Time to switch the debate to issues we can influence
By Lucy Stephenson
IF I have to read another Letter to the Editor/ social media post/ blog article about where the new hospital should be I am going to scream.
And then I’m going to hit ignore/ delete/ mute as fast as I can.
Because I am sorry to say I am bored of the whole ‘debate’.
I say ‘debate’ because when it comes to the actual location there no longer is one.
That ship has sailed and even though the independent planning inspector recommended the outline planning permission as applied for be refused – a decision which Environment Minister Steve Luce then upheld – he agreed that a rebuild on the current site was appropriate due to its transport links and the fact that it is a well-established hospital site which ‘works well for the community’.
There may well be other sites that would work too, but there comes a point in every big decision when you just have to actually make one and go with it.
After all we have seen far too many times with the whole States reform debate what the opposite achieves – absolutely nothing. But more about reform later…
The hospital plans clearly need work. And we are in a far from ideal situation with yet more delays on a project that clinicians have warned needs to progress ASAP.
But right now the debates need to remain focused on the building itself, its size and scale, the impact it will have on the area and so on and so forth.
Because returning to the old ‘where should it go’ discussion not only diverts energy, time and potentially resources, it also turns a whole section of the community just like me off from the whole debate.
And actually this is a really important decision that we should all be involved and interested in.
I shouldn’t want someone to just get on and build the thing, I should want it done properly, carefully and to the very best that it can be.
I still do, of course, want all of those things. I’m just not sure how much more of the to-ing and fro-ing I can take. Imagine what those actually involved in trying to get it sorted must feel like?
And with the election looming and a whole new cohort of political hopefuls ready to have their own say it is only going to get worse.
So it got me thinking, what else could I do without coming up repeatedly during the dozens of hours of hustings that I will invariably have to sit through in a few short weeks’ time?
States reform: When Senator Sir Philip Bailhache stood for re-election in 2011 his electoral reform speeches were welcome indeed. It was the right time for some strong words and a rallying call. Fast forward to 2018 and so many failed attempts at actually getting some/ any kind of reform through the States and I’d say most people are pretty bored. We, the public, did our bit, the politicians didn’t. So let’s move on to something more important.
The Jersey International Finance Centre: It’s there, or being built, and there seriously cannot be any more arguments that haven’t been covered already. If there’s something new then fair enough, but there probably isn’t…
So what’s more important?
Well, for example, what is being done to tackle the education crisis taking hold where dozens of teachers are at risk of quitting the profession or being signed off with stress because they are, in the words of the Jersey president of the National Education Union, underpaid and overworked?
With a new government on the way how will the States ensure that the recommendations of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry and the promises that followed them are implemented?
In addition to the above how will politicians work to make sure that the new Children’s Commissioner, Deborah McMillan, is not only supported but listened to and able to enact real change?
How will shortages of nurses, social workers and foster carers, among other hugely significant jobs, be tackled?
Parents have been promised a far reaching new scheme to cover the cost of their children going to university, but exactly what will that look like and how can families be confident enough that it will be affordable in the long-term so that they can plan ahead?
What exactly is going to happen with Brexit? And our public finances…
And how will we ensure that Jersey is up to date and empowering women and families generally with family-friendly legislation?
These are just some of the discussions I would like to sit through, and think all election candidates should be preparing themselves to take part in.
There’s no suggestion, of course, that they should have all the answers. Because just like the hospital debacle, it takes a huge amount of time, energy and the contributions of different experts to get anywhere near an answer (if there even is one) on such big, important issues. And there comes a point when we, the public, simply have to trust that process.