Four Alderney politicians have signed a requête asking the States to trim the all member Policy and Finance Committee down to a cabinet-style membership of just five.
Kevin Gentle proposed the requête and Graham McKinley, Chris Harris and Annie Burgess signed it.
A requête is a legal mechanism that allows any States Member to bring a motion to the States of Deliberation if he or she can find three others to support it.
In it they write:
‘[We] no longer have the confidence in a 10 person committee delivering good governance for the people of the Island.’
They go on to petition the States of Alderney to elect a new Policy and Finance Committee consisting of a chairman and other four members.
The requête will be debated at this month’s States Meeting.
Longstanding Alderney States Member Graham McKinley said the change was overdue.
He pointed out that when the original government of Alderney was formed after the war, P&F consisted of a small number of States Members. It was only relatively recently under the presidency of Sir Norman Browse that P&F was expanded to include every politician. He said:
‘This system means that a lot of things are done in private and the main meetings quite often discuss items which should be discussed at the full states meeting in front of an audience. But instead they are kept private so nobody really knows the reasons for the decisions and the logic behind arguments put forward during the meeting.’
The requête’s authors envision that the new P&F will consist of the chairmen of P&F, GSC and the Finance Committee, plus an Alderney Representative and one other States Member.
Mr McKinley said in his opinion it should be even smaller.
‘If you look at the Guernsey system they have six members on the Policy and Resources Committee and 40 members of the States. We have 10 members of the States and potentially half of them on P&F. I think that is still too many – it should come down to three or four.
‘The other five Alderney States Members could form a scrutiny committee to look at any items they think we may have come to the wrong decision on and review them.
‘I’m seriously hoping that is passed next week.’
States Member Alex Snowdon said safeguards against abuse of power should be introduced in tandem with the formation of a cabinet.
The requête, he said, was ‘jumping the gun’. He has concerns that the far reaching powers of P&F could fall into the hands of a few dominant members who could then exert undue control over government.
He also pointed out that many Policy and Finance decisions are not required to go to the States for scrutiny and ratification.
‘P&F can independently enter into option agreements, award exclusive rights over Marina or Tourgis developments, employ consultants and give support to third parties, all without the involvement of the full States in the debating chamber. Transparency is further blocked by stamping ‘confidential’ on the minutes.
There were several options which required consideration before a reduction was voted through. He said:
‘A scrutiny committee, like Guernsey’s with the teeth to request a cooling off period if there are concerns that a P&F resolution is not in the best of public interest and they should have the power to review any decision. This should be in place before P&F is reduced.
‘A second option would see P&F’s powers substantially reduced in order to reduce back room deals. P&F would be required to submit nearly all items to the full States.
Thirdly the committee could open up its doors to the public so every decision is taken with the public being able to see the decision making process.
‘The current requête feels like it’s being rushed through from the States of Alderney – it’s reform on the back of a fag packet.’
In 2016 the States commissioned an independent review of governance and the findings in the McDonald Report urged fundamental reform. The author described P&F as ‘an aggregate of shifting allowances’ with no strong political leadership.
In 2019 the States voted on measures to better separate the executive from the legislature which would likely have seen the establishment of a cabinet style policy committee.
At the September States meeting former States Member Rosemary Hanbury used Chief Pleas to make made an appeal for government reform.
The Good Governance group was set up to supervise the transformation but, said Mrs Hanbury, nothing seemed to have been done ‘to amend a failing system’.