'Reject this referendum': Constable urges Members to stop interfering with finance centre

'Reject this referendum': Constable urges Members to stop interfering with finance centre
  • St Helier Constable has urged other Members to reject a referendum on the Jersey international Finance Centre

  • Simon Crowcroft wants his fellow politicians to reject Deputy Montfort Tadier's proposition

  • Should there be a referendum? Take part in our poll below

STATES Members should reject a call for a referendum on the Jersey International Finance Centre and let the project go ahead, St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has said.

The long-serving politician has urged fellow Members to stop attempting to delay the project and instead work with the Jersey Development Company to make the scheme as successful as possible.

He has faced criticism for speaking out in favour of the scheme after failing to persuade the States in 2011 to leave the Esplanade car park – the site of the JIFC – undeveloped, or turn it into a town park.

Last week backbencher Deputy Montfort Tadier submitted a proposition calling for work on the project to stop until the conclusion of a review by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel. It also asks States Members to back a binding referendum on the topic, giving Islanders the final say on whether the work should go ahead.

When asked if he was calling for States Members to reject Deputy Tadier's proposal, Mr Crowcroft said 'yes'.

An artist's impression of the Esplanade Quarter

He added: 'The financial services sector is our major industry in Jersey and experts tell us that a community such as Jersey, with a dedicated finance centre, will attract more business. Who am I to say that they are wrong? To go on bringing this back to the States only creates more uncertainty. Businesses are bringing in tax income at a time when we need it.

'I certainly won't be supporting the call for a referendum and I hope the States will deal with it quite quickly.

'The States has taken a view on the project several times. The Council of Ministers have made no secret that they want to develop the financial quarter. We've elected these people and I don't think the government can continue to put obstacles in the way of the group that was set up to develop the Esplanade area.'

Mr Crowcroft added that he was working with the JDC to prevent a 'significant' number of retail operations being built as part of the JIFC and that his Roads Committee had called for improvements to the underground parking planned for the site to give pedestrians priority.

Voting slips for the referendum on central European time

Time zones

The Island's first ever referendum in October 2008 produced a result that showed the clear majority of those who voted (70/30) were happy to keep Jersey in sync with the UK's time zone.

Islanders were asked whether they wanted Jersey to adopt Central European Time instead of Greenwich Mean Time, a move that would have placed the Island an hour out of sync with the UK but in line with the clocks in France.

Senator Jim Perchard brought the proposition to the States and argued that Islanders would benefit from more sunshine in the evenings.

He said that it would enable young people to play more sport, allow Islanders to enjoy barbecues later into the evening and benefit the environment. An anti-CET group, No To Time Change, led by former Senator Advocate Christopher Lakeman, argued that the move would be bad for Island businesses and that Jersey's finance industry would suffer.

After the result was announced, the then Chief Minister, Senator Frank Walker, said that he was not surprised at the outcome and described it as a 'foregone conclusion'. 'It was a great example of democracy for Jersey to hold a referendum,' he said. 'But whether this was the right issue to hold it on I'm not so sure.'

However, the issue was not so widely split everywhere in the Island. It seemed that the closer you got to two of the Island's largest beaches, the more people were in favour of later barbecues and surfing sessions, with the two most western parishes, St Brelade and St Ouen, showing a 60/40 split.

Of the 24,338 Islanders that voted in the Senatorial elections that October, only 544 chose not to vote on the referendum. Of those who voted on CET, 17,230 were against and 6,564 for the change.

The referendum cost approximately £20,000, four times the amount that was first predicted.

The money paid for the printing of ballot papers, ballot boxes, publicity and official notices and redeploying a member of staff in the Chief Minister's office to administrate.

States reform

Despite voters sending a clear message to politicians that they want the States to be reformed, with fewer Members, super-constituencies and the scrapping of Senators all favoured by a clear majority, the States failed to act on the results of the Island's second referendum in April 2013.

Around 80 per cent of people who turned out in the historic referendum on States reform agreed that such reforms – which included the removal of the Islandwide mandate after 66 years and scrapping nine States Members – should happen in time for the next election in October 2014.

However, the message was less clear when it came to the controversial issue of Constables with voting forced to a second round following a night of close results between Options A and B, which removed or kept the Constables in the States respectively, and a low turnout of just 26 per cent.

The States' subsequent failure to implement the results of the referendum prompted the resignation of St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft as chairman of the Privileges and Procedures Committee.

States reform 2

A poster for the 'No' campaign

There were celebrations for the referendum Yes campaign in October last year as voters overwhelmingly backed the Constables' automatic right to sit in the States - the second attempt to poll Islanders on States reform.

Nearly two thirds of those polled voted in favour of the current arrangement in a disappointing result for the vocal Vote NO campaign.

A total of 24,130 votes were cast in the Island's second referendum on States reform, with 62 per cent voting yes to the question of whether the Constables 'should remain as Members of the States as an automatic right'.

St Helier was the only parish to return a 'no' vote, by a margin of just 22 votes.

St Helier Deputy Sam Mézec, who has regularly spoken out against the Constables having an automatic seat in the States, believed that the referendum was ruined by a late change to the question, accusing the States Assembly of a 'Zimbabwe-style stitch-up'.

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