I write this just after a long week of States debate on the Government plan. Also known as the Alliance Party manifesto and definitely not the Alliance Party manifesto. Schrodinger's manifesto from a party that simultaneously exists and doesn’t exist. At least that is consistent.
The debate was a mixed affair. I was very pleased to have finally had concessionary bus fares for 18 year olds and under agreed, after 3 years of bringing propositions to the Assembly. Vote here. But desperately disappointed to have 2 amendments to school funding lost in the debate by very close margins. The second being a tied vote with some members not voting. The vote to provide £10 million of additional funding to education to fund the Education Reform Review recommendations on school funding formulae is here.
Another great area of frustration was the nature of so many arguments in the debate. Frequently the issue of where the money was to be raised was the objection from the Alliance Party of government and their hangers on. Whilst at the same time setting up a Technology Fund of £20 million with no business case or idea of when or how it would be used. Technology seems to be a word bandied about by some like a modern day snake oil as a cure all for our future. But like snake oil, there will be many substitutes that are far from useful. And the Alliance Government budget for I.T. seems to be a bottomless pit or very magical money tree. But then ministers wasting money on this area seems to be something they are experienced in.
The frustration comes when the one amendment to actually raise funds, removing the Social Security Contributions cap, was then rejected. It seems the protection of very high earners is this Alliance Government's priority. The change would only have affected those with incomes over £250,000. Interestingly the leader of the Alliance Party had to withdraw from the debate as he had a direct interest due to his own earnings.
At the same sitting, an Assistant Minister in Social Security suggested that food banks were used by people who could not manage their finances:
"Does the Chief Minister agree that individuals accessing food banks can be done for various factors, not having [sufficient] income is one of them, but also not being able to manage their finances might also be another reason as to why individuals need to access food banks in Jersey?"
The Chief Minister sadly agreed with this comment. The reality for many is very different. If you are living week to week or month to month any extra cost can drive you into food bank use. Cars needing fixing to get to the early morning shift, emergency doctors appointments, children needing new shoes; the examples are many. I see this comment as at best inappropriate and at worst callous and uncaring. I hope the Christmas period will give members of the government a chance to reflect.
And this is a theme of the last 3 ½ years of this assembly. A growing divide between government and the majority of Jersey communities. A growing investment in the government communications unit. But still little or no support for backbenchers who fight to hold the Alliance government to account and stop the excesses.
So to finish this blog. I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year. I will continue to work with my colleagues to bring positive change to Jersey as we enter 2022. Who knows what this election year will bring. We in Reform Jersey will enter into it with hope and ambition for a better future for us all.
Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment that illustrates a paradox of quantum superposition. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.