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EXPRESS OPINION: Were the Citizens' Panel listened to?

EXPRESS OPINION: Were the Citizens' Panel listened to?

Tuesday 21 July 2020

EXPRESS OPINION: Were the Citizens' Panel listened to?

Tuesday 21 July 2020


You might think that the biggest hurdle to overcome in our quest for a new hospital is its location; you would be wrong.

Looking through the criteria for membership of the ‘Citizens’ Panel’ - created to give islanders input into the process (as if that had been lacking) - it seems that you couldn’t be a member if you had "previously taken a public position about this project.”

Well, that rules out anyone with a social media profile. Or a mouth.

The serious point, however, is that it seems we will never know who DID qualify for membership – as the members themselves decided, unanimously, that their identities would not be revealed. The reason for the secrecy, according to a government spokesperson is "to keep the process fair and free from any outside influence, and to reassure those Islanders involved that they can speak freely and without fear of retribution."

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Pictured: The identities of the Citizens Panel members have been kept secret.

For “outside influence” you may justifiably substitute “outside scrutiny.” Two points are really important here. 

Firstly, we need to remember that the Panel are NOT actually selecting the potential sites.

As Express details today, their role was to draw up the list of criteria from which the sites could then be selected. On that basis – that they have essentially listed the questions which should be asked – should they really live in “fear of retribution” if their names were known?

If the simple act of deciding on criteria is enough for them to need their identities protected, then this Our/Future/New Hospital (delete according to current branding) project really has got out of hand. 

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Pictured: St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has already attacked the "cynical ploy" of including two public parks on the shortlist. 

Secondly, in the last week, the shortlist of five sites has been published, to widespread and cynical opprobrium because of the inclusion of two public parks (one of which the States has already specifically ruled out, and the other including a Neolithic dolmen). The controversy was immediate. Again.

But what wasn’t published at the same time, was a document detailing the process used to produce that shortlist. Why? Surely that would have been rather useful? I thought the restarted process was built on openness and transparency? Anyone with a pulse knew the shortlist would be controversial, so why not show the actual ‘workings’ which produced it? 

That crucial document simply appeared separately online, very quietly, a few days later, with no accompanying announcement, text message, WhatsApp notification or even whisper or “we’ve just released something of very significant public interest which you might just want to read.” By then, the news agenda had moved on.

Sound a little curious? 

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CLICK TO ENLARGE: The key matrix in the site selection report.

But Express picked it up, and our analysis is published today. It shows that, strangely, the final shortlist of sites doesn’t immediately appear to match the criteria set out by the Citizens’ Panel. Using the points deemed important by this anonymous group, the final shortlist could equally have included Warwick Farm, Tamba Park or St. Clement’s golf course. 

It didn't, so clearly other factors came into play. But we don’t know what they are, or how they were applied. 

We also don’t know how the Panel feel about the controversial final shortlist – which was apparently derived based on their rationale, but not actually chosen by them – as we can’t ask, because their identities are secret, specifically to protect them from the words or deeds of their fellow islanders.

Just think about that for a second. Is that really the level to which this project has sunk? 

It means we will never know if they think their criteria have been applied fairly, properly and as they intended. Were their wishes listened to? Were they empanelled to give political 'air cover', by formally including islanders in the official process?  

All the while, the years tick by, and the millions total up, on the island’s biggest ever capital project, and one which will – without doubt – repeatedly touch the lives, in a fundamental way, of every single person in this island. 

READ MORE...

FOCUS: How were the final five hospital sites selected?

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