Where are the ministerial responses to e-petitions that hit 1,000 signatures?

- Advertisement -

FROM reinstating the Christmas bonus for all pensioners and restoring Fort Regent to its former glory, to capping rents and introducing a free ‘aire’ French-style camping system in Jersey for locals, the subjects featured on the new States e-petitions website are mixed and varied.

Some have just a handful of signatures and are unlikely to achieve many more, others hundreds and with time perhaps will hit the 1,000 mark that triggers a response from a minister.

And there are those, like the one about making it an offence not to stop and report a road accident that involves cats, that exceeded that mark within days and have the potential to surpass the 5,000 signatures that means it will be considered for a debate in the States.

So far six petitions have passed the 1,000 signatures mark yet just one of those has actually received a response from a minister – that being the call for a States compensation scheme for victims of asbestos-related cancer, which has received 1,303 signatures. And, to be honest, the response itself wasn’t actually that good.

The five others awaiting responses are: Rental price caps law to limit rental prices to reasonable rents (2,944 signatures), make it illegal to run over a cat but not report it (2,107 signatures), introduce a free ‘aire’ French-style camping system in Jersey for locals (1,447 signatures), ballot all Hospital staff about the future use of the current site (1,243 signatures) and assisted dying – allow individuals of capacity their own end of life choices (1,222 signatures).

And these haven’t just surpassed the trigger point in the last few days, they have been up there for longer than is acceptable without a response from a minister.

Because, you see, what kind of message does it send out to the Islanders who have gone to the effort of setting up and signing those petitions to effectively be ignored?

As anyone who has ever run a petition will know, checking in on the running total can become something of an addiction, and a lot of thought goes in to the whole process.

Even being brave enough to put your name out there to a petition is daunting for some people.

So why haven’t our ministers been better at responding, particularly when it comes to such sensitive issues as assisted dying and those that people were so passionate about during the election trail like the cost of rental accommodation?

The easy answer would be to say that they obviously don’t care and have far more ‘important’ things to do. After all we basically have a bunch of new ministers trying to learning the ropes in an ever-changing States of Jersey, it can’t be easy. And there surely must be lots of pressures vying for their attentions.

But, being fair to them, there’s more to it.

Sure, they should be keeping an eye on a tool as useful as e-petitions and if they were keeping up to date with the media they’d see there is an issue within their remit that has been raised and surpassed the 1,000 mark.

But at a time when I am told the ministerial support system that used to exist within the States is basically a mess, can we really blame the ministers for their lack of responses?

Because, apparently, where once ministers had their own officers to rely on, now resources have, in many areas, been pooled and there’s far fewer staff helping to support a larger number of ministers across varied – and in some cases still uncertain – portfolios.

There are ministers who as yet aren’t quite clear about what is and what isn’t within their remit, there are ministers turning up to question time without any of the pre-prepared answers put together with the help of officers in their department that they would have had in the past, and there are ministers who are basically having to rely on favours to get some – any – civil service support.

So it is no wonder that things like e-petition responses are getting missed.

And it is not just those on the fringes of the Council of Ministers finding it a challenge, but those in departments with some of the biggest budgets and facing some of the most important issues of this term of office.

The officers too don’t have it easy, with increasing pressure from the top and new responsibilities often being piled upon and upon and upon existing ones.

There’s various civil servants today doing jobs that once were done by two or three people, yet they are being paid exactly the same as they were before. And they simply do not have, in many cases, the capacity to be doing favours for ministers, however much they may want to.

It is now time for our Chief Minister to show some leadership and support his council, recognising that many are struggling in a broken system.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Latest Stories

- Advertisement -

UK News

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Read the latest free supplements

Read the Town Crier, Le Rocher and a whole host of other subjects like mortgage advice, business, cycling, travel and property.