Christmas Meeting of Chief Pleas

The Christmas meeting of Chief Pleas was held on Wednesday 17th January 2024 with only 11 Conseillers present and apologies having been received from four Conseillers. His Excellency, The Lt. Governor of Guernsey was also absent having sent his apologies whilst the public gallery was relatively empty, no doubt in some part due to the inclement weather. The Speaker of the House welcomed Deputy John Gollop, a member of Guernsey’s Policy & Resources Committee, and the acting Presiding Officer of Guernsey’s States of Deliberation. The Speaker then confirmed that a general election is scheduled for this year and advised Sark’s residents to ensure that they are inscribed on the electoral register in order to be able to stand for election or to vote in December 2024. Conseiller Plummer made a statement with reference to Sark’s reserves as a result of previous comments made by Conseiller Harris at the last Chief Pleas meeting and confirmed that the most held in the island’s coffers in the past 14 years has been £3,343,392.

There were no Matters Arising from the previous meeting of Sark government and only one Question Not Related to the Business of the Day: Conseiller Harris first offered his apologies for misleading the House with his previous comments regarding Sark’s reserves. He then asked Conseiller Guille, chair of Policy & Finance (P&F), if any succession planning had been considered with regards to the possible renewal of the Assistant Chief Secretary’s position as both this role and that of the recently advertised head of the civil service would both be vacant at the same time. Conseiller Guille confirmed that the incumbent, Dianne Marshall, would be imminently offered a renewal contract of her employment and that this had been agreed at the previous evening P&F meeting.

The third agenda item entitled ‘The Public Notaries (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, 2023’ requested that the House approve a draft Projet de Loi covering the Bailiwick of Guernsey; Conseiller Baker confirmed that Guernsey would have the powers to enact ordinances on this law though he added that this should only be after consultation with P&F. Conseiller Guille, responding to a question of Conseiller Barker, confirmed that more thorough briefings from Guernsey would be helpful when addressing these arduous pieces of legislation.

The fourth item saw a proposal, the ‘Reinstatement of Finance & Resources Committee’, to separate the finance function from P&F, in effect resurrecting the former Finance & Resources Committee. Conseiller Guille confirmed that Guernsey’s Law Officers have been unable to fully attend to this matter and that it will be brought back to the assembly at a later date though they welcomed any questions on the topic. Conseiller Harris suggested a scrutiny function to be added to the new committee though Conseiller Guille felt that this would be a detraction from its principal remit, finance.

The report with propositions regarding Sark’s Replacement Power System was the agenda item that has probably attracted the most interest over recent weeks. This was subsequently voted through following Conseiller Guille’s summary that this proposition was not to approve the project which has been provisionally costed in the region of £8 million but to approve the expenditure of £175,000 to take the project to the full design phase in order to obtain more detailed costings.

Domestic and commercial rubbish and recycling collection is set to increase as well as sewage collection.

The Education Committee confirmed that it has struggled to be quorate in recent meetings and asked for their mandate to be updated to five members in order to achieve this. The committee also requested the removal of Ex-Officio members as they had received advice that this title enabled those in the role to vote on committee matters whilst the individual may not have been democratically voted into the House.

The Chair of the Tax Review Committee gave an update to the House suggesting the next stage of its investigations would be a public consultation and asked that islanders are encouraged to get in touch with the committee with their views. The House then voted to disband the Development Control Law (Special) Committee as it was felt beneficial for oversight to return to the full committee before a Medical Report was submitted and noted by the Medical & Emergency Services Committee. The Agriculture, Environment and Sea Fisheries Committee presented a brief report covering Sea Fisheries and Asian Hornets as well as an annual report from the Sark Abattoir. Sadly, the news that the current butcher will be leaving sometime this year leaves a vacancy for someone with qualified butchery skills on island.

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