The politician responsible for Jersey's heritage says he was kept in the dark about multi-million pound plans to renovate Elizabeth Castle being axed from the Government plan.
The criticism from Assistant Minister for Culture, Deputy Montfort Tadier, came after a previously agreed £4m project for the renovation of Elizabeth Castle was pulled.
The project would have seen the creation of new event and toilet facilities at the historic site, and the transformation of the officers’ quarters into self-catered holiday lets – the need for which had been identified back in the 1980s.
The States Assembly agreed funding for the project last year as part of the 2020-2023 Government Plan, but the latest version of the document didn’t include it, leaving Jersey Heritage “surprised and disappointed, if not embarrassed."
Pictured: Nearly £4 million had been earmarked for renovation works at Elizabeth Castle but they were pulled out unexpectedly.
Despite being the Assistant Minister with specific responsibility for culture and heritage, Deputy Tadier said he had received no prior warning about the funding being cut, nor any consultation on why it was taken out, noting it was inconceivable that similar assets around the world would have to fight so hard for money.
“It was kind of presented very late on as a ‘fait accompli’,” he said. “It’s not something I could have an input in.”
At the same time, the Assistant Minister for Culture said he had to battle so that the Government would not renege on the States Assembly’s decision to commit 1% of the total Government’s budget to the arts.
“It’s only because I told them not to that it is still there, but I would have had to fight them on that,” Deputy Tadier said.
Pictured: Deputy Tadier said he would be asking the Treasury Minister to reinstate the funding.
The Assistant Minister said he spoke to his officers last week about asking to meet the Treasury Minister, Deputy Susie Pinel. Earlier this week, he also emailed Deputy Pinel as well as the Chief Minister, Senator John le Fondré, to ask whether the funding will be reinstated.
If not, he said he is prepared to propose an amendment to the Government Plan, which the States Assembly would then have to vote on.
“Personally, I think there’s a good chance the States would be sympathetic to reinstating the money,” the St. Brelade representative said. “Even though we’re in the middle of a pandemic, this is a long-term strategic spend that’s necessary and it’s the right time to do it.
“It’s up to the Council of Ministers - well, the Chief Minister and Treasury - whether they want to fight on this or whether they support heritage."
Pictured: The Assistant Minister for Culture said successive governments had failed to spend on the "public good".
He continued: “I think successive governments have always found it difficult to spend, whether it’s on things like hospitals or the Millennium Town Park. Things that are spent on the public good, we have had difficulty doing that and I think it is not within their mentality to think about things other than the direct financial return, which is a shame.
“But in this case, I think there is a direct financial return so it ticks all the boxes really.”
Referring to the issues he recently encountered in ensuring Assembly’s decisions were being respected, Deputy Tadier said they were “a symptom of a lack of political oversight in our system and decisions that are constantly being taken away from politicians and being made by senior civil servants."
The Assistant Minister also noted it is part of a wider problem about the dysfunctionality of the Government, which he said was very topical.
Pictured: Deputy Tadier said unelected civil servants should not "substitute their own ideas over decisions that have already been made".
“I think it used to be the case that when the States made a decision, that was a decision and then the Government, the executive, would do it and if there was any suggestion of them trying to renege on that responsibility, there would effectively be a vote of no confidence,” Deputy Tadier said.
“I think we’ve seen increasing decisions that have been taken that either get delayed or ignored, sometimes they even get reversed and I think that, irrespective of whether someone voted for or against, that’s completely anti-democratic to do that.
“I think it’s really dangerous when the Government starts ignoring the Assembly. It’s even worse when unelected civil servants or Treasury officials start substituting their own ideas over decisions that have already been made - that’s completely unacceptable.”
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