Humanitarian crisis looms as tax department queueing brings St Helier to a standstill
Cross-party calls for reform as sanitation concerns and soaring hospital admissions mark worst backlog for tax consultations in island’s history
With queues now reaching one and a half miles long, the anger and uncertainty growing on the streets of St Helier since last week, today reached a new low with the warning from the director of Jersey hospital that the island faced a humanitarian crisis unless ‘urgent and meaningful’ legislation could be passed to prevent the types of scenes we are witnessing from worsening yet further.
Makeshift shelters have been set up at Grande Marche, Burger King, The Green Rooster, Ann Summers and La Bastille, where specially trained staff from the Citizens’ Advice Bureau have been working alongside volunteer accountants and bookkeepers, who have offered their expertise for free to the frailest of queue-goers.
Breaking Jersey News spoke this afternoon to Mr Neville Hornthwaite, head of customer care at Cyril Le Marquand House, who was quick to rebuff our suggestion that the government might not have moved quickly enough to limit the deepening civilian crisis.
‘Since it became apparent that people were beginning to get into difficulty’ he said ‘we wasted no time in attempting to get to the elderly and the disabled first. By the end of day three we had given out 700 space blankets, 145 kilos of Kendal mint cake and upward of 200 snoods - and we’ve now slashed the waiting times from five to two days.’ ‘Whilst we have made real strides in clarifying the system,’ he continued ‘everyone is coming in with their queries at the same time. We always, always, always encourage people to not leave it to the last minute to sort out their tax affairs’
Seale Street florist Grace Bowers offered a more sobering assessment. ‘Look out there!’ she said pointing ‘Look at it! Hundreds upon hundreds of weary and malnourished people, lined up outside abandoned and empty shops, as far as the eye can see. It’s like communist east Germany out there. Jesus. You know that the Salvation Army were out last night? They’d ran out of soup by a quarter past nine…..’ ‘And in this day and age!’
We spoke today with Mr Nigel Featherington, a trust administrator from Sion, whom we approached in the queue on the high street. ‘I joined it outside Mimosa’ he said. ‘That was Friday.’ Mr Featherington took out his wallet and opened it to show us a photograph of his family. ‘I haven’t seen my kids since Thursday’ he said, closing it again. ‘The lady in the tobacconist let me charge my phone, so I at least got to speak with Emily on Saturday.’ He sighed, gazed behind us into the window of La Mare vineyards. ‘It’s the nights’ he said ‘the nights that really get you.’ ‘But if you fill under your shirt with newspaper’ he said ‘you can at least prevent yourself from getting hyperthermia.’ He adjusted his trousers and blew into his handkerchief. ‘A guy from TTS gave me his donkey jacket.’ he said ‘I even had someone offer me their shoes.’
‘I’m one of the lucky ones’ Mr Featherington told us ‘There was a bloke that they found this morning in the doorway of Bean Around the World. Lying in his own piss he was’. ‘...I don’t think he made it’
Pauline, a physiotherapist from Grouville, who was also in the line, described the situation. ‘You do what you can’ she said ‘You really just try to do what you can… to keep up morale… to keep up morale, and just try to keep people’s spirits lifted.’ She shook her head and wiped the spittle from her mouth. ‘But you know?’ she said ‘There’s only a certain amount of days you can sing Ten Green Bottles before you just want to start burning shit down’