Thursday, 5 December 2013

Who Accounts For The Accounts ?

Does anyone check the States Tenants Rental Accounts before they are posted?  Are demanding / threatening  letters attached to all statements showing virtual arrears,even for the smallest amount?

Many tenants are unable to work out where discrepencies have occurred in the figures and will pay the amount demanded ;whilst this means their account will be in credit eventually,that money usually has to be taken from a diminishing weekly budget.

Help is not always available from the Housing Department, the staff are often unable to make sense of the figures and have a standard list of excuses ranging from tenant's error,computer error,Social Security Dept. error,to the desparate " It Wasn't Me! ".  When an error is proven apologies are not forthcoming.

In cases where a tenant is receiving an Income Support rental component (paid directly to the Housing Department) the amount being demanded is not the tenant's responsibility but due to the fact that the Social Security payment won't be received until a few days after the Rental Statement has been printed. There seems to be no communication between the two departments as to who is paying what to whom and when it will be paid.

What will happen next year when the Housing Department ceases to exist in its present form? Will confusion descend into complete chaos or will a sensible solution be found to stop tenants receiving worrying letters for money they do not owe?

Who will account for the accounts?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

ASBESTOS WARNING!!! but Jersey law more dangerous to health and wealth

Public discipline for the plebs – but secrecy for the Jersey law professionals…the discrimination continues.

Strange how things happen together…this week there was the first ever Health and Safety Tribunal public hearing at the Employment Tribunal office below JACS and behind the Ann Summer shop in Bath Street
This hearing concerned a UK based Asbestos Removal business (Solent) who had been stopped from operating in Jersey by the Health and Safety Inspectorate (HSI) of the Social Security Department.

The reason was that Solent – who have been in UK business for over 20 years – had the contract to remove asbestos from the flats at La Collette (15 floors of 4 flats per floor) but had made a simple mistake on their paperwork when the job was almost complete.
For this mistake their local permission to operate was withdrawn at six minutes notice and this was Solent’s appeal against that decision.

In fact Solent had already cleared the asbestos from several floors before they realised that it was simply not practical or safe to use 3 men and had reduced their team to 2 men only. That is, one man in the flat and one outside to monitor - as good practice usually allows in the UK.

As can be imagined, the space available within bathrooms especially was very restricted and for 2 men trying to operate wearing breathing gear and all the other protective apparatus and restrictive working methods, there just was no enough room. Often one of the men simply had to try to get out of the way whilst his workmate got on with the asbestos removal.

The mistake – for which Solent was to be struck off the local approved list – was that their revised plan of operation did not indicate two rather then three operatives on site as para 103 of the local regulations (as amended) indicated.

There had been no damage caused. Nobody was exposed to danger. The job had been completed to everybody’s satisfaction – but the bureaucracy had spotted a mistake and somebody had to be made an example of. As the chief inspector explained during the hearing, he took his regulatory and enforcement duties very seriously…and as Solent explained, they had reduced to two operatives for safety reasons!

In fact, the bureaucracy had failed to notice when the corrected plan as submitted by Solent indicated that two men only were to be used. Nobody had thought to censor the HSI for their own failure it seems….which was especially odd because their own inspector had written the very same  72 page Code and specifically drafted the amended paras 103 and 104 that uniquely required 3 operatives in Jersey.

Solent had made a mistake of course, but they were more used to UK practice and rules where two operatives would have been acceptable and where such on-site problems are easily resolved with the local HSI inspectors.

As the manager of Solent explained – conditions on a building site can be very different when the job is in progress to that which was presented at the “planning” stage. Thus for example, on the 15th floor at La Collette they found all the windows had been removed before they commenced working and they had to try to ensure a draught free secure environment so that no dust escaped!

Doubly worrying was that the Jersey HSI revealed during the hearing that they would advise the UK Licensing body about the suspension of Solent’s local permission and this could well have an adverse affect upon their business in the UK. Solent could lose their licence to operate in the UK and since asbestos removal is their only activity, they would stop trading and their 30 employees would cease working….so the simple error on the Jersey paperwork could prove to be a very onerous one.

Coincidentally or otherwise, the JEP carried two articles on 13 November the (the day of the hearing) regarding asbestos in Jersey. The large article featured the annual report of the Director of Jersey HSI explaining how “asbestos is a killer” and how over 4,000 people died in the UK each year following asbestos exposure.

The other smaller item described how 250 containers are being held at La Collette (the quayside depot – not the flats) containing hazardous asbestos waste and that there is deadlock between States’ Departments over what to do with them. Nobody has been sacked or faces loss of employment for this extraordinary situation although Deputy Luce has lodged a “vote of no confidence” against Minister of Environment Deputy Duhamel.

The contrast with the treatment of Solent is evident.

The same JEP page also featured an article re “States debate on legal aid needed”. This explained how Deputy Tadier is pressing Chief Minister Gorst for widespread legal reform – not least on the question of legal aid provision in Jersey

Of course, lawyers were very visible at the HSI Tribunal hearing. The Chair was Jersey lawyer Philip Syvret and his panel included Advocate Caroline Dorey (plus a Mr McCourt).
Solent was represented by Advocate Burns (?) of Le Gallais & Luce.

(Unfortunately this Tribunal like all others held here, refuses to uses a sound amplification system so that it is often difficult to hear everything – especially names – with clarity. Public engagement is not a strong point with these Tribunals as we have discussed on previous postings and the diary of proposed hearings is only stuck to JETs outside door weekly on a Friday afternoon…even case law and rules of procedure are difficult to determine!).

It occurred to this observer that such a hearing as this in public (as it should be) where expensive lawyers pick over every tiny detail trying to reveal the smallest imperfections in the lives of the general public – is in such contrast to their OWN treatment. After all, this hearing was really an appeal about a very arbitrary disciplinary process that threatened to remove the livelihoods of many people and was open to public gaze and reporting.
Yet Jersey lawyers – and other more privileged in this little community (such as the Police) – enjoy total privacy when they appear before a “disciplinary” panel. Why should this be?

This week too (Tuesday 12 November) also afforded an opportunity for Advocate Tim Hanson - President of the Jersey Law Society no less – to speak on Jersey’s Legal Aid system in the Institute of Law’s lunchtime lecture series.

Advocate Hanson (who does not reply to my telephone calls or emails) conceded (in a jokey sort of way) that lawyers are not very popular although he came - like Cicero – to praise rather than criticise the system. So the audience received more or less the usual PR statement with the supposed bonus that Jersey lawyers were currently looking at legal aid provision….
However, this President, just like all those who have gone before him, baulked at the suggestion that the public should be engaged NOW in these discussions… the Law Society  is not “club like” he protested and the public would have their chance to comment when the Chief Minister invited them….

Indeed we – the mere plebs – must know our place and wait until summoned.
It’s all part of the system of “class distinction” that has evolved over the years.

By the way…Perhaps somebody can tell me – for example – why the public stand up when this Tribunal enters or leaves the room (same as Employment Tribunals) but not at Social Security hearings (of which there is one scheduled for tomorrow Friday 15 November at 2.30pm).
And why does a Court “rise” when the Judge enters or leaves the courtroom but remains seated when the person who is being tried, does the same? ….And why do Courts of Law start their days with a prayer but not these Tribunals…?

The Tribunal re this HSI appeal will publish its decision in a couple of weeks…if I heard the Chair correctly.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Jersey Mental Health Dept - QUIZ - Spot the Difference

Below are two letters sent to a person by the Health Dept - regarding difficulties experienced with treatment for Mental Health.
One letter was written on 19 July 2010 the other  on 24 July 2013 by the same person - a "Patient and Client Liaison Officer".
The letters are - apart from their dates - identical and both claim that a "written response will follow from the Chief Executive."
The patient says that no such response has ever followed.
The Mental Health Departmnent is supposed recently to have introduced a new improved procedure for patients making complaints but this seems to indicate that nothing has changed in fact.
Whether there is anything wrong with using standard format letters is not really the issue unless it means that complaints are simply disregarded in practice.
If the quality of these copies is poor - well we have done our best to scan and reproduce them here...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Discrimination rules OK!

Well you cannot win them all - Discrimination (Jersey) Law latest has been approved by Her Majesty in Council and we can continue to house workers in portacabins and pay Ukrainians £2 per hour whilst proceeding to build the St Helier ghetto...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

"Our" surveillance v "Their" transparency

Next week Charles Farrier of UK campaigning group NO-CCTV will be in Jersey to meet with the Scrutiny Panel looking at CCTV and Surveillance activities in this Island.
He will be speaking in public on Wednesday 18 September;
1)      CHOW discussion 1pm to 2pm at Church House, St Helier
2)      4pm at the Scrutiny hearing, Le Capelain room of the States Building
3)      From about 6pm until 8pm at Church House again to meet members of the Jersey Human Rights Group and for a public talk and discussion.

Although we are being watched and recorded more and more as we go about our various activities and the public and private Data files on us become ever more complex and far reaching – we have few rights to regulate or control the use of such information.

On the other hand, our government and other “official” organisations seem to maintain their own secrecy in spite of claims that “the public interest” might require greater clarity and transparency

Thus today for example “The Master of the Royal Court” (Advocate Thompson) refused to allow public access to a “directions hearing” being held and he relied upon the decision of Bailiff Bailhache in 2002 re JEP v Al Thani – that also featured this week in the court case decision re Stuart Syvret and the Data Protection Law etc.
The Judicial Greffe letter from “The Master” is copied below.

So Data and secrecy and our “right to know” are very live issues and the need for some local enlightenment was never more necessary.

Especially since there is a Jersey Law Society Disciplinary hearing taking place this week in private – whereas it is very likely that this will involve matters that are of great public interest and concern to many.

Yet contrarily, in the UK such “professional” disciplinary hearings are usually held in public and even those who belong to UK Professional bodies (such as nurses or veterinary surgeons etc) – but are employed in Jersey – are likely to be heard, in the UK, in public and to be fully reported (and discussed)  in the media.

As already flagged up on this site, Jersey Social Security Tribunals are usually kept private although they should be in public unless there is some pressing reason otherwise.

Scrutiny Panels have also retreated behind “Part A” secrecy standards during the current session of States government although the public were generally admitted to most of the “A” agenda in previous years and the world of politics did not seem to be harmed as a result. Why the need for secrecy now?

Complaints Boards hearings against the administration by States’ Departments are also generally supposed to be held in public although they do seem to slip by in private – especially if “a child” is in any way involved – on occasions.

Yet even UK Children’s Courts are now slowly being opened up to public scrutiny in some cases so that the public interest might be acknowledged and adhered to.
Furthermore, there is even a move now to televise some UK court cases alongside the proceedings of Parliament and Select Committees (similar to Scrutiny Panels)….

Bearing in mind too that so many “public” hearings in Jersey are held in buildings without adequate sound systems and minimal information to explain the proceedings to the general public (such as the names of judges) – so it is evident that REFORM has a long way yet to go in this Island.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

No public money for the shirkers....

PRESS RELEASE States of Jersey Ministry for the Care of the Public Purse 27 August 2013 New proposals for States’ Members sanctions A new system of sanctions for States Members who fail to look for work while claiming States salaries has been proposed by the Minister for the Care of the Public Purse (CPP). The changes complement the increased help to find useful employment available through the ballot box and the significant investment made by the people to help locally elected politicians into creative work The new regulations will: • strengthen the public’s ability to reduce or remove States payments for those Members who repeatedly fail to look for work, or fail to fully respond to the voters’ needs or initiatives proposed by the paying public. They provide a new sanction to reduce the ability of States Members to freeload or to shirk from available work without good reason. The Minister for the Care of the Public Purse said that the vast majority of Members claiming salaries would be unaffected by the changes, which are designed to provide a strong deterrent to the minority who do not do enough work. Under the new proposals, any salary or expenses claimed by a Member as actively seeking to represent his or her electorate but failing to undertake meaningful representative activities will be issued with a written warning which will remain in force for a minimum of one year. Each further breach following that first warning will result in increasing financial penalties and the eventual loss of all salaries or expenses until the individual proves that they are genuinely looking for work. Any Member who leaves a voter unrepresented without a good reason will not be able to claim their salary or expenses component for 13 weeks. The Minister said: “There is an enormous amount of support available to help elected States Members increase their chances of useful employment, whether that is through training, seeking voter assistance, at the Department’s Scrutiny Panels or through direct engagement with local Parishioners in their constituencies. “Staying dormant and relying on the Media to call is not a lifestyle choice. The new regulations will send a clear message to the few who may be tempted to think it is. We will do everything we can to help them find work, but that failing to uphold their end of the bargain will result in a cut to their salary and expenses besides a likely final expulsion through the ballot box”. “The Department will not be penalising anyone who genuinely cannot find useful work, is exempt from doing so or has a good reason for leaving a ministry, such as being posted overseas temporarily on a jolly. Any Member who is thinking of leaving their post and may consequently need to claim the “Ogley Defence” should speak with our advisers about their options before making a decision to give up their duties.” The Minister said that States pay is an in-work benefit, designed to help Members in times of need and to encourage self-sufficiency. “The recent rises in unemployment among the general population have thrown into even sharper focus the need for increased penalties for all States Members who do not seek-out work. The intention of these changes is to protect public funds so that they can be properly targeted to people who are genuinely deserving of reward and recognition.” The new sanctions against States Members shirking employment are provided by regulations that were lodged with the States today. They are due to be debated on 8 October 2013. -ends-

Friday, 23 August 2013

Prove you exist...

That the Pensions Department of Ozouf's cost saving Treasury should have written to 4,000 Jersey people demanding that they prove their existence must be the Surrealist absurdity of this century. It certainly ranks with the "Can be Done film Company" phantasy for "most unlikely plot." How much it cost for the Treasury Mandarins to devise the lengthy form that was sent out to frighten the aged recipients is anybody's guess and they did not even have the courtesy to enclose a SAE either for the respondents' convenience. At least one known confused person attempted to deliver a completed form by hand to Cyril's Citidel aka Treasury HQ - only to be sent away with a flea in the ear for failing to read the small print that demanded proof in the shape of a personalised "utility bill". It will surely soon be necessary to show a gas bill in order to be allowed on a bus! But the most mysterious and worrying aspect of this silly episode must surely be the list of about 45 exclusive classes of "people of good standing in the community" who might be considered suitable (by farmer's son Pip and his comrades) to COUNTERSIGN the ridiculous form. If this motley "as listed" collection of pseudo respectables in Jersey society had a notion of good character they would surely refuse to have anything to do with this nonsense at all. But it just goes to show just how prejudiced is the thinking of those who run this government and its over egoed administration. Do they really think that in 2013 the character of a person might be judged just on the basis of the job they do or their rank! The range of inmates at La Moye Prison where the professional classes are as well represnted as any others ought to be enough to demonstrate the falacy. That Farmers are not included on the list whereas "Local States Members" are says a great deal in itself - but what a pity that the 4,000 or so recipients could not be organised to turn up on Senator Ozouf's doorstep, forming a not too orderly queue, seeking his "suitable signature." The exclusive list as sent out is published below - if your occupation is not inclded you must draw the obvious conclusion about your standing in Jersey society.... Accountant (CCAB recognised) Advocate, Airline Pilot, Assurance agent of a recognised company, Bank manager, Chairman/director of limited company, Chiropodist, Civil servant, Dentist/Doctor, Engineer (with professional qualification), Financial services intermediery (eg a stockbroker or insurance broker), Fire ervice official, Funeral director, Insurance agent of a recognised company, Journalist,Justice of the Peace, Lawyer, Legal secretary (fellow or associate member of the Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs), L:icensee of a public house, Local States Mamber, Manager/personnel officer (of a limited company), Member, associate or fellow of a professional body, Merchant Navy Officer, Minister of a recognised religion (including Christian Science),Notary Public, Nurse/Midwife, Officer of the armed services (active or retired), Optician, Paralegal (certified paralegal, qualified paralegal or associate member of the Institute of Paralegals),Parish Official, Person with honours (eg an OBE or MBE). Pharmacist, Photographer (professional, Police Officer, Salvation Army Worker, Social Worker, Solicitor, Surveyor, Teacher/lecturer, Trade union official, Travel agent (qualified), valuer or auctioneer (fellows and assocate members of the incorporated society), Warrant Officer and Chief Petty Officer.... ...the countersignatory should be a professional person, or a person of good standing in the community....