Author Topic: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses  (Read 18718 times)

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #60 on: September 17, 2015, 04:26:49 PM »
NO DUE PROCESS OR RIGHT OF APPEAL FOR BENEFIT CLAIMANTS LABELLED AS 'POTENTIALLY VIOLENT PERSONS' BY SOCIAL SECURITY'S SECRETIVE ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR GROUP

Link to this disclosure as published on the States of Jersey website (added by me on 17th September 2015):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1620


Link to separate Acceptable Customer Behaviour Guidance document (PDF):

http://www.gov.je/Freedom%20of%20Information%20library/ID%20FOI%20acceptable%20behaviour%20guidance.pdf


Date of Request:
14 August 2015

Date of Response:
11 September 2015

The States of Jersey has published a response (click on the first link above) to my request asking for more information on the shadowy activities and powers of the Acceptable Behaviour Group, which consists of 10 senior Social Security Department officers and a representative from Careers Jersey. The ABG has given itself very wide ranging powers to act against any benefit claimant who causes a member of staff the slightest bit of annoyance, whether inside the Department or somewhere else in non-working hours, based only on "a statutory duty under the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989 to ensure the Health and Safety of their workers" (see question B of the response). However, despite this, it is known that incidents have been reported by staff which don't involve any actual threat made to either Social Security Department employees or other claimants visiting the Department.

Page 8 of the Acceptable Customer Behaviour Guidance document (link above) lists the type of behaviour that is defined as 'unacceptable'. It is a very broad interpretation that, without being subject to any independent or parliamentary oversight, is clearly open to abuse by staff looking to take revenge on claimants who cause them the slightest bit of aggravation.  All they have to do is say that the behaviour made them "feel anxious, threatened, frightened or physically at risk" to get action taken against the claimant, which may include a letter being sent by the Department to the claimant (question D of the response reveals that 30 such letters were sent to "customers" during 2014).

The ABG takes arbitrary decisions to classify claimants as 'Potentially Violent Persons' (PVP) based only on the account of incidents reported by members of staff - the claimant who is arbitrarily labelled as a PVP is not contacted before the decision and therefore gets no right to a fair and impartial hearing, or any hearing at all for that matter. It is has even been known for claimants to first learn that an apparent 'incident' involving them has been reported by a Department officer only when police officers turn up at their home to inform them about it. Question E of the response reveals that as at 17th August 2015, 48 persons were marked on the Social Security computer system as 'PVP'.

In question F of my request, I asked the following:

Confirmation that before any such decision is taken to classify an individual as a ‘Potentially Violent Person’, the accused individual is always afforded a right to a fair hearing in accordance with the international principles of natural justice and further confirmation that after any such decision has been taken, the affected individual is then informed that they have a right to appeal that decision and how that appeal can be made and to whom;

This is part of the alarming response I received:
Quote

As stated above, the primary purpose of the Acceptable Behaviour Policy and Procedure is to ensure the health and safety of staff and customers and the PVP marker is a management tool to help the Social Security department fulfil its statutory requirements.

Therefore, no appeal provisions are required.

Predictably, the FOI response declines to tell us how much the actions of the ABG is costing the taxpayer each year. It also refuses to name the officers who are members of the group. Obviously I wasn't seriously expecting actual names to be disclosed, but I see no reason why the relevant job titles of ABG members cannot be revealed.

In any case, I can reveal that in October 2014, David Rose, who joined the Social Security Department in 1986 after a military career, was known to be the Chairman of the Acceptable Behaviour Group and he was also known to be Head of Fit for Work in January 2014. His stated Department contact details are as follows:

Direct dial: +44 (0)1534 447400

Direct fax: +44 (0) 1534 447449

email: d.rose@gov.je


What goes around eventually comes around, eh Dave?  ;)
« Last Edit: September 17, 2015, 04:31:17 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #61 on: September 18, 2015, 07:22:14 PM »
Bailiwick Express have today reported the response to my FOI request about 'unacceptable behaviour'... but with a very obvious pro-government slant that we've come to expect from them:

Quote
Social Security staff have been stalked, threatened and been sent abusive letters by angry benefit claimants over the last two years.

http://www.bailiwickexpress.com/jsy/news/stalking-threats-and-throwing-stuff-about-all-part-working-social-security/?t=i


As I made clear in my previous post above, these reports are just based on the accounts of the staff - not the people actually accused of committing 'unacceptable behaviour', who have no right of reply and are regarded as automatically guilty.

There has also been no attempt to analyse whether a strong causal link exists between the 55% rise in the number of reported incidents between 2013 and 2014 (from 27 to 42) and the various different measures introduced around the same time to make claiming income support a far more difficult, arduous and unpleasant experience. For example, the introduction of the Le Gresley-Pinel sanctions regime with effect from October 2013, which saw 107 household claims arbitrarily closed without due process after the issue of a Breach 3 notice up to the end of 2014. The rise could also be down to the deliberate policy of understaffing the main income support desk at La Motte Street, forcing claimants to initially justify to a member of staff why they wish to queue up to speak to an income support adviser (with other claimants able to easily listen in to the details of the conversation nearby). Typically, claimants are turned away from the Income Support section from mid to late afternoon onwards and told to return another day if the existing queue is already too big. The entire process is designed to test the patience of an angel and you can often sense the underlying atmosphere of anger, despair and even boredom among claimants typically waiting 30 to 60 minutes to reach the front of the queue. Sometimes when they finally get to speak to an adviser, they are then redirected to join another queue to speak to a Work Zone adviser.  >:(

There is a clear trend developing between the timing of the Le Gresley-Pinel policy changes over the last two years and the rise in the number of reported incidents. For each of the four years between 2010 and 2013, the number of reported incidents fluctuated between 20 and 27. Then in 2014 it rose to 42 and there have already been 26 incidents reported in 2015 to date with a further 3 months of the year still remaining. I don't think this is a coincidence. I would expect the number of incidents to continue rising even further after the latest Pinel benefit cuts are fully implemented.

Perhaps it is also worth pointing out the recent lazy standard of journalism at Bailiwick Express to put their scaremongering headline into better context. Only two days ago, they were so desperate for news that they published an article about a member of their own staff having his sandwich snatched by a seagull during his lunch hour:
Quote
"All of a sudden, out of nowhere, like a missile hurtling towards me, my sandwich which I had been craving all day got snatched from my paws.

"I’m from South Africa so I'm used to street crime, but this is a whole new level."

http://www.bailiwickexpress.com/jsy/news/seagull-sandwich-smash-and-grab/


Well in that case at least he has the choice of returning to South Africa (thereby freeing up a job for a local) and he'll only have to worry about violent, armed human robbers trying to steal off him in future, instead of our seagulls. I know which ones I'd rather have to deal with!

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #62 on: September 23, 2015, 04:48:27 PM »
Something they're desperate to keep secret? Social Security find ANOTHER excuse not to reveal the Breach 3's effects on the benefits of children and rent-paying tenants

Link to this disclosure as published on the States of Jersey website (added by me on 13th October 2015):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1643


Date of Request: 31 August 2015

Date of Response: 22 September 2015

For the second time in six months, I have submitted a FOI request for information about which specific components of income support have been withheld from households as a result of a Breach 3 notice being issued to a jobseeker in the household ... and for the second time in six months the States have found a reason not to supply this information to me. I think it is clearer than ever that they regard this information as highly politically sensitive because the excuse they have used this time is hardly credible.

To recap, on 24th March 2015, I posted on this thread the details of my original request, which had asked for details of all components of income support that had been stopped following the issue of a Breach 3 notice. You can read my comments here:

http://planetjersey.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=3935.msg59860#msg59860


That initial request was refused because the States had calculated the potential cost of providing it by merging it with 4 earlier requests I had made within the previous 60 working days which had also requested other details about the Breach 3 - very clever. So this time I waited for more than 60 working days, during which time I made no other requests that could in any way be classed as similar, and then submitted a second request. On this occasion I narrowed my request to just the two components of income support that I was most interested in - the Housing Special Component (i.e. the benefit paid to tenants in respect of their rent that was formerly known as the Private Sector Rent Rebate Scheme and the Public Sector Rent Abatement Scheme before the introduction of income support in January 2008) and the Child Rate Basic Component

I asked a series of different questions, including confirmation of the overall total amount of these two components that have been disallowed from households following the issue of a Breach 3 since October 2013, the number of different households where these two components have been disallowed, the number of individual children affected by the disallowance of the Child Rate Basic Component and the amounts of these two components that have been disallowed from each individual household (e.g. I know that in one case, the Department has disallowed more than £7,000 of housing special component from just one household occupying a one bedroom rented flat in the private sector as a result of a jobseeker in that household missing a scheduled interview at Eagle House without good cause - no, I am absolutely not making this up, it's 100% true).

Now here is the main part of the response of the States to my FOI request:

Quote
The information needed to answer question (1) (a), (b), (c), (d) and (2) (a), (b), (c) is held in separate database tables within the Social Security database that holds information relating to Income Support claims. To relate specific component payment details to specific household claim details would require specialist 3rd Party support, the cost of which would be in excess of the £500.

Regulation 2 (1) of the Freedom of Information (Costs) (Jersey) Regulations 2014 allows an authority to refuse a request for information where the estimated cost of dealing with the request would exceed the specified amount of the cost limit of £500. This is the estimated cost of one person spending 12.5 working hours in determining whether the department holds the information, locating, retrieving and extracting the information. Your request, therefore, will not be processed further.

So it's the 'seperate database tables' excuse this time. This means that if the States has particularly embarrassing information it doesn't want to give us, it can store that information in a form which is quite labour-intensive to retrieve and thereby make it easier to exempt itself from the requirement to provide the information under Regulation 2(1) if a Freedom of Information request is ever made.

Finally, it is worth remembering that I would not have needed to make these two FOI requests but for the unforgivable negligence of States Members in failing to demand this same information from the Social Security Minister in the form of written questions in the House. In a couple of weeks time it will be the 2nd anniversary of the introduction of the Breach 3 and in all that time, not one of them has bothered to table a single question about the types and amounts of different income support components that have been disallowed as a result of Breach 3 notices. It is a shameful disgrace for which all of Jersey's elected representatives must equally share responsibility.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2015, 08:48:18 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #63 on: October 11, 2015, 07:30:13 PM »
Am I the only one who feels the presence of former St Clement Deputy Gerard 'Roads' Baudains in some recent Freedom of Information requests...

24 Sep 2015 - Details of sewer and drainage systems on Pontorson Lane (a road in St Clement near to Gerard's home that he might very well use to travel between the coast road and the inner road):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1644

22 Sep 2015 - Information on roads and resurfacing:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1639

17 Sep 2015 - Speed limits for local roads:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1634

16 Sep 2015 - Road tax, maintenance and users:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1631

25 Aug 2015 - Cost of the Mont Mado resurfacing project (which is a road, by the way):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1598

19 Aug 2015 - Speeding offences and fines from August 2014 to August 2015 (speeding whilst driving on roads, that is):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1580

17 Aug 2015 - Development of the St Peter's valley roadside path:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1575

10 Aug 2015 - Actual and anticipated costs of parish schemes (road schemes, that is):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1560

05 Aug 2015 - Number of times motorists stopped by police in 2014 (while driving on roads, of course):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1549

27 July 2015 - Road widening and improvements to pavement at Rue de Haut, St Lawrence:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1534

02 July 2015 - Cost to resurface Mont Millais (which is a road, by the way):

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1477

These are just the requests going back to the beginning of July - nothing earlier. Although his main obsession in the States was obviously anything to do with roads or motorists' rights, he also asked questions on other subjects so it is possible that he is responsible for dozens more requests than just the ones above. It's great that he appears to have found himself a hobby to keep him really busy while he waits for the Spring 2018 elections but perhaps he ought to ask himself whether his preference for asking questions about roads rather than the serious problems that affect people (like the erosion of income support, housing and employment rights) might have had something to do with him being voted out of office twice in the past decade.
 

Offline Little Bob

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #64 on: October 12, 2015, 06:49:56 AM »
16 Sep 2015 - Road tax, maintenance and users:
http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=1631

Thanks Jerry, Its worrying that a former deputy asks about "road tax" as it was abolished years ago, let alone that a former State Member had no idea how taxes are collected and spent. His obsession is a little creepy.

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #65 on: October 18, 2015, 06:05:08 PM »
Only 10 months after the FOI Law came into effect, fears that Jersey's Council of Ministers are planning to under fund it appear to be justified:

Quote
Jersey introduced a Freedom of Information law in January 2015 but the department only has funding until the end of 2016 to manage appeals.

Ms Martin said she applied to the government for growth funding so she could continue the regulation after 2016 but this was rejected.

"If we don't get funding after next year there is a real threat to the service," she said.

"We have been told to manage but if you come and look at the size of our organisation there is no room left to cut.

"It isn't a good situation when our ability to do our job is linked to whether we are going to be paid a salary next week."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-jersey-34530840


The above report mentions the publication of an annual report. I can't see any such annual report on either the FOI pages on gov.je or the States Assembly website. How ironic, considering the subject matter - Freedom of Information!  ::)

However, whilst searching for that annual report I discovered FOI statistics for the period ending 30th September 2015. It states that 531 FOI requests were received up to the end of September.

There is a discrepancy of 10 requests with the section headed 'Our responses to your requests', which shows the outcome of 541 FOI requests. You can view the table here:

http://www.gov.je/Government/FreedomOfInformation/Pages/FOIStatistics.aspx#anchor-4


Interesting that only 14 of these 541 requests were refused on the basis that the 'cost of response would exceed limit' but my FOI request of 12th March, which was refused on the 'aggregation of related requests' clause in the Regulations must presumably be one of them. I have already referred to that request but you can read my post of 24th March for further details here:

http://planetjersey.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=3935.msg59860#msg59860


I decided to delve a bit deeper into the legislation to discover under which article of the Law the 'aggregation of related requests' is sourced from. On first reading, it appears that it stems from article 16(3) of the Law, which states:

(16)

(3)  Regulations may provide that, in such circumstances as the Regulations prescribe, if two or more requests for information are made to a scheduled public authority –

(a)     by one person; or

(b)     by different persons who appear to the scheduled public authority to be acting in concert or in pursuance of a campaign,

the estimated cost of complying with any of the requests is to be taken to be the estimated total cost of complying with all of them.


http://www.jerseylaw.je/Law/display.aspx?url=lawsinforce%2fconsolidated%2f16%2f16.330_FreedomofInformationLaw2011_RevisedEdition_1January2015.htm#ID504


So it appears that the legal justification for refusing my 12th March request was because it was "in pursuance of a campaign", or at least it would have been if two or more people had submitted my various requests concerning the Breach 3. Strictly speaking, it only says that different persons can act in pursuance of a campaign - one person merely has to submit "two or more requests for information" to be potentially caught by article 16(3).

The FOI statistics don't reveal how many of those 14 requests in total were refused on the basis of  'aggregation of related requests' /  'in pursuance of a campaign' / one person submitting two or more requests. Could mine possibly be the only one? :-\ Is article 16(3) a convenient way of refusing requests that could be politically embarrassing or where a political activist submitting multiple requests is starting to annoy the authorities just a bit too much?

Has the FOI office similarly refused any requests by the person or persons (who may or may not be Gerard Baudains) responsible for submitting a lot of requests about roads? Surely the subject of roads could just as easily be classed as being 'in pursuance of a campaign' if submitted by different people ... and the number of requests about roads far exceeds the number of requests I have made about the Breach 3. Perhaps requests about roads aren't that politically embarrassing though...
« Last Edit: October 18, 2015, 06:26:07 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline shortport

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #66 on: October 18, 2015, 09:42:22 PM »
I think we all new it would be a load of tripe when it was first introduced.Its not freedom of information at all,it should be called 'freedom of only information we want you to have'.
What if more than one person asked the same question,will it be considered a 'campaign' and not answered.?
It is also full of spin.There was one question there I was looking at relating to the Channel islands lottery prizes which they refused to answer but went on to say what a worth while cause it was etc,etc.They should be just answering with facts not their own personal opinion.Just more spin.

Offline man in the street

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #67 on: October 19, 2015, 01:19:46 AM »
The jersey way freedom of information  ;)

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #68 on: June 26, 2016, 10:55:16 PM »
Parish FOI declines to reveal full details of St Helier's annual electoral registration process citing 'excessive cost'

Link to this disclosure (in PDF format) as published on the Parish.gov.je website:

http://www.parish.gov.je/Documents/POSH%20electoral%20register%20administration.pdf

Date of Request: 01 June 2016

Date of Response: 24 June 2016

I submitted this FOI request to the Parish FOI Unit (separate from the States of Jersey FOI Unit) following comments I made about the current electoral registration process a month ago on another PJ thread - link below (see "2) The current electoral registration process is a totally confusing and byzantine one that must surely be wasting vast amounts of money and staff time on administration, stationery and postage. Why?"):

http://planetjersey.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=3822.msg60904#msg60904

In its response to me (see the first link above), the Parish FOI Unit has only partly disclosed the information I wanted, making it impossible for anyone to conclude whether or not the costs and practices involved in the current electoral registration process are fully justified and whether or not the Law needs to be further amended.

Here is the information that has been disclosed to me in respect of last year's electoral registration process in the Parish of St Helier:

(i) The Parish of St Helier sent out a total of 19,187 electoral statements before 1st June 2015 in pursuance of article 7(2) of the Public Elections (Jersey) Law 2002.

(ii) The total estimated cost to the Parish in postage and stationery for sending out these statements in 2015 was £10,992.

(iii) After the return of these statements and following the deadline of 1st July 2015, the Parish did not send out any notices at all in pursuance of article 8(4) of the Law (i.e. to inform a person whose name appears on the existing Electoral Register that he/she had not, for a period of 3 consecutive years, been included in and signed a statement under Article 7(3) of the Law and that their name shall be removed from the Register unless they deliver within 28 days of service of the notice confirmation that they are still entitled to have their name on the Register).

However, the disclosed cost of £10,992 does not include the staff administration costs of sending out these 19,187 statements, nor of processing them once they were returned. I would presume that the contents of every single statement returned to the Town Hall would have to be, as a minimum, checked and compared with the existing information for each dwelling already declared on the electoral register. If the information on the returned statement differed to the existing information on the electoral register, amendments would presumably have to be made to the register and possibly further notices sent out (e.g. a notice under article 8(1) of the Law informing a person of a decision not to add their name to the Register, or to remove their name from the Register). This administrative process in a parish the size of St Helier must be costly and time-consuming and therefore, in my opinion, should only be undertaken if it is absolutely essential.

Furthermore, the excessive cost exemption has been cited to prevent disclosure of the total number of electoral statements returned by parishioners. This implies that St Helier does not routinely maintain an annual record of how many statements are returned and how many aren't. I find that quite remarkable.

The excessive cost exemption has also been cited to prevent disclosure of how many of these returned statements merely contained the same information as was already stated on the existing Register and how many individual amendments (e.g. addition of new names, deletion of existing names, changes of address etc.) were made to the Register as a result of information declared on the returned statements. This is crucial information because I suspect that thousands of these returned statements contain the exact same information as already declared on the existing Register and that consequently, there is no obvious need for them to be completed and returned - an apparent waste of administration resources which is not being addressed by the Constables.

If the Law required a fresh Register to be prepared each year (as was the case prior to the 2002 Law coming into force) then it would be essential for every person resident in a unit of dwelling accommodation to sign and return a statement  each year in order to continue to be entitled to vote. However, although the current Law states that it is the "duty" of each person ordinarily resident in a unit of a dwelling accommodation to which a statement is sent to check, sign and return that statement to the Parish by 1st July, it goes on to state that "No civil or criminal liability attaches to a failure to discharge a duty under this Article."

As the 2002 Law no longer appears to state a defined period of time beyond which the life of an Electoral Register ceases to continue and as as article 8(4) allows the Parish to remove from the Register any person who has not been included in and signed a statement for a period of 3 consecutive years, it appears that there is no practical need for many people who receive these statements to sign and return them every single year unless their circumstances have changed. Moreover, the Law also allows the Parish to remove the name of a person from the Register if it is satisfied that the person is deceased or no longer resident in the electoral district. These days, particularly following the introduction of the States Big Brother Register of Names and Addresses, each Parish is more than capable of identifying persons who have died or changed address without requiring every resident to return a fresh statement annually. After all, each parish has its own Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths so it knows exactly who has died in their parish as soon as the Registrar does.

Therefore why do the parishes spend so much money each year trying to persuade everyone to sign and return a fresh electoral statement when many of them - possibly the majority - do not actually need to take any action at all and cannot be legally compelled to do so? :-\

The Parish FOI Disclosure Log is separate from the States of Jersey Disclosure Log and can be viewed here:

http://www.parish.gov.je/Pages/FOI-(Freedom-of-Information).aspx
« Last Edit: June 26, 2016, 11:01:03 PM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline boatyboy

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #69 on: June 28, 2016, 12:53:22 AM »

Good post Jerry, It was my understanding that the St Helier Parish hall deemed itself as a lighthouse of efficiency.

Obviously not, if they have to struggle to answer reasonable non complicated questions.
bb

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #70 on: August 26, 2016, 09:40:58 AM »
States of Jersey are allowing Andium to charge £248* p/wk rent for 1-bed flats and £288.17* p/wk for 2-bed flats

* The rental figures were provided in per annum format and have therefore been divided by me into 52 to calculate the estimated weekly rents payable. It is not clear whether these figures include service charges or not

Link to this response as published on the gov.je website:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=2285

Date of Request: 01 August 2016

Date of Response: 23 August 2016

My request was prompted by anecdotal evidence that since the States removed the cap on the level of income support housing component for rents charged by the five social housing providers in April 2014, rents for some of these more upmarket social housing properties have been allowed to increase well beyond the average 100% market rent benchmark levels. As most of the demand for social housing is for either 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom flats, I restricted my FOI request to information about rents for these two types of properties only.

My concerns were only heightened further on 17th August when ITV News Channel TV reported that "Andium Homes say they want all their tenants to be paying 90% of market rental value in the future." Exactly how far in the future was not clarified. Chief Executive Officer, Ian Gallichan, appeared to dismiss concerns purely on the basis that income support claimants wouldn't see any rise in their rents. However, some social housing tenants are not eligible for income support because their household income or savings exceeds the prescribed levels. Typically, this could include pensioner households, particularly if one of them is paid an occupational pension (e.g. a retired States employee in receipt of a PECRS pension). It is worrying that Mr. Gallichan had nothing at all to say about such tenants who are not on income support when he was interviewed. It was stated that currently only one in four residents pays rent at the 90% of market value level. The link to the ITV report is here:

http://www.itv.com/news/channel/2016-08-17/andium-plans-for-rent-increase-will-be-covered-by-income-support/

At the moment, social housing tenants who have not changed tenancy since the law was changed in April 2014 are protected from the increase to 90% of market value rents, although their rents are nevertheless still being increased by 0.75% above inflation every year. The ITV News report is not clear if this existing situation (protection for tenants who have not moved since the law was changed) will end and when it might end. Even as it stands, the fear of having to pay a much higher rent for a very similar type of social housing property must presumably be acting as a strong disincentive for social housing tenants to move into different social housing accommodation unless they really have no choice or they can afford to pay a higher rent. What happens if an adult child moves out of a household, causing the tenant to be classed as under occupying the accommodation and consequently being expected to downsize - does the tenant then have to start paying the 90% rent in the new, smaller property? What about if someone in the household dies, causing the surviving resident to be classed as under occupying? Is there any clear guarantee that the bereaved survivor won't be charged the higher 90% rent after they move to a smaller property?

The implication is that in future, the only people who are likely to be able to afford to pay the very highest social housing rents will either be existing income support claimants, or those who are not on income support but can still afford to pay this level of rent regardless, typically dual income households where both spouses have good jobs in the finance sector or the States. The problem is that these rents are now higher than rents for many similar properties available in the private sector. Social housing is supposed to be for the benefit of those who can't afford to pay the market rents on offer in the private sector, whether or not they are entitled to benefits.

One of my concerns is how these high rents could distort supply and demand for both social housing and private rental swellings. Last year, Mike Dun discovered and highlighted the fact that one of Andium's vacant social rented flats in the Le Marais high rise was being openly advertised by a local estate agent, with Andium's consent. I have to presume that Andium just couldn't find any suitable tenants from the Housing Gateway list, yet that list is anything but short and there are hundreds more who would like to get on that list but are having their applications rejected for not fully meeting all the required criteria. I expect that this will not be an isolated case and we will see Andium advertising more of their properties on the open market in future. Is this apparent occasional shortage of suitable new Andium tenants on the (very long) Housing Gateway list being exacerbated in any way by these new 90% rents? Demand for social housing clearly exceeds supply and with net migration last year running at more than 4 times the level on which the States based its future housing supply targets, things are only likely to get worse in the medium term. If Andium can't find enough social housing tenants to fill all the plush new properties it is building and renovating then surely it is failing to do what the States created it to do?

The current rates for the housing component of income support came into effect in April 2014 and were based on a survey of about 10% of Housing Department stock that was completed about 2.5 years ago, just before the States created Andium and gifted this company its entire social housing stock for just £1 (Andium's net assets at the end of last year, after deducting about £80 million in short and long term borrowings, were a mind-boggling £723 million). That survey in 2014 found that the average 100% market rent for 1-bedroom flats was £190.84 per week, with the average 100% market rent for 2-bedroom flats being £247.89 per week. You can view the results of that survey here, given as an answer to a question from a States Member on 21st January 2014:

http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyQuestions/2014/Deputy%20Vallois%20to%20Housing%20re%20survey%20of%20housing%20stock.pdf

The States did not increase the income support housing component in 2015 but have agreed to raise it with effect from 1st October 2016. The new rates from that date will increase the maximum level of the housing component for private rental tenants to £194.46 p/wk (1-bedroom flat) and £248.99 p/wk (2-bedroom flat). The level of subsidy for private sector tenants is set at 95% of the market value (it was originally intended to be 100% but the States reneged on that promise in order to save a bit of cash). Therefore, according to my calculations, the new average 100% market rent for a 1-bedroom flat must be approximately £204.70 per week (previously £190.84) and approximately £262.10 per week for a 2-bedroom flat (previously £247.89).

Yet this FOI disclosure shows that Andium's current highest rent for a 1-bedroom flat is still £43.78 p/wk above the latest average 100% market rent and £26.07 p/wk above that level in respect of its highest rent for a 2-bedroom flat, if my calculations are accurate. If Andium has to increasingly turn to high earners in the private sector (not on the Housing Gateway list) in order to fill its most expensive accommodation in the future and taking into consideration that it is already allowing about 15 of its tenants a year to purchase the properties they live in at discounted prices, will we see more people who can well afford to rent in the private sector becoming (or trying to become) Andium tenants through open market advertising of Andium vacant housing units in order to eventually be able to buy their home off Andium and get "on the property ladder"?   

So let me get this right: Andium's current upgrading of its existing housing stock and development of new stock is being financed by the taxpayer in respect of income support claimants and also directly by its other tenants, not forgetting all those multi-million pound States loans. Yet every year, about 15 of these properties (Andium intends to increase this figure in the future) are lost forever to social housing and end up being sold on the open market. This results in increased demand for rented social housing which then leads Andium to increase its rents even higher in order to finance the construction of more rented social housing to replace the perfectly good units of rented social housing that it willingly sold at discount rates to some of its own tenants! It appears to be partly a concealed subsidy from the taxpayer to a small number of tenants whose financial circumstances enable them to get commercial loans to purchase the social housing accommodation they are living in.

This policy is just self-defeating lunacy and will never fully solve the shortage of affordable rental accommodation.  >:( 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2016, 09:44:32 AM by Jerry Gosselin »

Offline Fritz

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #71 on: August 27, 2016, 01:15:00 AM »
This is what happens when you turn the States Housing Department into a pseudo private company. They,ve got to show a profit rather than provide a public service. Loads of ,"Expert,(?)", management teams have to be employed on high salaries and bonus schemes,(Never actually production based. Usually just guaranteed).
Andium is just another quango with a tax-payer funded trough to stick their snouts in.
They all sit round a table and agree that all their bonuses are approved. (You approve mine, and I,ll approve yours).
The honest Jersey tax-payer is being taken for a ride by this crowd of shysters.

Offline shortport

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #72 on: August 27, 2016, 02:57:29 AM »
The woman running for senator,Mary Okeefe Burger works for a company called Something like HV Andium.Trying to lure wealthy people to buy Jersey property.Is this anything to do with Andium Homes.Seems like a strange coincidence of name ? Are they linked?

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #73 on: November 27, 2016, 10:32:30 PM »
Since I published a link to the FOI Disclosure Log on the Parishes website on this thread on 26th June, they've altered the URL so that my link now breaks. Well, let's try again with the new link and hope it does not get altered once more...

http://www.parish.gov.je/Pages/FOI.aspx#request

It is useful to have this link handy because the responses made by the Parishes (34 so far) are not published on the main States of Jersey FOI page. One of the latest published responses in October reveals that the Parish of St Helier had spent a whopping £145,051 up to that point in time challenging the Infrastructure Department's decision to end the Bellozanne waste covenant in the Royal Court, with at least an additional £50,000 expected to be spent on the forthcoming appeal against the Court's decision. That response can be viewed here:

http://www.parish.gov.je/Documents/POSH%20costs%20re%20Bellozanne%20waste%20covenant.pdf

The Court judgment itself can be viewed here:

https://www.jerseylaw.je/judgments/unreported/Pages/[2016]JRC153.aspx

Offline Jerry Gosselin

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Re: Jersey Freedom of Information Requests and Responses
« Reply #74 on: December 01, 2016, 06:59:04 AM »
Someone has used FOI to request "the number of permanent, temporary or contractual States of Jersey employees who are not resident in the island but who travel to Jersey regularly (at least monthly) to fulfil their roles."

What interests me about the response, or should I say non-response (see link below) is the great effort the States of Jersey has gone to in order to find reasons not to answer this request:

http://www.gov.je/Government/Pages/StatesReports.aspx?ReportID=2479

The giveaway sign is the reference in the very first sentence to the information not being held in a "central database". Ring any bells? If you scroll up this page to my post of 23rd September 2015, you'll recall that they used a very similar excuse ("The information ... is held in separate database tables within the Social Security database...") to prevent me finding out potentially highly politically sensitive information relating to the withholding of housing subsidy and childrens' benefits as a result of the issue of Breach 3 jobseeker sanctions. In my case, they used the £500 costs exemption to prevent me from getting the information, knowing that, like most people, I could not justify paying them more than £500 just to get the information I wanted.

However, in this new request about non-resident public sector employees, they have used article 29 as their chosen exemption, which in my experience is very rarely used. Why? It's just speculation on my part, but maybe this request was made by a journalist on behalf of a local media or press organisation which could, if it was that keen, afford to pay the States £500+ to provide the information. That might explain why the States FOI Unit has shied away in this case from using the costs exemption in case it backfired and they ended up having to provide the information nonetheless.

One would presume that any public sector employees who are commuting here to work must be in positions near the top end of the pay scale, otherwise it wouldn't be worth it. Moreover, on the face of it, if they are not resident here then they may not be liable to pay local income tax on their local earnings. ;) Is this the real reason why the States doesn't want to risk letting this information get into the public domain? With all the other revelations this year about extravagant expenses on flights by top civil servants and Ozouf, maybe they have decided this latest request could be the straw that breaks the camel's back - and they're just not going to risk the potential political consequences...

By the way, my previous post on this thread 3 days ago pulled in about 90 page views but - typically - not a single reply was posted, as the site continues to suffer from this sudden, deadly contagious outbreak of mutism amongst its members. How high will the death toll amongst PJ members go before we discover an antidote? Things are looking up though, as I notice that someone apart from myself has just made a comment about something on another page. OMG. Exciting times at last for the ailing Planet Jersey! If a third person decides to exercise their right to freedom of expression then I fear the whole site could crash!
 
« Last Edit: December 01, 2016, 07:14:56 AM by Jerry Gosselin »