Coalition manifesto promises openness

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GREATER accountability in government is among the key election pledges of the Jersey Liberal Conservatives/Progress coalition.

The two parties, who will field nine candidates between them after joining forces in the run-up to the election, unveiled their joint manifesto this week.

Sir Philip Bailhache, who the coalition intends to put forward for Jersey’s next Chief Minister, pledged to restore confidence among Islanders, making the next government ‘more effective, open and responsive to the needs of Jersey people’.

Asked about the key differences between JLC/Progress and rival parties, Sir Philip said that Reform Jersey had published an ‘essentially socialist’ manifesto, while the coalition also diverged significantly from the Jersey Alliance.

‘The key difference [from the Jersey Alliance] is accountability, both of ministers and of civil servants to ministers – we don’t see that in the Alliance manifesto, which may not be surprising, as many of its members put the current system into place,’ he said.

Sir Philip said the outgoing government had displayed ‘a lamentable lack of transparency’, while Senator Steve Pallett, leader of the Progress Party, was equally critical.

Senator Pallett said: ‘There have been major policy areas or decisions where a spokesperson or officer has been put forward, rather than a minister, and that has to change.

‘Ministers have to take responsibility and step up to the plate – it’s part of the job, and if you don’t want to do that, then you shouldn’t be a minister.’

During the early stages of canvassing ahead of polling day on 22 June, Mr Pallett said that key issues for voters had been the excessive levels of spending by the current government and the importance of issues such as the environment and strong support for the health service.

Written before the recent decision by Environment Minister John Young to grant planning permission for the new hospital at Overdale, the coalition manifesto states that the new facility should be built ‘at a sensible cost at a sensible place’.

Sir Philip said: ‘The next government is going to have to make some very difficult decisions – I still don’t think that we should be building a hospital costing nearly a billion pounds, creating a millstone of debt around the necks of future generations, and don’t believe it’s not possible to reduce the cost.’

Senator Pallett added: ‘I’ve never supported Overdale, but planning permission has been given and to change track and look at another site could lead to a level of delay that the public would not find acceptable.’

Levels of borrowing for the hospital, as well as for the continued provision of pensions and housing, was an area of concern, Senator Pallett said, backing his coalition colleague’s call for a ‘very quick review’ of the Overdale project by the new government.

Other key planks of the coalition manifesto include:

– Developing policies to limit population growth, with the aim of having a stable working population in a balanced economy.

– Tackling the challenges in housing by providing more affordable homes to rent, setting up shared-equity schemes to help first-time buyers and creating greater awareness of tenancy rights and obligations.

– Investing in education in order to ensure all young people could develop their talents to the full, regardless of background.

The JLC/Progress coalition’s nine candidates will be spread across seven of the Island’s nine Deputy districts, with no representation in St Helier North or Grouville and St Martin.

Reform Jersey has 14 candidates standing in six of the nine districts, while the Jersey Alliance slate of 14 includes a runner in each of the nine Deputy districts and one Constable. Out of a total of 93 candidates, 56 are standing as independents.

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