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St Helier’s democratic deficit

I've said it before but it bears repeating: people who live in St Helier have less influence over decisions in the States Assembly than those who dwell in every other parish. And even taking into account the reforms agreed last year which will increase the number of St Helier Deputies by 3, the democratic deficit will get worse as thousands of new homes are built in our Parish with no planned increase in representation. With 14 votes in the 49 seat assembly (13 Deputies + 1 Constable), assuming the reforms become law later this year, St Helier voters will have fewer elected members than they should have, given that if parliamentary seats were apportioned according to population, St Helier would have at least 16.

The situation is worse just now with only 11 out of 49 seats, but why does it matter? It matters because a gerrymandered States Assembly is taking decisions about the quality of life in St Helier, with rural Constables, in particular, having far more influence than they should do over how our Parish is developed. The recent States debate on the new hospital project, for example, (P.167), rejected by just 5 votes an amendment by the Scrutiny Panel which would have provided more time for details to be provided about the Westmount Road access which is of enormous concern to town residents, in particular. Other votes affecting St Helier have been even closer: my amendment to protect People's Park from being on the shortlist of hospital sites succeeded by a slim margin of 2 votes, while, many years ago now, the much-loved Inn on the Park was lost when the vote to save it was tied.

Am I going too far in calling the Island's parliament gerrymandered? Not at all: the States Assembly is gerrymandered because it has refused, time and time again, to give every voter an equal say in how the Island is governed.

Simon Crowcroft, Constable of St Helier