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Plan to streamline States committee rejected

Alderney States Photo:

A requete to reduce the membership of Alderney’s Policy and Finance Committee, from 10 to a maximum of five, was rejected last night.

Matt Birmingham introduced the requete in order to bring better debate on Billet items to the public forum on the monthly States Members.

Currently all 10 States Members sit on the Policy and Finance Committee.

He, and the three members who signed the requete, claimed decisions were made behind the closed doors of the P&F meeting and effectively just rubber stamped at 35 minute long public States Meeting.

Mr Birmingham, who is chairman of the Building and Development Control Committee, said scrutiny in the Alderney government was “wholly absent”. He said best way to create a scrutiny function in Alderney’s government was to have several members – including himself – retire from P&F so they could ask questions at the States Meeting and stimulate deeper debate in front of the electorate.

I’ve come to conclude that 10 members on the Policy and Finance Committee is not just bad practice, but bad government.

– Matt Birmingham, States of Alderney

He likened it to driving with 10 pairs of hands on the steering wheel – “car crash government”.

Policy and Finance Committee leader James Dent, who also signed the requete, said debate around policy was “very rarely taken to the States”. The current system was “too cosy” he said.

This States has lost its oomph; it has lost its pizzazz. I want to go back to the time when this chamber was important. I believe that much of the material that is now taken to P&F should not be taken there at all. This requete is about forcing debate into this chamber.

– James Dent, Policy and Finance Committee

Ian Tugby, who has been on the States for five years, said he remembered the last time P&F had been reduced to just five members. The move lasted just a couple of months before it was restored to all 10 members again.

When there was a five person Policy and Finance Committee it did cause divisions, there’s no ifs or buts about that. Do some people think they are more important than other members who were voted in by members of the public? We are all equal on this States.

– Ian Tugby, States of Alderney

Louis Jean said this “wretched requete” would “disenfranchise” States Members, especially the five newest members who were not heading up committees. Norma Paris said a 10 person P&F was a “cumbersome beast” which required strong leadership. “But I’m unconvinced that this measure, in isolation, and only five months into a new States, is the answer.”

Steve Roberts said it was a “gunpowder plot” disguised as transparency, that would create a two tier States comprising of those who made decisions and those who were dissatisfied with what had been decided and reduced to being “nodding donkeys”.

Mr Birmingham admitted that he did not expect the requete to succeed. “All I heard was the turkeys not voting for Christmas,” he said. “But I’m not going to give up on this; we have to grow up and remember that States Members are voted on to serve the public, not to have hissy fits about not feeling included.”

The requete failed with five votes against, four votes for and one abstention.