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Lost records prompt calls for more funds for archive service

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MORE calls have been made in the States to prioritise extra funding for the Island’s archive service after it was revealed that thousands of planning documents had been destroyed.

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Four thousand files on historic buildings held by the Environment Department were destroyed in what was described by the Records Advisory Panel as the most serious incident involving the loss of public documents since the Public Records Law came into force in 2003.

A further 3,000 were also nearly lost and government departments have been storing files while staff at the Archive work through a backlog of material.

Deputy Kevin Pamplin raised the issue in the States on Tuesday, calling for a review into how government departments are operating to resume as a matter of urgency. He urged Chief Minister John Le Fondré to prioritise funding to address the severe backlog in the service.

‘Given the troubling news that a government department destroyed 4,000 historical documents and nearly destroyed another 3,000 rather than send them to the Archive, does he agree this review needs to start as a matter or urgency?

‘And secondly, following Jersey Archive needing further funding, saying and I quote, a shortage of people means by 2025 they estimate their backlog of work to catalogue will be 100 years, that their funding is also prioritised.’

In response Senator Le Fondré said he would have no objection to prioritising funding, but due to the financial pressures the States were currently facing, it needed to weigh up whether money was needed more in areas such as mental health, or to sort the Island’s archives.

He said: ‘In terms of the programme, my understanding is that the reason is the person who was doing that work has left the organisation and that was the problem.

‘That is why there was a delay in recruiting someone to do the work.

‘In terms of prioritising, the difficulty we all have is the level of priorities we are facing, given the systemic issues that the organisation has been struggling with for a number of years.

‘In the context of that I have no objection to it, but I do need to point out that we still face the funding pressure that we have and we do need to make sure, bluntly, if it is a choice between somebody who is going to improve mental health and someone who is going to improve the archive process, where should the priority lie for this year, bearing in mind the Government Plan is a rolling plan for four years? I have no objection to bringing that forward at a later date to speed up the process, but we are facing significant challenges for 2020.’

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