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Candidates outside the polling station

All change or status quo?

By Ryan Morrison
Four options to change who and how many members fill the States of Jersey. Which do you think is best?

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.

Option One

Elect 30 members island-wide and the 12 Parish Constables on one single general election day for a term of office of four years.

Option Two

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.

Option Three

Retain existing membership but elect all 53 members on the same day every four years.

Option Four

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.

Constables

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.”

Constituencies

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

Read the consultation paper (pdf) >
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

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?

last updated: 08/09/08
 
Have Your Say
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The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Dom
I don't see the problem with the constables remaining as they are a historical and cultural part of our island. However, I would challenge them to take on this role on a purely honorary basis (reasonable expenses refunded) as it was intended to be rather than making their money out of it. That way there'll be much less messing around and either noone or else ondividuals who actually work to better their parishes! Looking further, I'd challenge the need to retain both deputies and senators in the states. Just leads to debates on who's more important and should get paid more and again just causes too many internal conflicts which bring said individuals away from the people and their views... Something certainly needs sorting in there!

rosie travers
constables definetly out.6senators/deperties for st.helier and 2 of the above representing each parish

Astrid
We already know that the Constables automatic right to a seat in the States Assembly is both undemocratic and historically patriarchal. How about adopting a system that aims to readdress the gender balance? Several countries are doing that now. After all, there are over 50% of women in Jersey but females represent only 20.7% of the Assembly. The inclusion of the Constables will only assist in keeping this percentage low.

Brian
A referendum please because the Constables should most certainly not have an automatic right to sit in the States. They are elected to run their respective Parishes of which they constantly claim to be "the father". If that is so then let them stay at home and look after the children. I would lay money that if it came to a vote on whther or not they should remain in the states none of them will either courage or decency to declare an interest and abstain from the vote. After all would you want to give up £40,000 per annum for doing (in most of cases) very little.

Betty Trinity
No constables in the states, and they should be excluded from any vote on the matter in the states, as they have an invested interest. 40 members is more than enough for us to pay for.

Don Filleul
Constables & Senators out. But add a deputy to each Parish and allow the separately elected Constable to stand for the States in that capacity if he and his parishioners wish. Most would thus elect their Constable.

Graham Houiellebecq
The clothier report should be included as an option in any referendum as constable Greys recommendations seem slanted to protect his own position and that of his fellow constables.

Steve
The constables should not have an automatic place in the states. Removing the constables would be the easiest and fairest way to reduce the house by 12 seats.

george
why not implement the full clothier report and remove the constables

liz
constables out

Ruth
A referendum please. The constables should be elected if they are to be there at all. We have too many states members and they are too self interested.

h.j.harman
constables out

Vic
Clothier Report should have been adhered too. Constables should not have automatic right to be in the States. If they what to be a politician then stand for election and not walk into government as the new Constable of St John has done. A referendum should be held not only to decide option 1 to 4 but also if Constables should remain in the States. This is the only fair way. Let the people decide and not the incumbent government.

Kenneth Harris
I favour the option of dividing the Island into a number of large districts - I don't see how option 1 of electing 30 on one ballot paper could work - option 2 is much more realistic

Mary Hair
Which ever option is finally adopted the most important thing is that a general election must be held. Every one on the same day and only one class of states members.

Peter
I feel that if a referendum was held to ask if the Connetables should be in the states we would get the correct answer

Mark
The problem with option 1 (island wide) is that if you have 30 seats up for grabs you'll end up with 120 or so names on a ballot paper to choose from - completely unworkable.

Ryan (Host)
AJ, if you read the report (link on this page) it gives you a break down of how many people would be in each of the constituencies.

If for instance it was split into three large constituencies you would have about 30,000 people per district or one representative for every 3000 residents.

AJ
Is Jersey not too small to divide it up into little constituencies. Seems a little bizarre to me - what are they going to be left with; a area the size of 5 houses?

ali
Option One 30 to to represent everyone and the connetables to represent their (Your) parish

Richard
Ben, blunt and straight to the point and..Oh so right

Richard
Ok, might just have concede that point, just! But who would have the final say? If its the present States members, would you shoot yourself in the foot? Option 1 if needs be, but with Connetables not being able to vote, that 'right' should be given to the Ministers who have been voted in by the 'correct method' (Islandwide)

Ben
Clothier or bust - otherwise the whole thing cannot work. Goodbye constables, unless you want to stand for election to the states

Ryan (Host)
Just to correct you Richard, the Isle of Man actually has 35 representatives for a population of 76,315 (giving them 1 representative for every 2,180 residents). If option 1 or 2 was taken Jersey would have 42 representatives for around 87,000 residents (1 representative for every 2,071 residents). This would put us at about the same level as the Isle of Man in terms of representation per resident.

Richard
The Isle of Man runs with 1 Chief Minister and 8 Ministers. If they can do it why can't we. (by my rough calculations £1.5m p yr would be saved by sing the Isle of Man way)Connetables please represent and serve your parish, not make discisions involving the whole Island, after all its only your parisherners that voted you in!

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