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It will be intriguing to see what emerges when this Council gets to work

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By Lucy Stephenson

Lucy Stephenson

WHEN our new ministers were chosen last week, aside from the obvious realisation at just how different things are going to be, there was one question on my mind: ‘Now that we have a female Treasury Minister (our first) will women finally get to be treated like equals when it comes to tax matters?’

With Deputy Susie Pinel now in charge of the purse strings, perhaps it is time for the inequalities which mean, among other things, that my husband still has to sign a box to permit me to talk about my own tax affairs to finally be looked at.

We’ve been promised they would be sorted for a long time. Certainly for the past ten years, at least.

But each and every time we have been told there’s some kind of review on its way that it will be a part of, or that it will be addressed, just not quite yet.

The last time, however, I think we were simply told, yes, it would be sorted, but it wasn’t a priority.

But I want to know why it isn’t a priority?

It can’t be that complicated to change what is a completely archaic, sexist and downright offensive, albeit small, part of a system.

The States have been quick to react when they want to introduce a new tax like the long-term care scheme, or to change reliefs and allowances every year following the Budget, so why can’t this be done too?

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As Social Security Minister, Deputy Pinel has overseen the introduction of various parts of the Island’s discrimination law.

It therefore seems ironic that she is now responsible for one of the States’ very own policies that potentially puts it in breach of laws on gender discrimination, or at the very least the principles they are fundamentally based on.

In the next few weeks our new ministers will be gathering around the giant Council of Ministers’ table at the top of Cyril Le Marquand House to share their ideas and aims for the term ahead.

As they look to form their Strategic Plan and set out priorities within departments, all eyes will be on them, and expectations too.

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After all, the public said they wanted change before the election, and now they have it in an almost brand new set of ministers who have long watched from the backbenches and will surely be eager to get stuck in.

Their to-do lists will be long, and some priorities will need to take precedence.

But hopefully there will be room for some wrongs of the past to be sorted too, like the so far not-seen-through promise of correcting the gender inequalities within our tax system.

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ASIDE from being appointed External Relations Minister, Senator Ian Gorst has this week also assumed responsibility for the finance industry.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré has asked him to look after Jersey’s main industry and biggest employer because of the close relationship between it and the Island’s international standing, as well as the challenges that Brexit poses.

It’s a sensible move, but not just for the reasons that they have said so.

It was the right thing to do because the new Chief Minister has had a strange relationship with the finance industry in the past few years, largely down to his opposition to the Jersey International Finance Centre, or at the very least the way it has been developed by the Jersey Development Company.

The new arrangement also indicates the close working relationship that is going to need to exist between the new Chief and his predecessor.

At times it may even resemble a kind of coalition government.

However, what we don’t want to see a return to is the triumvirate early days of the last Council of Ministers, when Senator Gorst, then External Relations Minister Philip Bailhache and Senator Philip Ozouf were seen as largely in control at the top, with many other ministers feeling excluded.

Senator Le Fondré has talked a lot about inclusivity during his campaign for the top job, and his new Council certainly appears to be inclusive.

But the real test will come in the next few months as he – and they – seek to navigate priorities, budgets, competing ideas and interests and personalities.

They may not be everyone’s first choice of Council, but that’s politics. And at the very least it is intriguing to see what comes next.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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