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Statement by the President of the Committee for Home Affairs

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Wednesday 18 July 2018

I am grateful for the opportunity to update the States and the wider community on what has been happening within Home Affairs so far this year.

As stated in my previous update, the Committee is clear in its view that as a government our primary duty must be to maintain the security and wellbeing of our people. As such we focus on ensuring Guernsey is a safe and secure place to live, work and do business.

The Committee's mandate is wide ranging and it would not be wise use of the limited time available to seek to cover every aspect of its portfolio.

We recognise that Home Affairs, in common with most other Committees, can only be truly effective when working in partnership with others. In government there are very few issues which can be progressed in isolation.

To this end I would like to reiterate the Committee's desire to work collaboratively with other States Committees and would encourage Members to contact me should they wish to discuss the detail of any aspect of the Committee's mandate.

First I will address Law Enforcement which encompasses both policing and the border agency.

In addition to ensuring a secure border which facilitates the legitimate movement of people and goods, protecting the vulnerable, community engagement and multiple other outcomes - Law Enforcement also continue to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour and this of course includes economic crime and discharging our international obligations to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism and wherever possible to confiscate the proceeds of crime. A key focus is also on the increase in public awareness of cybercrime. Law Enforcement took part in Digital Ace which coincided with safer internet day where Officers provided advice on staying safe online. Law Enforcement have also continued to invest in the Get Safe Online campaign for 2018 on a pan-island basis with Jersey. This involves a link on the Guernsey Police website which takes you to the Get Safe Online website which provides a wide range of useful information relating to online security and also details how to get in touch with BLE with any related concerns. This initiative is soon to be driven using a Crown-Dependency approach.

I turn my attention to Brexit which achieving the best outcomes for the businesses and people of the Bailiwick must be our highest priority and biggest challenge.

The Committee remains heavily involved with this at both political and staff level, particularly in relation to the rights and movement of EU nationals, maintaining the common travel area and in ensuring that trade agreements and new customs arrangements are in place when Brexit occurs.

As Members will appreciate from today's Billet Home Affairs is presenting its first Brexit-related Policy Letter dealing with future Customs duties and powers. Of course this work will not be stopping anytime soon but will continue to gather momentum as we approach exit day.

The workload of Brexit is undeniably complex and demanding and something which is not helped by the uncertainty which naturally continues around the whole theme. This is a problem common throughout the Crown Dependencies and Whitehall and one we simply have to face and deal with.

Trading Standards

Also operating as part of the Law Enforcement Team is Trading Standards which is a small but committed team which recently concluded a consultation exercise looking at the options for changing aspects of the weights and measures legislation. Importantly this was followed up at officer level with conversations with Jersey to explore the possibility of common standards, regulations and the like across both Bailiwicks.

Joint Emergency Services Control Centre (JESCC)

JESCC as a multi service emergency control centre is one of only a very few of its kind in the world. Nonetheless it reflects a growing trend worldwide to maximise the coordination and co-location of critical services.

It does however come at a cost and work is progressing to ensure these costs are apportioned in the fairest way to the various services which use it.  

New staff members have recently been trained and deployed. We are currently recruiting new operators and hope to be fully staffed shortly.

It is fully acknowledged that JESCC's financial teething problems have continued longer than any would have hoped, and there is a recognition that the original aspirations were overly optimistic - something which we continue to address. This however should not detract for one moment from the vitally important service provided by the operational team 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Probation and FPAS

The team at Probation continue to provide a service to the courts and the prison, which is something which will be further aided when the Committee is able to present the new Probation Law to this Assembly in the year ahead.

The Committee also oversees the Family Proceedings Advisory Service (known as FPAS)

A new Manager of the FPAS was recently appointed. Her primary focus from the outset will be the implementation of the OFSTED inspection recommendations, taking into account stakeholder consultation and engagement.

Next I turn to Population Management

The Population Management Regime has now been in place for 15 months and I am pleased to report that after the well documented problems, the team has been able to catch up with most of the backlog of applications and is now running as business as usual. The Committee is considering further enhancements to ensure the delivery of the Service is continuously improved for the public.

The Prison is another important service

In recent months the Prison population has seen an increase in the number of longer term sentences which means the higher prison population numbers are not set to decline any time soon. If this trend continues other options for holding prisoners will need to be explored.

The Prison has also installed computer terminals within the cells. These terminals do not allow prisoners to make contact with the outside world, nor the Internet. They do however provide valuable educational opportunities and better equip the prisoners for their return to society.

I will focus now on the Fire & Rescue Service and on Emergency Planning

Fire and Rescue continues to provide the Island with a wholly dependable and yet proportionate service. Thankfully, fires are few and far between but as we will have all seen in the national news Fire Services must be ready and able to deal with any situation, whether that be a high-rise tower block or wildfires across open countryside.

I am pleased to report that in the area close liaison is taking place with officers of the States of Jersey to explore ways of delivering better services and to do so more efficiently.  We are for example looking into the prospect of running the Emergency Planning operation on a pan-island basis.

When preparing for major emergencies, the synergies between the islands are clear to see.  For example each island needs to consider how best to respond to incidents such as coastal flooding, fire at a fuel depot, ferry collision, flu pandemic, oil pollution, etc.  While there are certain elements which are bound to specific to just one island, the reality is that most challenges we face, and need to prepare for, are common.

It's early days yet but we will know more in the autumn once further discussions & costings have been established with Jersey.

Last but by no means least I need to talk about money

Financials - in this respect the Committee continues to pursue opportunities to make savings and deliver services more efficiently.

As I mentioned in my statement last month during the P&R Plan debate, the Committee is delighted to be working together with P&R.

Jointly we have established an Oversight Board to ensure Home Affairs can deliver its services in the most efficient manner and where possible generate savings. A key part of this is looking at a transformation programme which we hope will improve our service delivery.

As an example the Committee fully recognises that through well-managed property rationalisation further savings can be achieved. On this we will be working closely with STSB to ensure we can vacate rented accommodation as soon as possible, but not leaving it standing empty at public expense.

Reducing expenditure on key services upon which individuals, families and the whole society relies is not easy; it never has been and never will. Nonetheless Home Affairs is committed to ensure the Bailiwick remains a safe and secure place to live and do business. Working with P&R Oversight Board will enable us to achieve the aims of the P&R plan endorsed by the States.

Finally I am pleased to report that the Committee is due to attend a Scrutiny Management Public Hearing in September at which it looks forward to the opportunity for a constructive dialogue and to be able to share relevant information in an open forum.

Sir, that concludes my update on a number of matters falling under the mandate of the Committee for Home Affairs.

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