Tomorrow’s States debate may not contain the biggest headline topics, but there’s plenty on the table to keep our elected officials busy. A grab bag of issues originally meant for debate on the 15 February, but pushed to this month due to a mammoth tax debate. With both the presidents of Policy and Resources and Economic Development set to give statements, and the meeting coming after weeks of political discourse surrounding the DPA, it's worth digging into what’s up for debate.
There are several items that have the potential to both drag on and generate heated discussion. First, the proposition from the Development and Planning Authority to essentially police how the public present their property. Secondly, STSB’s report on Guernsey Post; prudent following the news this week that 35 workers have taken voluntary redundancy. Then there’s a revisit of glyphosate through a Requête, several appointments, and the opportunity for deputies to wax lyrical about housing (E&I’s Strategic Housing Indicator) and themselves (SACC questions).
The so-called ‘Tidy Police’ could prove to be the biggest debate of this month’s meeting. The DPA is asking for the power to hand owners and occupiers of property and land “civil notices” if the Authority deems the land has fallen into a state that “adversely impacts the amenity of the area”. If agreed, it would give the DPA powers to serve notices, commission remedial works if the owner does not, and then recover the costs of said work. It has already received two amendments, the first from Deputy Neil Inder who wants to avoid the development of a ‘snoopers charter’.
Pictured: Deputy Inder wants to avoid a 'snoopers chart'.
“Signatories to this Amendment do not feel it is the business of government, its Authorities or elected representatives to interfere in the private lives of owner(s) or occupier(s) of private dwellings. It is a fundamental right to of everyone in the Island to live how they please on their own property,” the first amendment states.
“The Policy Letter has some merit in areas where derelict commercial property may hamper or hinder the development of certain areas of St Peter Port and the Bridge. However, the inclusion of residential property in the Policy Letter serves no purpose for useful debate on economic grounds.”
Deputy Inder and the seconder of the amendment, Deputy Adrian Gabriel, suggest that the “amenity” element of the proposal is entirely subjective and argue that it could lead to people being outed on social media. A second amendment seeks to reinforce the need for the proposed policy to apply to States owned land as well.
While Guernsey Post announced an operating profit of £1.6million at the tail-end of 2022, it hasn’t been able to escape a decline of core letter revenues of 10% every year. It has also suffered from a change in its agreement with Royal Mail "worsening our contractual terms by £4million” according the Chief Executive of Guernsey Post, Boley Smilie. And while its operating profit is in the millions, it has dropped from 2021’s operating profit of £2.7million. The Post has since begun a "a carefully considered investment plan to restructure" which, most recently, saw 35 operational workers take voluntary redundancy. Expect Deputy Peter Roffey to field questions on what exactly is going on.
Two names synonymous with each other; glyphosate and Deputy David De Lisle. At this point it seems to be an almost pointless issue to bring back to the States. Deputy De Lisle and six other signatories have brought a Requête to the States to try and force debate on the total ban of the weedkiller, glyphostate. The product is something that Deputy De Lisle has voraciously campaigned against for years, and he welcomed a decision by the Health and Safety Executive last year to ban it for sale to the public. However, it is still available for use by accredited professionals and Deputy De Lisle intends to put a stop to this too.
Pictured: Glyphosate has already been banned for general retail.
It appears to be an appeal that is set to lose, as it lacks support from any committee. The Requête received several letters of opposition, including from the Committee for Environment & Infrastructure, with Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez arguing that, while it is a product that should be phased out, its immediate and sudden ban could lead to alternative – worse – products being used. Meanwhile, P&R raised concerns that a legal challenge could be raised by the manufacturer and complications could arise from a ban not applying to Sark and Alderney. Guillotine?
The presidents of P&R and ED will kick off the meeting with statements about their committee’s work, and there’ll be an election to replace Deputy Sam Haskins, who left Environment & Infrastructure to become the Vice-President for Education, Sport & Culture. There’ll be an opportunity for deputies to bemoan the island’s expensive and inaccessible housing market, while being asked to agree the States Strategic Housing Indicator of 1,565 new units of housing between 2023 and 2027, and the States Assembly & Constitution Committee has proposed changes to the rules surrounding ‘statements & questions’ giving deputies ample time to talk about how they talk to each other.
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