Although Deputy Pitman makes mention of Assistant Home Affairs Minister Jackie Hilton, he does not, in my opinion, do justice to the appalling, dangerous and ignorant speech she made in the States on “Black Wednesday”. Deputy Pitman is aware that Team Voice will be publishing a Blog about Deputy Hilton as soon as the Hansard is available, so I am guessing this is why he did not dwell on the subject in this guest posting.
From Deputy Trevor Pitman.
Many would say that there have been a lot of dark days in the States under this Council of Ministers and they would be right of course. But Wednesday 15th September 2010 must be right up there amongst the very blackest. If you happen to care a jot about the future of this island’s children, that is. Not to mention believing that there is actually meant to be a balance between the development of the social and the economic when it comes to policy.
Trouble is if you are a politician stubborn - okay, maybe that should be stupid - enough to voice such opinions in this Assembly; an administration that is probably the most right-wing and arrogant with it since about 1944 then you are going to be a member of a heavily outnumbered minority. My God, for once even the Jersey Evening Post seemed to sense something wasn’t at all right here with the Thursday headline: “Cuts hit classroom…but the States find £400,000 to support finance!
Am I just a ‘leftie rebel’ being over the top again? Well, just consider the facts…
During the course of the debate on behalf of the ESC & Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel I attempted to persuade States Members to protect a long-standing agreement that costs the States just £33,000 per year which ensures our youngest children get to visit and participate in absolutely brilliant learning sessions at Durrell Wildlife.
You might have thought that ensuring our children get to learn – hands on – about the natural world and their place in it would be something that the Council of Ministers would appreciate as important. I mean…the Chief Minister was once upon a time actually a schoolteacher. And the learning opportunity offered by Durrell does actually cost the organisation more than the said grant to keep running But no.
Most of your representatives couldn’t give a damn. Okay, so there were a few Members who would definitely, or might have voted the right way not present – Deputy Shona Pitman and the Constable of St. Mary were both off ill after suffering bereavements; Deputies Roy Le Herissier and Kevin Lewis had incredibly seen fit to go on a CAP jaunt to Kenya (in Business Plan week!!!). But even then, the result of 31 -14 against says it all.
The Scrutiny Panel also tried our best to save the cutting of a Child Psychologist post. Surely we would be successful on this one – we had just had, in fairly quick succession the Williamson Report, the Vulnerable Children’s Services Review and the School Suspensions Review (the latter two both of which I sat on) and the need for support in this area couldn’t have been hammered home more forcibly. The sum involved was also just £88,000 for expertise that often actually saves lives.
Did any of this count? Not a jot. The amendment went down 33 – 13 as the ‘Couldn’t Give A Damn About Children’ Party closed ranks to bury this one too. Yet maybe the result was not even the worst bit? During the course of the debate both Deputy Jackie Hilton and Senator Paul Routier expressed the mind-boggling sentiment that regardless of their concerns at the cut of such a post they would be taking a chance and voting with the Council of Ministers as per instructions. I had to express my total disbelief of course, but it didn’t matter obviously. Maybe they can explain their thinking?…….. I can’t.
But maybe Deputy Geoff Southern would have some better luck? Surely eight school foreign language assistants at £67,000 would be valued? Nope. Even with Senator Ozouf feeling a sudden and unexpected pang of guilt this was battered down by the motley collection of right-wing ideologues, Hooray Henries and assorted wannabe Muppets who follow them 25 – 20.
School milk, then – this had to be winnable, surely? Deputy Southern, love him or loathe him, had fought and won this battle on no fewer than three previous occasions. Not this time. The excuses were startling. The Health Minister and then even ESC Assistant Minister, Deputy Anne Dupré pitching in to give one of her seemingly twice yearly contributions urging members to vote against.
Apparently this service had to stop: obesity, you know. Being a professionally qualified fitness instructor I did point out that anyone who would argue that small quantities of skimmed milk makes people fat must be as mad as a balloon - more likely factors being sugary drinks, unhealthy diet generally, and inadequate physical activity within schools these days - but to no avail. 30 – 14 once again to the ‘Couldn’t Give A Damn About Children’ Party.
Depressing it certainly was. And then we came to the Youth Service.
Okay, so I really should have known better than to bring this one. I apologise. I mean, what was I thinking of? So what that for obvious reasons I happen to know more about this department than the whole Council of Ministers put together? So what that, despite years of denials a confidential independent report had recently backed up exactly what I, and Deputy Shona Pitman before me, had said about the management structure I now wished to re-direct monies from being top heavy?
So what that the proposed ‘saving’ of £50,000 had been originally sold as investment in front-line services in the first place; and that I now wanted to invest this in some very key front-line areas like youth employment work; anti-social behaviour initiatives, political education raising awareness about democracy and the workings of government; and much-needed anti-racism initiatives that might just help put an end, for example, to the appalling attacks we have seen on foreign students, and contribute to a more tolerant community?
No, I was obviously being very foolish and the result showed it with another 33 – 12 defeat. I just wasn’t being realistic along with the other usual suspects who keep banging on about this need to balance the social with the economic, people matter type nonsense. After all, the Council of Ministers had made it quite clear with their stance on agriculture and tourism.
We had to make cuts.
Every department was the same.
There was no alternative.
Industries just had to face up to standing on their own two feet.
The world had changed…
And then the ‘Couldn’t Give A Damn About Children’ Party and their followers had bullied through a £400,000 increase to the Finance industry (2009 profits £809 million) for a ‘promotional’ office in Abu Dhabi…
Only £21,000 short of what it would have cost the States – and more importantly we taxpayers – to secure all of the initiatives for children and young people that I outline above…
And there would be a whole lot more to follow…
I had constituent meetings after the States on Wednesday night but when I got home around 9.30pm I admit I was feeling pretty dejected. Still, looking at my e-mails and listening to what totalled 23 contacts expressing complete disgust for the Council of Ministers’ actions I soon picked myself up.
Tomorrow would obviously be better, wouldn’t it? I mean, on behalf of the ESC & Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel I was bringing an amendment to secure funding for the ten years overdue anti-discrimination legislation.
Everyone in the States was against discrimination…….weren’t they???????????
Submitted by Deputy Trevor Pitman/VFC.