authority's backing, a statement was received from Deputy Oliver confirming her nominations of them and saying "they will make a valuable contribution to our mandate as we seek to act as an enabler for the economy and preserve and enhance what makes Guernsey a great place to live".

At least two other candidates are considering standing. And then there is the question of whether Deputy Taylor, if he emerges stronger from his resignation statement, could even be persuaded to stand for re-election to the Authority. 

He will have enough time to consider his options if the States follow their published agenda, which between Deputy Taylor's resignation statement and the elections to the Authority features 14 separate questions to various committee presidents - and possibly urgent questions, too - and the election of a member to the vacant seat on the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture.


Pictured: The President of the Development & Planning Authority, Deputy Victoria Oliver, confirmed this morning that she will nominate Deputies Christopher Le Tissier (left) and Chris Blin (right) to fill the two vacant seats on her committee. 

Deputy John Gollop has submitted two sets of questions: one set to the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure about bus services and one set to the Committee for Health & Social Care about staff shortages.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby will ask questions of the Policy & Resources Committee about its responsibility for information technology across the States following the hugely disruptive IT failures which affected services and users for several days recently.

Deputy St. Pier's questions are to the Committee for Health & Social Care about its takeover of St. John's Residential Home and its failure, thus far at least, to publish a key report about safeguarding of children and to the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture about its increasingly problematic reorganisation of secondary and further education. 


Pictured: Deputy Gavin St. Pier will make another attempt to persuade the Committee for Health & Social Care to release an independent report on safeguarding practices which he says the author of the report is happy to see published. 

That reorganisation of education is, of course, the backdrop to the election of a new member of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to replace Deputy Murray. 

A majority of the remaining members of the Committee may be alarmed at the prospect of Deputy Andy Cameron being joined on the Committee by a fellow sceptic of their plan to spend tens of millions of pounds to move sixth form studies from Les Varendes to Les Ozouets just a week after they kicked their builders off site and admitted the project faces further delays (and quite possibly needs a lot more dosh, if my sources are correct).

And so the Committee has reportedly resisted Deputy Aidan Matthews' interest in filling the vacant seat and instead looks set to nominate Alderney Representative Steve Roberts. Deputy Matthews is weighing up whether to stand from the floor, as they say, i.e. without the Committee's support.


Pictured: The Committee for Education, Sport & Culture needs to fill a vacancy at a sensitive time for its comprehensive reorganisation plans having just lost the construction partner on its flagship post-16 campus.

Win or lose, that election certainly won't be the last we hear of Mr Roberts at this week's States' meeting because the most substantial - indeed only substantial - policy item on the agenda is the future of Alderney airport.

The States' Trading Supervisory Board and the Policy & Resources Committee - with the almost fervent backing of the States of Alderney - want a budget of around £25million to extend and refurbish the island's runway and construct a new terminal building.

It has become one of those debates characterised by slightly exaggerated claims on both sides. 

Mr Roberts and his also recently re-elected fellow Alderney Representative Alex Snowdon will paint a picture of the island they love in terminal decline if the States agree only to refurbish (at roughly half the cost) and not extend its runway and redevelop its terminal building.

Deputy Lyndon Trott - Alderney's bête noire or a voice of realism, depending on who you believe - will warn the States they are being asked to fund a project which per capita is the equivalent of spending more than £700m on Guernsey's runway.


Pictured: A motion from Deputy Yvonne Burford is likely to dominate debate on the future of Alderney's runway.

Enter Deputies Yvonne Burford and Soulsby, who have submitted a sursis motivé which really should have been an amendment, and which they now hope to replace with an amendment on the day, calling for the States to decide whether or not to extend Guernsey's runway before reaching a conclusion on Alderney's.

On the face of it, this seems logical, so long as there is only a minimal delay to essential work on Alderney's runway.

The logic being first that extending Guernsey's runway could well imperil Aurigny, and therefore much of the rationale for extending in Alderney, and second that the Committee for Economic Development clearly need a good kick up the backside to submit its long-awaited and almost certainly unnecessarily delayed proposals on the length of Guernsey's runway.

Logic...the States...?

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