Changing of the guard presents real opportunity for community groups

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WITH every new States Assembly there comes an opportunity for change, a clean slate and some fresh ideas.

But, with new politicians in there with different experience and interests it also presents an opportunity for some new priorities to push their way up the agenda.

I’m not talking about the big, broad subjects like immigration, health, education and public spending. I mean the day-to-day policies, organisations and services that every single day make a difference to the lives of Islanders.

In the last Assembly, for example, Deputy Louise Doublet made her mark by becoming something of a champion for family friendly rights and matters of diversity.

But this year is different, and in an even better way.

Because the reorganisation of States departments by chief executive Charlie Parker and co and the appointment of a number of new director generals and group directors to head up those departments means that as well as new faces in the Chamber keen to make their mark, there’s also an increasing number of people in the civil service, at all levels, wanting to make an impression.

When combined, this changing of the guard presents a real opportunity for our community,

We are used to the likes of the Chamber of Commerce and Jersey Hospitality Association calling for new Assemblies to consider their areas, issues and members as they make decisions. In fact, the latter of those two organisations held a breakfast briefing with new States Members just hours after the final election result was in.

But now it is time others followed suit in getting in touch.

The Jersey Arts Centre knows this and has done just that.

This week it emerged that urgent talks have taken place between the Jersey Arts Centre and a senior civil servant after the organisation claimed that years of failed promises from politicians have put the future of the venue at risk.

Andrew Goodyear, who was re-elected as chairman of the arts organisation at last week’s AGM, is in discussion with Dan Houseago, who has been appointed group director for economy in the new-look government.

Meetings have been taking place with arts organisations, Mr Goodyear says, after the Arts Centre, ArtHouse Jersey (formerly Jersey Arts Trust) and the Opera House sent a joint letter to election candidates asking them to support the creative sector, which they claim is under-funded.

And ahead of the AGM, Mr Goodyear went further by writing to the Arts Centre’s more than 900 members. He claimed that low financial reserves caused by a lack of government funding and support meant the organisation was at its most critical point in its 35-year history.

‘We simply do not have the funds necessary to operate on the current basis,’ he wrote.

‘The time has long passed when we could present a balanced budget due to a consistent lack of investment both in terms of the scale of the revenue grant received from the States and the lack of capital investment in the Phillips Street building. This has resulted in our modest levels of cash reserves having been slowly eroded as we struggle to maintain a building which has not seen significant investment since opening in 1983.’

It was a clever move getting their call for more and better support in there early in the ‘new world order’. And it seems it was long overdue for the organisation itself.

But now it is time that other groups, bodies and organisations followed suit and made their requirements and issues known too. And I’m sure that it wouldn’t hurt for those who have previously interacted with government to remind those in power of their needs.

By all accounts Mr Parker is a very willing listener right now, and one would hope that his leadership team are following his example.

But in order to listen they need to be contacted and have things explained clearly and reasonably.

That feedback from those on the ground is invaluable at the best of times, but even more so now during such a period of change.

It will take time, of course, and there will not be the resources and will to meet all the many demands there will surely be.

But as the Arts Centre knows only too well there are many issues out there that have been brewing for too long, and now is the time to at the very least get them off your chest.

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