The Children and Housing Minister, and the Assistant Minister for Culture, have both resigned from Government, announcing plans for their party to support tomorrow’s ‘no confidence’ vote against the Chief Minister.
Senator Sam Mézec and Deputy Montfort Tadier – both of whom are members of Reform Jersey, which has five sitting States Members – said their decision not to support Senator John Le Fondré was largely down to a lack of progress on the Council of Ministers’ goal to ‘reduce income inequality.'
In his resignation letter, which Express has shared in full below, Senator Mézec cited frustrations over the Chief Minister’s failure to back plans to regulate landlords and boost the minimum wage.
He also alleged he had been “obstructed” by civil servants from pushing through policy decisions.
In an experience echoing that of Deputy Tadier, who told Express last week that the Government pulled £4m of funding from Jersey Heritage without telling him, Senator Mézec said: “…[I] have constantly had to manoeuvre through the civil service to have my policy positions accepted. When fighting for an Andium Homes rent freeze over the last few months, I discovered officers had pursued a funding arrangement for this which I had explicitly ruled out. This should not be the case in a democracy.”
Pictured: Both Senator Mézec and Deputy Tadier said they felt they had been blocked from carrying out their Ministerial roles properly.
But the saga over Chief Executive Charlie Parker’s second job at UK real estate firm New River was deemed “the last straw.”
“Last weekend, the government made clear our view that the CEO should not hold a private sector NED for a UK company. We are now a week later, and there are no signs that this view will be respected. Statements which have been published have said nothing of value and have clearly angered the public,” Senator Mézec told the Chief Minister in his letter.
“I believe that the fault for this lies with you. You exercised bad judgment in verbally approving the request from the CEO to take on another role (in contrast with the Deputy Chief Minister’s position on this) and then in allowing the SEB to provide retrospective permission, before properly consulting with the government. This is a mistake which could cost the public.
“I find myself asking the question, ‘Who runs Jersey, the elected government or the civil service?’ That question should not even be fathomable in a democratic society.”
Pictured: Deputy Tadier described Charlie Parker's second job at New River as the "last straw."
The Reform Jersey pair mark the second and third departures from Government prompted by the row over Mr Parker's non-executive directorship.
Senator Steve Pallett stepped down as Assistant Minister with responsibility for health and sport last week to support the no confidence vote. He told Express his decision was also stimulated by concerns over last year’s civil service pay row and the handling of the OneGov civil service overhaul.
Express understands other members of the Council of Ministers are also considering their positions.
Announcing his resignation, Senator Mézec also informed the Chief Minister that he had lost the support of the wider Reform Jersey party, with which he had signed an agreement in 2018 in order to secure the top political job.
No politicians have yet thrown their hat into the ring for the leadership should Senator Le Fondré lose tomorrow’s vote, but Reform Jersey has already suggested that they will support a candidate willing to back their ‘New Deal’ proposals.
Pictured: The Chief Minister will not be able to count on five votes of support from Reform Jersey.
The vote of no confidence, which is being held at an extraordinary sitting of the States Assembly starting tomorrow morning, was proposed by Chief Scrutineer Senator Kristina Moore.
In a report explaining why she had brought the motion, she said that her push is about more than just the “New River debacle”, citing the hospital saga, population policy, Government expenditure, oversight of the civil service and handling of the covid-19 pandemic among her reasons for bringing the motion.
If it succeeds, the whole Government will fall, with a new Chief Minister needing to be elected and a Council of Ministers selected.
After learning of the vote last week, Senator Le Fondré suggested during a States Assembly meeting that it was irresponsible to bring a vote that could destabilise Government as the island faces a second wave of covid-19.
He told politicians: "I believe some Members would like to capitalise on this opportunity for political gain and to see the Chief Executive, myself, or the Government fall. I believe that this type of behaviour would result in a manifestly disproportionate outcome given the circumstances."
In a video posted to social media over the weekend, Senator Moore appeared to rebut these suggestions, pointing to the US election as an example of change being possible at a challenging time.
Hinting at a potential leadership bid, she claimed that a vote in favour of ousting the Chief Minister would pave "the way for clearer, more compassionate leadership that people can trust as we enter a covid winter ahead."
For some States Members, the Government's handling of covid has already made up their minds. For others, the next 24 hours will be crucial in determining which way they will vote, with many hoping for a resolution to the dispute over the CEO’s second job.
On Friday, the Chief Minister issued a statement emphasising that, despite Ministerial disapproval, the matter was one for Mr Parker’s official ‘Employer’, the States Employment Board (SEB).
The States Employment Board, which has already given the Chief Executive retrospective permission for the role, announced on the same day that they would be writing to Mr Parker.
However, they said the contents of the note would be “confidential” and declined to comment further.
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