The Housing department has nothing to hide and is transparent on its development of policy

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From Senator Terry Le Main, Housing Minister.

YOUR readers will have seen the rather sensationalist reporting relating to the Whitehead report on the provision of social housing in Jersey in the JEP recently and in particular the leader of 22 September.

Professor Whitehead’s report was, contrary to the JEP report, only completed at the end of July 2009 and not in June. Prior to this time there were a couple of draft copies which were subsequently amended by the authors due to the changed financial climate and circumstances. The final copy contains far more up-to-date financial information.

The final version has not been hidden. Final copies were sent to members of the Council of Ministers and the Health, Social Security and Housing Scrutiny panel on 3 August 2009 within days of my receiving it. It was also sent to the chairman of PAC and the Comptroller and Auditor General.

If this was to be a hidden document, then I have to highlight again the list of recipients. No hidden document, no secrets.

The Council of Ministers do not sit in August. Their first meeting was at the beginning of September and Prof Whitehead and Michael Jones were not available until 17 September.

The under-funding referred to in the report is the same as the estimates in the social housing property plan, which was approved by the States two years ago and has been a public document ever since.

Please remember that I, together with officers and Scrutiny, set out the parameters and terms of reference for Prof Whitehead and her team and the several issues raised in the 2010 Business Plan have been of concern for a considerable time, hence one of the reasons for the review.

We have listened. We were well aware that experienced States Members like Senator Breckon wanted the Housing Department to be an ‘arm’s length’ operation. Members were concerned about not having a common waiting list for all social housing providers, including issues such as trust, a common gateway for all, the problem of missing out certain classes of persons under retirement age for social rented housing, regulation, and the setting of fair rents. All these and more were put in the terms of reference for consideration.

The report sets out the full range of possible options for the future. It does not recommend any one of these options as ‘the best’. The States will debate proposals that I will bring forward following a 12-week period of public consultation and will decide on the option which is best suited to Jersey.

The consultation period will enable all members of our society to read what I believe is a good and comprehensive report and to comment on it. I very much welcome those comments and look forward to considering all the submissions.

It is regrettable that the report has been leaked ahead of its planned release following endorsement by the Council of Ministers. I am particularly saddened that key stakeholders such as our tenants have been denied the opportunity of hearing about the outcome of the review direct from Prof Whitehead and her team. That said, I do not believe that the leak in any way undermines what is a very important piece of work.

Please remember this is an independent review undertaken by one of the UK’s most respected academics from the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge.

There is nothing to hide. The Housing department is open and transparent in its development of policy and welcomes the opportunity for change. I will ensure that copies of the document are released to the States Assembly as soon as possible.

States of Jersey Housing Department, Jubilee Wharf, Esplanade, St Helier.

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