Luckily, the current States have realised the nature and scale of the challenge and devised the Future Guernsey Plan “Revive and Thrive”. They have recognised that
“Recovery will require co-operation, collaboration and genuine engagement … Collaboration is essential to connect government, and engage the public service, business, Islanders and the third sector in the recovery effort.”
This Plan deserves our support – but the support of a “critical friend”, scrutinising policies for flaws or unfairness and keeping those responsible on track.
So far so good. But good governance needs good government, and this too means change.
Before the lockdown, complaints from the general public abounded about “the worst States ever”. However, the public might also have quailed at the thought of yet another governance review, yet another reform of the States. COVID, however, has taught us a lesson.
Under the Civil Contingencies Authority, important decisions were being taken with speed, direction and effectiveness. That was an emergency and right for the time. But it has shown the public that decisions can be taken swiftly and effectively if the correct structures are in place – and, importantly, it has whetted the appetite for more such efficiency.
Within the States
Most islanders would agree that more discipline is required in the debating chamber. There should be tighter agendas, time-limits on members’ speeches, and stricter rules for bringing requêtes and amendments and raising sursis. That, however, is only part of the picture …
At the top
Ultimately, we must allocate more executive power at the senior level and set timeframes for execution and implementation. Power must be coupled with responsibility and not diffused throughout the States. The attempt to impose discipline by combining control over policy with control of resources has foundered because it fails to channel responsibility to lower-level committees. Professor Staite, in her recent review of Education, Sport and Culture, has identified this very point as a major weakness in the operation of the States.
So, we need reform. But there is no time now for a detailed overhaul of the system. That can come later – and come it must. For now, we must give the senior committee a more binding mandate, making it something akin to a Cabinet. If we do not take this step, the lack of co-ordination will simply impede progress and undermine the Future Guernsey Plan before it even gets off the ground.
Governance, however, is one thing; policies are another. The remainder of this manifesto will summarise my principal policy interests.