Hi there. I’m Heidi Soulsby and I was elected as a Deputy for SE District in Guernsey’s general election in April 2012. I am Deputy Minister of the Health and Social Services Department, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and member of the Constitutional Investigation Committee. I am also on other cross-departmental working groups. Until December 2014, and as a consequence of my election to the Health and Social Services Department Board, I was a member of the Commerce and Employment Board and Vice Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee.
Welcome to my website. Here you can hear about my life in the States and other matters, as well as sending me feedback and your ideas.
I have to say I struggled very much knowing how to vote in the transport strategy debate. I did a lot of research beforehand and had a lot of concerns – these are evident in my speeches, which you can read below. It was a very difficult decision for me that doesn’t across from looking at a simple Pour or Contre on a voting list.
I did not support the idea of a free bus service and I am not a supporter of paid parking. However, we were told it was an integrated strategy and messing around with one thing would affect another. That had always been the problem with strategies in the past – they had been tinkered with so there was nothing joined up and they didn’t work. That was the context in which the debate took place – all or nothing – and I wanted to see things done to make alternative forms of transport more appealing and to make our Island a better place to live. I still do want to make it safer to walk our pavements and ride a bike. It should also be noted that I only supported the report on the assurance from Deputy Burford, now the Environment Minister, that paid parking would not be introduced until there was an adequate bus service. What that adequate service should be and who decides remains unclear. The lack of any details from the Environment Department is a cause for concern. All that will be for the March debate and the paid parking requete.
In terms of the Burford/Brehaut amendment on width and emissions, my particular concern was that the finances did not stack up with £1.6m potentially being wiped off the accounts. How can a strategy be effective when half the revenue expected from an income source will be raised? How does the Department believe that it can be after it told us it was an integrated strategy that shouldn’t be fiddled with? It is for those reasons I couldn’t support the amendment.
My speech in the debate is below.
Sir, I will be brief, I had no intention of speaking in this debate as I believed that every aspect of this amendment would be well debated by others and I’ve been proven correct – except in one area – and I’ll speak about that in a minute.
Before I do, I’d like to make a couple of observations from what I’ve heard that I believe bear comment.
The first is something Deputy Gollop said this morning. He said – if we support tobacco duty as a means of influencing behaviour we should support the width & emissions duty – but I would contend that if you support tobacco duty a meaningful comparision would in fact be fuel duty.
The other point I would make is with regard to a comment made by Deputy Fallaize where he said he didn’t believe it would change the number of car sales. Well, I actually agree with him on that. But I do believe, certainly if the aim is to influence behaviour, that it will affect the value of car sales, which will affect profitability of the car dealers and could therefore result in redundancies.
Whilst clearly, as a member of HSSD, I agree with Deputy Bebb, we have a literally growing obesity problem and need to tackle that, I very much agree with what Deputy Trott has just said. I still have heard nothing today that assures me about the funding effect of this amendment and the fact that there is a claimed shortfall of £1.6m. I’m not convinced that this will actually be the shortfall, nor that this won’t water down the effectiveness of the strategy. I have struggled over how to vote ont he amendment and have listened to bothe sides but in the end, and having regard to the difficult decisions that are going to have to be made in the personal tax and benefits review denate, I can’t support this amendment.
I spoke in relation to report into the Airport terminal project on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee at the December 2014 States meeting.
I will speak specifically in relation to the Public Accounts Committee’s involvement in this report.
Those members who were around during the last States will be aware that in February 2012 the Previous Public Accounts Committee sought to rescind the requete of 2004 instructing it to report on a specific aspect of this project, namely the process which led to the award of the contract to ensure it was robust and well managed and in particular the financial checks carried on Hochtief.
However, I think the States then made the right decision not to support that proposal. It is probably true to say that project management has improved greatly in a number of areas since then. There are contract administration processes, a standard procurement policy, pre-qualification questionnaires and risk registers.
However, the current PAC does not think the picture is a rosy as made out by T&R and Policy Council in their comments attached to this report. It is therefore important for members and those involved in large scale projects are made aware of the issues that still exist.
Then, as now, work commenced before contracts were signed. PAC have been made aware of issues that have arisen on other projects since the airport terminal build where this has created problems and additional costs.
We are also aware that contingencies are still not used for the purpose for which they were intended, but as additional project funding. And whilst it is true that in the last 5 or more years projects have not gone over budget, it is also true to say that projects have had sizeable contingencies which, in several cases have been fully spent.
And, as I mentioned 2 weeks ago, post implementation reviews are still not disseminated so it is harder for lessons to be learnt across the States.
Specifically in relation to financial assurances, checks were done on Hochtief and parental company guarantees were put in place. However, then as now, the financial situation of sub-contractors was not looked at as there was no contractual relationship with them.
Now, recent capital projects have introduced the concept of a project bank, a bit like an escrow account, whereby monies paid in to a bank account at each stage of the project are only paid out on the joint signature of the main contractor and the States. This was trialled successfully on the Belle Greve Phase V wastewater project.
However, in large contracts where there may be several sub-sub contractors they will continue to be vulnerable. Such contractors need to ensure that , in accordance with commercial best practice, they have their own contractual protections in place.
Finally, we must comment on the legal proceedings that were undertaken and lasted 8 years at an unknown, but undoubtable substantial cost and without a satisfactory conclusion so far at the States of Guernsey was concerned. The PAC would recommend that responsibilities in the legal decision making process are understood and consideration is given as to the costs and risks associated with each course of action to minimise the likelihood of similar costly and protracted proceedings occurring in the future.
I spoke in favour of the Chief Minister’s amendment to the Education Department’s report on the rebuild of La Mare de Carteret. My speech below explains why.
Sir, on a personal level, I am very disappointed that despite the hard work of both Ministers, common ground could not be found by both Boards and therefore I have to make this speech today.
I fully support the development of a new school. Of course I do. In response to Deputy Lester Queripel’s comment that I was unable to go round the school with him, that was true but I did tour the school at a subsequent date and saw for myself the state it is in. So I have no doubt it needs to be replaced. And I suspect that is the view of most if not all of everyone here today.
However, we are talking about what is NEEDED, not what is WANTED.
Now, reading this report sparked memories of an earlier report and to a debate that took place a year ago. That report was also submitted by the Education Department and called Transforming Primary Education. Having read the Hansard record of that debate, painful as it was, it quickly became apparent to me that statements made then are directly relevant to the debate we are having today.
Let me start with a comment made by Deputy Green. A year ago he stated, ‘This policy letter should be supported today by all who wish to tackle the budget deficit’ He went on to say;
‘The States of Guernsey does not have the equivalent of a ‘Magic Porridge Pot’ that keeps on giving. Digging into our reserves as a community cannot go on and will not go on ad infinitum.’
Well, indeed it can’t. And of course, whether it is capital or revenue it is all from the same pot isn’t it?
I also reference what my good friend Deputy Conder said last November;
‘The reality is that our tax take from the economy is no longer sufficient to cover our revenue expenditure, capital development and sustained reserves. Put simply we are living beyond our means.’ And I would ask fellow members, what has changed between now and then?
We were also told by Deputy Conder that, and I quote, ‘every attempt to cut or curb spending or generate efficiencies is met with howls of public protest, special interest lobbying and resistance.’
Well hold on a minute. I witnessed 1000 people at North Beach a week last Sunday who were making the completely opposite point. At a time we are increasing taxes and charges we are also looking at spending more and more. These were people I knew would never have gone to anything like that in the past. Just ordinary working people. The tide has very much turned.
As I stated during the budget debate just 1 month ago, and as Deputy Gillson said yesterday, our funding is not keeping up with our capital spending! We are facing a capital reserve shortfall of £57m by 2017 and it is very uncertain whether this gap can be closed in the short to medium term. We therefore owe it to the taxpayers to ensure what we spend represents best value for money.
Now, I would like to turn to the size of the schools.
This report proposes building a primary school with 100 more pupil spaces than the existing one. Well, this got me scratching my head somewhat. I wondered whether I had entered a parallel universe. Last year the Education Department presented us with projections which indicated a peak in pupil numbers in 2019 and then a considerable drop off. We were told by the Minister there were 751 spaces. and when these figures were questioned that, ‘The Numbers are Secure, Trust Us!’ Those of us who questioned the figures were told to do detention and write out a hundred times, ‘I will trust the Education Department’s figures’.
And we also had Deputy Fallaize’s contribution to the debate for which he was complemented for his forensic anlaysis. In his speech he said that, and I quote, ‘After Education’s proposed closure of 2 schools there would be 4303 spaces, which provides sufficient capacity, even at the projected peak of pupil numbers in the year 2019, after which the projection is that pupil numbers will drop off quite considerably. But not only that, Deputy Fallaize went on to say that he thought Education’s figures were conservative and, that a further 400-500 spaces could be found!
How can the fact that last year we are told we can close 2 schools and still have bags of capacity when we reach peak pupil numbers, but now we are being told we need to build a new school with 100 more spaces?
And what about the secondary schools? Classrooms are built for 30, an additional 20% compared with the current maximum, then a 16% uplift added for extra space and then 5% for population growth. This is in addition to extensive unused capacity at other schools. According to this report there is capacity for 2,580, but in October 2013 there were 2,190 students, that’s approximately 400 spare places now.
Not only that but we are told a smaller school would restrict curriculum offer – well isn’t that what the federation was meant to resolve? Whatever Deputy Sherbourne said yesterday to counter this, according to the document sent out in February to parents, students and staff and called Transforming Secondary Education it was. It states a Federation will address, ‘the difficulties that some students experience if they want to study minority subjects or subjects at a different level than is provided by their own school. The federation will help to address some of the present inequality of opportunities that students face by dint of the size of their school or where they live.’
Nothing in this report explains adequately why such a big school is needed. The Department obviously realised this and hence the letter on Friday telling us they need to build a bigger school in case another school has to close. Really? Create a sunk cost for something you have no idea will happen and if it does, have no idea when? Have scenarios been tested and other options considered than building a bigger school – just in case?
That letter just emphasised to me that a review is needed. I welcome the email from the Chief Minister last night and welcome his assurance that Policy Council will return to the States Assembly with a report on the outcomes of the independent review proposed, in time for the February States Assembly sitting. I would hope that this would allay the concerns expressed by some members yesterday.
Now, I had originally intended at this point to make my closing comment. However, I cannot finish without commenting on the response sent by the Education Department in response to the T&R Minister’s questions prior to this debate.
I have to say that I was appalled by the discourteous nature of the reply which as far as I am concerned was totally disrespectful to a member of this Assembly.
Then we look at the actual content. In response to Deputy St Pier’s question – Is it right to assume a 5% uplift in population projections to future proof? Policy Council suggest 1-2%
We are told, this is the difference between statisticians dealing with parameters of certainty and educationalists looking at the difference in the actual numbers between a baseline number and a 5% uplift.
The response to Deputy St Pier’s question as to why 420 spaces were now being provided at the primary school was not answered. In fact by saying there would be a maximum 350 pupils actually seems to argue against the need for a 420 capacity school.
So finally I would like to say that, we knew this debate would always be an emotive one, just like that a year ago. Although I did note that Deputy O’Hara didn’t get his hnkie out yesterday.
We have had emails from parents and teachers at LMDC saying how awful the building is, how the children feel like second class citizens. We’ve even had the video like last year. However, I refer back to what was said by many who spoke a year ago, epitomised by the words of Deputy Harwood who said ‘Decisions must be driven by reason not emotion’.
We must remember that as much as we would love to throw money at this project we have to consider NEED not WANT.
There are just too many unanswered questions for such a large capital commitment when more and more of our citizens are rightly asking us whether we can justify our spending at a time when their own budgets are being stretched to breaking point. For that reason I urge members to support this amendment.
I made teh following speech as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Education Department’s report submitted at the November 2014 States meeting and the amendment placed by the Chief Minister requesting a review. In the end, an amendment to the amendment was approved that instructed Education and T&R to work together in relation to such a review.
Sir, as members of the Assembly will be aware the La Mare Schools are not the first schools to be rebuilt in Guernsey. In the last 10 years, High Schools have been rebuilt at both St Sampsons and Les Beaucamps.
In this context, the PAC does note one glaring omission in this extensive States Report and accompanying appendices – it does not contain any section outlining the lessons learnt from the earlier High School developments. However, we are not surprised by this as the Post Implementation Review of the latest High School to be built (Les Beaucamps) has not been undertaken despite the school being operational for a significant period of time.
One of the PAC’s mandated functions is to review Post Implementation Reviews or PIRs. These PIRs should be undertaken within six months of practical completion of any capital project.
PIRs determine whether efficiency of project management and value for money, have been achieved throughout the development of particular projects. Deputy Trott referenced just this in respect of the SSH PIR yesterday. Any ‘Lessons to be Learnt’ from a project should then be available to assist the project management of future capital projects.
In order to understand whether lessons learnt were being incorporated from one project to another, the previous Public Accounts Committee undertook a review in 2010 of the most recent PIRs it had received from the Education Department culminating from the first phase of the Education Department’s Educational Development Plan.
The main issue highlighted in PAC’s report was that PIRs for the Education Department capital projects were at that time, not being undertaken nor disseminated in a timely manner. Lessons learnt therefore, were not being noted and instituted prior to the commencement of the next Capital project.
This PAC has considered it worthwhile to review the capital projects across the States of Guernsey since 2010, to determine whether improvements have been made in the last 5 years and we will be publishing our findings in the near future.
More immediately however, the PAC has serious concerns regarding commencement of the La Mare project prior to a formal PIR being completed for Les Beaucamps, which has been open to students since September 2013. There have been numerous reports of issues relating to that campus which is why the information gained would be invaluable for the proposed La Mare redevelopment.
Despite having raised its concerns on more than one occasion with States Property Services which oversees all States Capital projects, a PIR is still outstanding.
The PAC was informed that the project as a whole was not considered complete until the Sports Hall was finished and so the PIR would not be undertaken until then. However, being mindful that the Education Department was hopeful that the La Mare redevelopment would go ahead in the near future, the PAC suggested that the Les Beaucamps PIR should be conducted in two stages, reflecting the 2 phases of the project. This would allow a review of the school building to be completed ahead of the La Mare project. It would also ensure that any issues arising during its development could be formally documented to assist the La Mare project board. Unfortunately, the Committee’s suggestion was rejected.
This is not good governance.
The PAC therefore has serious concerns about the Education Department commencing a complex high cost project prior to the formal lessons learnt from the Les Beaucamps project being produced and disseminated. Irrespective of whether the project team has a similar composition to previous projects, there is no evidence to suggest that lessons learnt have been, or will be, incorporated into the La Mare development.
The PAC also believes that it is unfortunate that the existing agreed process for bringing forward major capital projects has not been followed in this case. For T&R political representatives to withdraw from the project board before the newly proposed SCIP arrangements were implemented is not good governance. The lack of a completed Outline Business Case for a project of this scale, prior to submission of this report to the States, again is not good governance.
These actions by both Departments may have led to the current impasse, which shows neither party in a good light.
Another notable omission from the proposal is a comparison of the ongoing costs of running the new build with the existing costs of the current school. When assessing the merits of the new build surely this information is pertinent? What is spent now? We don’t know from the report. We know from page 2660 that the new site will cost £580k a year to run and understand from a document circulated by the T&R Minister that this is £186k more than current costs. And how will this be funded? None of this is apparent from the report. Reference is made in the response to Deputy St Pier’s questions prior to the debate, which I will refer to later, but there are no figures to back this up.
Neither is there any indication of potential income from the use of community and sports facilities. Presumably, if the pre-school will be run privately, rent will be charged – or does the department believe that the business running it should get a new building for free?
It also seems surprising that the report does not include any measurement of outcomes. The people of Guernsey might reasonably expect that the department anticipates an improvement in educational standards and attainment once the build is complete. However, what that improvement will be is not explicitly stated.
Finally, I should like to say that clearly the PAC would be expected to welcome any attempt to provide assurance that a project, certainly of the magnitude and complexity of this one, represents value for money. However the proposal to have T&R leading the review process concerns the PAC from an independence point of view. If this review is to be truly impartial then we believe it must be managed by an independent third party such as the PAC. And would welcome confirmation that such an approach would be acceptable.
I successfully laid an amendment to the 2015 budget instructing T&R and Housing Department’s to look at opportunities to help first time buyers get on the property ladder. The one argument made against such initiatives was that it could be inflationary. Whilst I agree that this is possible, I do not think that the current housing market circumstances would lead to price increases. The market has stagnated and people are having difficulty selling their homes. It is therefore unlikely prices will be put up to take advantage of any new initiatives that are brought in at this point in time. My speech is below.
Sir, I think it is fair to say that witnessing the altercation between the Housing Minister and Treasury&Resources Minister on Wednesday, brought it home to me just how necessary this amendment is.
I have been concerned for some time that nothing was being done to help people get on the property ladder and had hoped that this might be addressed in the 2015 budget. When I was knocking on doors during the last election campaign I met young, hard working families who were living with their parents because they just couldn’t afford a new house. It is now 2.5 years since the election and nothing has been done to help them and I know that for most of those families, their position hasn’t changed since 2012. This has contributed to the stagnation of the local property market, which in turn has impacted on the economy.
Whilst I appreciate there is an issue in relation to the availability of housing, it is true to say there are houses for sale that would make ideal homes for first time buyers. However, they are unable to buy them due to a number of financial reasons, including being able to get a mortgage in the first place due to the difficult lending environment, being able to raise enough money for a deposit and the costs of purchasing a property.
My amendment is basically requesting Housing and T&R to knock heads together and give this matter the attention I think it deserves. Now, as a consequence of that they may decide that the disadvantages of any potential scheme may outweigh the disdvantages. However, I would be very disappointed if that were found to be the case.
I haven’t any set views on what would work best and it is true to say that there are a lot of different schemes already in place in other jurisdictions. Jersey has introduced various measures that appear to have stimulated the property market, including reduced stamp duty for first time buyers and a partial loan scheme. In addition, the UK has introduced a Help to Buy scheme which, though not solely aimed at first time buyers, is designed to help people onto the property ladder through loans or guarantees.
Other jurisdictions with schemes include the Isle of Man, Scotland and further afield, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In fact, Guernsey appears to be the exception to the rule when it comes to support for first time buyers.
However, Guernsey has nothing and I don’t see this changing anytime soon unless we do something about it.
I therefore urge members to support this amendment.
I was delighted, as a member of the Dairy Industry Review Board, that we were able to get our report into the industry approved by the States. This was the first time such a report had been successful in 15 years and we believe will give a brighter future for Guernsey’s farmers, Dairy and the consumer.
This Report is not just about the Dairy Industry. It is indeed entitled Dairy Farming in Guernsey and the Future, but that future is not just about the production of milk and manufacturing of milk products. No, it is about the environment and heritage that makes Guernsey the unique Island it is and that we, as the States of Guernsey have a duty to protect. As such, this report is incredibly important for this Island.
And at the centre of all this is the Guernsey Cow. Thanks to our entrepreneurial ancestors to the experts of the present day, we have a pure breed that produces high quality milk revered the world over. As part of the research I undertook when working on this report I came across an American book entitled ‘The Guernsey Breed’ by a Mr Charles Hill written in 1917 and recorded in the Biodiversity Heritage Library in the USA. In the foreword written by a Mr WH Caldwell of the American Guernsey Cattle Club, he states, ‘The Island people in their manner of handling and caring for the breed and their tenacity shown in protecting its purity have contributed greatly to the development of the breed’.
He went on to say, ‘The future of the Guernsey is a bright one. The public is fast demanding a better class of Dairy products and is rapidly learning to make a distinction between the different grades of milk, cream and butter. The Guernsey and her grade stand without a peer in the economical production of products having the highest natural colour and finest flavour.
Indeed, today Islanders take great pride in their milk, cream, butter and ice cream as the results of the Island Analysis survey, included in the Appendix to the DIRG report has shown.
Sadly, since 1917 where the Guernsey cow was once a predominant breed, it is endangered, if not now classed as a rare breed. In fact this Island has 10% of the entire world population of registered pedigree Guernsey cattle. With world numbers having fallen 21,000 in the last 20 years.
However, it is because of this rarity, or more accurately, the dominance of just a small number of high production breeds of cattle, that we can protect our Dairy Industry, our natural heritage and our environment.
It is estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations that the number of domestic animal breeds are dying out at the rate of 6 per month, with 30% of the world’s breeds at risk of extinction. They are being replaced in both developed and developing countries by a few high production breeds which, increasingly, are coming to rely on commercial feeds, antibiotics and other inputs of industrial agriculture.
The world is beginning to wake up to this problem and whilst some of us here may think that only negative things come out of the EU, that organisation is very much aware of the issue having calculated that the loss of biodiversity costs it EUR450 billion year after year. This culminated in May 2011, with the European Commission adopting a strategy to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the EU by 2020.
So, the need to preserve the Guernsey cow breed means that not only must we continue to ban the import of Dairy cattle, but also we must ensure that the threat of imported milk is lifted. This has been a cloud hanging over the industry for many years and resulted in uncertainty and concern that impacts investment and efficiency in the industry. It is therefore imperative that we get a new Ordinance in place as soon as possible to ensure we can effectively control importation. I cannot say strongly enough how important that approval is given for that today.
With effective controls on importation, we can focus on moving the industry forward to a sustainable future. And that means change. The one thing I have realised as the review progressed, was, as I stated in the earlier debate, that this is an industry suffocated by its past and that the status quo is definitely not an option.
The industry needs to be more sustainable, which means the current subsidy must be reduced and with it, greater efficiencies achieved. And a key means of attaining this is through the farmers and Dairy working in partnership. The farmers on the one hand in providing an even supply of milk to the Dairy and for the Dairy to have a governance structure that enables it to act in a more commercial manner. I would like to say at this point what an excellent job is being done by the manager Andrew Tabel and his staff at the Dairy. As a member of the DMB I have seen first hand the challenges they have faced over the last couple of years, the SAP implementation being high on that list, and I admire the professionalism with which they have dealt with them. The DMB believe these proposals will make a real difference.
In particular, the transition from the quota system to milk supply agreements will benefit both the farmers and the Dairy.
Quotas played a useful role in the past, in stemming over production when it reached 9.8m litres, but they have also had the effect of stifling growth and making it difficult for new entrants into the industry. They are inflexible and inhibit business development. Milk Supply Agreements will provide an element of control but flexibility at the same time, enabling a matching of total farm milk supply to the needs of the market.
It is true that the farmers did have some concerns about aspects of the report, the reduction of the subsidy, understandably the biggest. However, instead of stomping their feet and making loud noises about it the GFA were happy to speak openly to us and articulate the concerns that they had. Much credit needs to be given to the GFA and James Watts in particular, for the manner in which they have conducted themselves throughout the review and since the report was published. The proposals will mean change for them and with change comes uncertainty. As such, I thank them for the trust that they are placing in Commerce and Employment and for expressing their support in what we are trying to achieve.
This bodes well for the future as we work together with the farmers and the Dairy in developing a sustainable Dairy industry.
So, we have developed a new structure that results in more modern arrangements for the farmers and the Dairy. I won’t talk about the distributors now, I have made clear how we got to where we did in the Fallaize amendment debate. What I will talk about however, is the one key stakeholder who has been generally forgotten in all this – the consumer. We know there is incredible brand loyalty but are consumers getting value for money for their litre of milk?
It became abundantly clear to me during this review that they are not and in the current economic climate, this should not be allowed to continue. Fixed pricing is an outdated anachronistic mechanism that was brought in against the threat of imports. However, with the approval of this States to modernise this Ordinance, the reasoning for it goes away.
Consumers are paying over the odds for their milk and I will give a few examples just so there can be no doubt.
But before I do so I would like to thank the officers at the Hub for their assistance. This was a good test of SAP and I am pretty sure that the information they have provided would not have been so easily available, if at all previously and shows how it can assist us in making evidence based decisions.
The Hub was able to provide me with details of the cost of milk supplies to States of Guernsey premises. Excluding schools, the total cost of milk supplied for the first 8 months of this year was £111k, that is an annualised figure of £166k. And of that £112k is spent by HSSD. With the disitrbutors getting a margin of 23.46p, this means it costs £24k a year to have milk delivered to that Department’s premises. Now there would be an FTP saving! Interestingly it is also more than the cost of the water coolers that were taken out of the PEH.
And talking of the PEH, it costs over £13,000 to have milk delivered a mile up the road from the Dairy to the hospital – by 2 retailers to 2 different entrances! Madness. There’s a clear saving that the HSSD Board could, and I’m sure would, make, but currently has no means of doing so.
Concern has been expressed that if we end the fixed pricing on 1 January the prices will zoom up and there will be a clamour for imports. That’s not how it will be. With the knowledge that a new Ordinance is coming in no one is going to benefit from importation and the likelihood is, with competition, there will be no price rise in the first place and with exclusivity in place until the end of 2015 the retailers will be protected.
We have a report here that gives a coherent and sustainable vision for the future of the Dairy Industry that deals effectively with what are its most important stakeholders– the farmers, the Dairy and the Consumer.
We must action it now. Action it to produce greater self-reliance and sustainability and, as far as possible in a changing and commercial world, more clarity for the industry, providing it with the most positive future it has had in decades.
I therefore urge all members to support the report [ as amended.]
I was a member of the Dairy Industry Review Board that presented a report to the States in September 2014 setting out the future strategic direction of the industry. The history of reports in this area has been fraught and I was therefore delighted that we managed, for the first time in 15 years, to have a report passed by the States. The report was amended by Deputy Fallaize, which instructed C&E to come back to the States by July 2015 in relation to a distribution system that it thought worked best for the industry. The majority of the Board of C&E, including me, supported this amendment. My speech on the amendment is given below. See my later post on the speech I made in main debate.
Sir, I would like to advise that, as a member of the Dairy Industry Review Group and C&E Board, that I believe that the re-presentation of propositions that this amendment provides represents a positive way forward for the States to consider the Dairy Industry Review.
Proposition 1 sets out our 10 point plan for the future, as described in detail in the DIRG report. There is merit in having what we consider to be a vital, practical and integrated plan set out in this way. We are happy for it to be explicitly stated in the recommendations to give complete clarity, which is an important theme in this Review.
Of all the aspects of the review it is, and not for the first time, the matter of distribution and retailing that is where contention lies. Proposition 2, by seeking to direct the Department to take a second and longer look at that topic away from the general review should ensure that the most important and urgent elements of the report, such as the modernisation of the Milk Ordinance, the partnership between the farmers and the Dairy and the freeing up of the retail price of milk, can be delivered without delay. And we can at last begin on our journey towards the modernisation of the dairy Industry.
Here I’d just like to respond to a question asked by Deputy Laurie Queripel regarding extending the fixed retail price. I can advise that the Board can see no merit or reason for doing so as the milk distributors have exclusivity of licences and zones until the end of 2015, so they will have the same protection as now.
I have found undertaking the review of the Dairy Industry fascinating on a number of levels;
Firstly, in learning about the history of the Guernsey breed,
Secondly, in finding how milk gets from the cow to the carton,
And thirdly, realising the importance of Dairy farming in preserving Guernsey’s natural environment and its biodiversity.
I will speak on these during main debate, as it is these areas that are crucial in understanding the future of the Guernsey Dairy Industry.
And I’d just like members to note the word I used there – Future. This review is entitled ‘Dairy Farming in Guernsey and the Future’.
I want to emphasise that point as the other aspect of this review that I have found fascinating and which I will speak on now, is how it has become abundantly clear to me that this industry has been so suffocated by its past.
And nowhere more so than in the Distribution system. The means of getting milk from the Dairy to the shop or doorstep. It should be so straightforward but it has had a difficult history to say the least.
I have spent countless hours researching how we have ended up with the current system of distribution. I’ve read countless reports and articles, spoken to many people and interrogated the Director of Client Services over many hours to get a picture of how we got here and what “here” actually is. I would actually like to thank the Director for the time he has afforded me over this.
It was evident, from all the research I did and from the meetings with the GMRA, that because of this history going back decades, it might not be possible to resolve matters in just a few months . As someone who likes to come up with solutions that all parties can accept, and who came into the review with a genuinely open mind, I found this aspect very disappointing.
The Board came up with a compromise way forward for the distribution system, which we make clear in paragraphs 271 and 272 of the report, isn’t the optimum system for the industry as a whole.
Personally, I do not think that it makes any sense to prevent the shops from picking up their own milk and dealing direct with the Dairy. I have calculated that it costs one of the major supermarkets over £75,000 a year to have milk delivered to its stores. That makes no sense at all.
We’ve also got the situation where we have one distributor that delivers to one entrance of the PEH and another that delivers to the other entrance. Again it makes no sense at all to me and suggests that there are costs in this system that need not be there.
BUT a compromise was made.
I will not go through what I think the optimum system of distribution is now, or how we get to it, that is for another day if, and I hope when, this amendment is passed, but we do not have it now.
I thank Deputy Fallaize for this amendment which gives us a way to maintain much needed momentum in bringing about change where full agreement exists while having a little longer to work with stakeholders in the one area where there is disagreement.
The last thing we can afford to end up with is another missed opportunity to make positive changes and have a report that gathers dust amongst the many others over the last 10 years, at Raymond Falla House.
Finally, I reiterate what I said before, in my view, this is an industry which in some aspects is suffocated by its past but in others is ready for new challenges and developments. As a States we really have a duty in 2014, for the good of all those involved, to help it to move on and enable the Dairy Industry to look to the future and a positive one at that.
If we don’t make a decision today to support all the propositions laid out in this amendment and put it off yet again, just letting history repeat itself, we are seriously in danger of losing what we are trying to protect.
I therefore support this helpful amendment and urge all members to do likewise.
I was delighted that after much debate, public and media interest, the Policy Council agreed to seek to withdraw the fees paid to Capita totalling £42,000 in relation to a transfer of funding from general revenue to the Guernsey Health Service Fund. This really should not have been allowed to go on for so long. It was clearly not a saving to the taxpayer and did not follow the spirit of FTP.
I made the following speech in relation to the Policy Council’s report on co-ordination of work at the September 2014 States meeting.
Sir, I read this report and I have to say it left me scratching my head somewhat.
We hear that PC are
a. blaming the fact that there is no GSP for the reason they have a lot of work to do at once and
b. wanting more resources to deal with it.
Well, I find this rather puzzling at a number of levels.
- Why, would a Plan make any difference? What is stopping PC from prioritising its workload and advising the States the reason behind this? Getting approval as a consequence?
- Members will know that C&E has a number of areas of legislation related to employee rights that require development. There are 7 in fact from the Industrial Disputes, disability and inclusion, maternity and paternity, age discrimination, racial discrimination, statutory rights to redundancy pay and statutpry rights to paid leave. But, we like PC have limited staff to undertake them. We have therefore prioritised this work.
- I am also concerned that, should all this work be done at once, who is going to implement them all at once? If PC get more staff, will the Departments?
I would question whether everything does need to be carried out all at once, and where policies and plans overlap various Departments, which invariably they do, can they be, or should they be?
- Finally, I would like to ask the Chief Minister how the creation of new posts will impact on FTP savings banked to date in terms of posts saved and vacancies now filled?