Sunrise Herm-2

A Guernsey sunrise

Some institutions, from the monarchy downwards, survive the loss of their primary functions without needing to re-invent themselves or take on new roles. Attempts at reform can even be seen to be counter-productive. Do the Douzaines fall into this category or will they drift further into irrelevance unless they adapt to the 21st Century? It must always be borne in mind that the primary justification for any change should be that it benefits parishioners rather than the Douzaines or the States.

Consultation - The Policy Council, States Departments and States Committees issue consultation documents to the Douzaines and receive their responses. Such consultation, on parish matters, is central to the continuing relevance of Douzaines. However the consultation is on a customary basis, there is no statutory obligation on the States’ bodies. The Douzaines’ rights to receive relevant documents and for their responses to be incorporated into subsequent reports should be enshrined in a charter with the States if not in statutory law.

De-centralisation - At their October 2007 Meeting the States voted in favour of the Policy Council’s proposal to transfer, after further negotiations, five disparate functions to the Douzaines. That vote was the culmination of a three year process which few found entirely satisfactory. It is not what services should be devolved to the parishes that is of immediate interest but what route can be established for transferring services (and it could be two way traffic) with greater ease and flexibility. The only criterion for deciding which, if any, services should be devolved is whether best value, taking into account cost and quality, would be achieved for parishioners. If such value cannot be demonstrated then the States and Douzaines could explore alternative solutions to encourage more parish-level input into service delivery.

Standards - As a quid pro quo the States should expect the Douzaines to achieve agreed recommended standards to demonstrate that they;
are representative of, and actively engage with, all parts of their parishes,
are effectively and properly managed; and
have the ability and capacity to take on any additional responsibilities.

The recommended standards might cover such matters as the administrative training of the Constables and parish secretary, the conduct of Parish Meetings, annual reports and accounts, communications with parishioners and an ethical framework.

Parish Plans Douzaines, together with parishioners and local businesses, should be encouraged to develop Parish Plans. Ideally, Parish Plans would inform and feed into the Government Business Plan as well as into the policies of the Environment Department’s Rural and Urban Area Plans. They should articulate the vision which parishioners have for the future of their parish and could cover anything that is relevant to the people who live and work there, from the protection of our coastline to participation in Floral Guernsey.