Delays to the £800m new hospital project mean that the final decision now falls during the election period, so might have to be taken by an outgoing Minister or senior civil servant...or wait until a new Government is in place.
It was confirmed in a Treasury report earlier this month that the plan to build a new health facility at Overdale is now around three months behind schedule.
The delays, which have been blamed on questions around the new access route, mean that a planning application is now likely to only be put forward in November.
With a full public Planning Inquiry conducted by an independent inspector needing to take place after that, the final decision is now due to fall during purdah – the pre-election period during which time Government Ministers are not allowed to make any decisions or announcements that could be politically advantageous to them in the forthcoming election.
Senator Kristina Moore, who is Chair of a panel reviewing the future hospital project, grilled the project’s political lead, Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham, on the matter at her panel’s latest hearing.
After Senator Farnham confirmed that the decision was likely to fall in the election period, she asked whether he felt such a significant decision being made at this time followed the “spirit and wording” of purdah restrictions.
Pictured: Future Hospital Review Panel Chair Senator Kristina Moore queried whether taking such a major decision at election time in June was against the "spirit" of purdah.
He replied that discussions were underway “about how government is conducted during that period, whether it be limited powers afforded to existing ministers or the power transferred to States Members who are not seeking re-election or indeed delegation to senior officers of certain functions.”
Senator Moore then questioned whether, as the Minister responsible for the project, he felt it “acceptable that such a major decision for the island” could be made by “unelected” people or outgoing politicians who “won’t be held accountable”.
He responded that he didn’t personally feel it was “appropriate to delegate that outside of the political sphere”, adding that his preference would be to have a decision taken earlier or leave it for the new Government.
Pictured: Senator Farnham, who has political responsibility for the hospital project, said that his preference would be for this Government or a new one to have the final say on the hospital.
No changes to the final approval system have been made as yet, meaning the decision currently remains with the Environment Minister, Deputy John Young, who turned down the previous hospital planning application following a public inquiry.
Deputy Young, who is not seeking re-election, told Express he understood that making a decision on what is set to be Jersey’s largest ever capital project might be classified as “business as usual” or “consolidation of existing business” by Government, allowing him to do so during purdah.
He emphasised that he had remained separate from the project design process to avoid any regulatory conflict, with his only involvement being the issuing of planning guidance – principles that he expects the design to follow.
Deputy Young also said that it was important that the role of the short-term Island Plan was not forgotten.
“This is a potential complication –the draft Island Pan is out for consultation at the moment. There will be an inquiry in October. [It] includes the preferred site for the hospital to be based at Overale and the access thereon. That Island Plan is open to both States Member amendments up until the middle of next month and public representations… The final plan on the Island Plan will be made in March. I’m entirely dependent on States Members approving that before we get to purdah.”
He added: “There is no latitude in the timetable – it is critical, it is all fixed.”
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