|A number of website users and BBC Radio Jersey listeners told us they think there should be a referendum on the role of the Constables. Have your say.
The role of the Constables >
We ran a poll on bbc.co.uk/jersey asking users which which of the four options they would vote for if they were given the chance.
The majority of people voting went for Option 2, the Constables and 30 members elected in between 3 and 6 large constituencies.
As well as the chance to vote for options 1 to 4 we included a none of the above choice. In total 238 people voted in the completely non scientific poll. The results were:
Option one (30%), option two (53%), option three (0%), option four (3%), none of the above (15%).
All change or status quo?
There have been calls for changes to the make-up of the States of Jersey for years. There have been numerous reports suggesting how this could happen, there have even been votes on the proposed changes in the States.
So far very little has actually changed. However there is now another report that is more likely to see change happen.
The Privileges and Procedures Committee have published a consultation paper on the composition and election of the States.
Throughout 2006 the Committee has been working on various options for change and commissioned MORI to undertake a survey in the summer.
The paper draws from the results of the survey and outlines four options for changes to the States of Jersey.
Elect 30 members island-wide and the 12 Parish Constables on one single general election day for a term of office of four years.
Elect 30 members in a small number of large constituencies and elect these members, and the 12 Parish Constables, on the same day every four years.
Retain existing membership but elect all 53 members on the same day every four years.
Retain the status quo but bring forward minor improvements.
There were other options the Committee considered but didn’t make it into the final four.
These included various incarnations of an island-wide election, a cut down version of the Status Quo and even a scheme giving people the chance to vote directly for Ministers.
The MORI survey included a question on the role of Constables in the States of Jersey. It asked “To what extent do you agree or disagree that Parish Constables should remain as members of the States?”
Of the 1,295 Jersey residents that were interviewed for the survey 30% said they strongly agreed and 24% said they tend to agree. Of those disagreeing 21% strongly disagreed and 14% said they tend to disagree that the Parish Constables should be in the States.
As you can see from the options above there isn’t an option that would see the Constables lose their automatic right to sit in the States.
The paper says “Although views on the position of the Parish Connétables were strongly polarized in the MORI survey PPC accepts that a majority of respondents clearly wish the Connétables to remain as members of the States and PPC believes that the current political mood among States members reflects this preference.”
However, PPC have said that the role of the Constable needs to be clarified so that it is recognised as being a ‘full’ role in the States of Jersey.
“The Committee is nevertheless keen to clarify the legal status of Connétables as members of the States and is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of ensuring that they are recognised as being ‘full’ members of the Assembly and not simply members by virtue of their parish office as at present.”
Based on the 2001 census the Committee looked at the population of each parish and the number of representatives to see how many people there are per representative.
In 2001 Grouville had a population of 4,702 and one Deputy; this meant that there were 4,702 residents per Deputy.
In contrast St Mary has a population of 1,591 and also has one Deputy, or 1,591 residents per Deputy.
Things get even more interesting if you include the Constables. This would mean St Clement had a population of 8,196 and three representatives or 2,732 residents per representative.
In contrast, the islands smallest parish St Mary had 796 residents per representative when you include Constables.
Options one and three don’t include any proposals to change the districts and four includes just a minor change to make the population spread fairer.
However, option two involves major changes that would see the Parish system taken out of the equation except for the Constables vote.
It would involve states members being elected in between three and six large constituencies. The paper outlines how these could be split up and why it would be better than the current Parish system.
The paper suggests two options; the first would see the island split into six districts of between 2,500 and 3,150 people per member.
The districts would see: two for St Helier, St Clement and Grouville together, St Saviour and St Martin together, St Brelade and St Peter together and the final would be St Lawrence, St John, St Mary, Trinity and St Ouen.
The other option is for three very large districts, each with 10 members created a good balance of population.
The first would be St Clement, Grouville, St Martin and St Saviour and would mean a total of 2,902 residents per representative.
The second would be St Helier with 2,831 per representative. The third would see St Brelade, St John, St Lawrence, St Mary, St Ouen, St Peter and Trinity with a total of 2,986 per representative.
Over to you
There are advantages and disadvantages to all the options outlined in the paper, ranging from the logistics of having 60 to 100 names on a ballot paper (option one) to each elector having up to six representatives (option two).
All through the paper the Committee are keen to stress that there will be a lot of public consultation from the prospect of another survey to a referendum after the States have chosen one of the options.
On top of the changes to voting and constitution other options are up for discussion. These include ways to improve the ease of voting, registration of political parties, a cap on election expenses and lowering the voting age to 16.
We want to know your thoughts on the proposed changes, the options being put forward, the prospect of a referendum.
Do you agree with the Committee when they say “PPC does not believe it would be sensible or productive to put forward options at this stage excluding the retention of the Connétables as members of the States” or would you prefer to see them removed?