st_ouennais (st_ouennais) wrote,

Blink and you might miss local democracy

I've just spotted the notice of nominations for a Procureur and 2 Centeniers in the parish.  I knew a Centenier's election ought to be coming as a vacancy was created when the new Connetable was elected.

Nomination meetings will be held on Wednesday 22 August 2018 at St. Ouen Parish Hall:

  • at 7.30pm to elect a Procureur du Bien Public for a three year term of office expiring September 2021

  • at 7.45pm to elect a Centenier for a three year term of office expiring September 2021

  • at 8pm to elect a Centenier to complete a term of office expiring December 2020

A nomination form for each candidate must be produced to the meeting and must be completed by a proposer and nine seconders who are electors of the Parish.

It appears the notice was posted the 13th of August.  August is a holiday time for rmany people, especially those with school age children, and of course the States don't sit in the summer.  You might wonder how that fits with giving just 9 days notice of an election.  I can quite imagine some competent potential candidates will never have had the chance to stand as their 2 weeks holiday totally overlaps the notice and nomination period.

The reality is these positions are seldom contested in most Parishes.  In the past when it has happened in St Ouen I have heard grumbling about it all being unnecessary.  "Elections cost money" and "We all know who will get elected".  The pragmatic way is that people are usually approached to stand by one of those already in a position in the Parish . Might had had some  merit in days when people tended to live and work  all their lives in the same place, but these days?

This tension in the parishes bewteen a pragmatic approach to electing people to the administration against the modern day  expectations of democracy has come to the fore.   Senator Mezec opined about it on a blog.  A commentary about that appreared on another blog, and comments have also been made by our constable (also  assistant chief minister) that can be read about on a third blog.

Whatever side of this debate you take there is a problem.  No matter what nice theoretical mechanics are adopted without candidates there is no choice and without choice there is no democracy.  For most of these parish administration roles there is little by way of policy or influence that goes with the position.  An election is largely a determination of who is more capable administratively.  It is slightly different for Centenier and Procureur in that there is some influence they have over budgets/spending and policing policy for example.

So here is the conundrum.  If you want to save the Parish system, the best thing you can do is to contest positions to  force a vote thereby facilitating at least a degree of democracy.  Exactly the  'waste of money and time' that many electors react against.

Just to be clear, yes I have been sounded out in the past about standing for Centenier.  I cannot quite see how they think I am going to drive the police car.  I would be quite interested to see what the magistrates made of my beard and pony tail  making a prosecution case before them in court.  Realisitically I don't think it is a plausible role for me.

I've never really thought about Procureur du Bien Publique. Being a legal and finaincial representative of the Parish is not a likely place for bold change.  It would require a bit if a novel take on the role, thinking a bit broader than finances to a more general notion of resources.

We could for example as a Parish produce the equivalent of ecological footprint accounts
( see and

Before you think that infeasible, it is worth noting Caldecott and Bull  reported footprints for British cities over a decade ago.
St Ouen's population is greater than the City of St David, and comparable to that of St  Asaph)

You might be aware that the Parish rate per quarter has gone down the last few years.  The lastest decrease was largely down to the States  paying rates on property in the Parish so the number of quarters assessed has increased.  Paying less in rates is very nice, but we might have been wiser to have a smaller reduction and started a programme of activities looking to the future.  For example under the Energy Pathway 2050 there is an objective for renewable energy (30%) bt 2050.  As a Parish we have so far achived I think 0.

This is another quote from the report  The Minister for Planning and Environment, through the Eco-Active Energy Efficiency Service will:
i. In 2015 design a pilot study that will demonstrate the potential for community scale microrenewable schemes and energy autonomous housing e.g. Solar PV and solar thermal, ground/air-source heat pumps, anaerobic digestion and potentially Combined Heat and Power (CHP) schemes This will take the form of a competitive tender process where communities will be invited to submit a proposal for their project. The pilot will be independently verified in order to assess the suitability of the model for further roll-out Island wide.

Where is the scheme, why are we not as a Parish community demanding  the Minister come up with the goods?  This sort of tender should be the high on the agenda of a Procureur.

In the absence of the States actually delivering on their  commitments on climate change and ecology, we have no choice but to act as a Parish ourselves.  If we have not reduced our rates so quickly we might have had some capital to invest in ground source heat pumps or solar PV for some Parish buildings.  That would produce cost savings on fuel bills, and potentially a return greater than the paltry amount possible having cash on deposit.  Yes, no other Parish has done that as far as I am aware, but that's never stopped us in the past.   We didn't turn against building homes for the elderly and electing women to the honorary police just because others weren't doing it.

So my fellow Gris Ventres, I'll  leave it up to you.  If there are 10 of you out there who can organise yourselves to get a nomination in on time, I'm happy to argue the above in an election.   If there aren't 10 of you who agree or can get organised, then perhaps the argument made by some that the Parish system isn't working and cannot be modernised has more validity than you realised.

Tags: centenier, election, parish assembly, procureur
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