THE Deputy Chief Minister – during a grilling from young Islanders – has expressed ‘complete disagreement’ with a fellow minister’s description of the allegedly toxic atmosphere which contributed to the Island’s most senior civil servant quitting her job.
Answering questions from school pupils during yesterday’s Youth Assembly meeting in the States Chamber, Deputy Kirsten Morel took issue with the reaction of Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet to the resignation of chief executive Suzanne Wylie.
Deputy Binet’s description of the ‘tense and less-than-happy working environment’ in the government’s main Broad Street office was raised by one delegate, with the Deputy Chief Minister asked whether he agreed with the description.
Deputy Morel answered: ‘Absolutely not. I completely disagree and refute what he [Deputy Binet] said. At no point did he speak to the chief executive before coming up with those words.
‘Having not spoken to the chief executive, this was a case of a man putting words into a woman’s mouth, and that is not appropriate.’
In response to a follow-up question on whether Deputy Morel agreed there was a ‘challenging culture’ within the government, he said he did not agree with this description, but did say that the chief executive had ‘the toughest job in the Island’.
‘We do need to make sure the role is structured in the right way. Its scale and scope need to be looked at,’ he said.
During the remainder of a grilling by a panel of around 30 students from a range of schools, Deputy Morel was also challenged on the 17% turnout by youth voters at last year’s election, a figure which is one of the lowest rates in the world.
‘I’m really sure that I don’t have an answer and it’s something that all Members and the States Greffe are working to try and understand,’ he said.
Asked about bringing in electronic voting, Deputy Morel added: ‘I’m not convinced that would be a panacea. I think there are issues around security and also a risk that it takes away the sense of occasion of voting.’
It was also confirmed by Treasury Minister Ian Gorst that the government wished to extend the provision of free period products rather than make such products exempt from GST.
The GST exemption had been backed by the States Assembly last April, but Deputy Gorst said this was not the government’s preferred option.
‘We will shortly be lodging a proposition to rescind the decision about GST and to maintain the free provision introduced last year,’ he said.
‘A tax like GST can either be a complex matter with a high rate and lots of exemptions, or a charge that is low and broad. The States took the decision to take the latter route when GST was introduced, which was a move I supported at the time and still do.’
Housing Minister David Warr said he wanted to use the contents of a £10 million fund to help Islanders bridge the affordability gap as they looked to buy property, but recognised that this had to be managed carefully to avoid the risk of inadvertently inflating the market.