17 April 2013
Before Easter I, together with the Council of Ministers, took the opportunity of taking stock of our strategic priorities.
At the start of this Council of Ministers’ term of office our main priorities were to get people into work, house our community, reform the public service, as well as reforming health, population control and planning for the future.
These remain our central priorities and my Ministers will continue to work hard to achieve them. However, I recognise that the continuing difficult economic circumstances mean we must do more in a number of areas. And we must do it quickly.
We need to make sure our financial services industry has a clear political vision and focussed political leadership. We must press on with reforming the public sector, improving social housing, boosting home ownership and helping islanders back to work.
I am sure no-one is in any doubt that we should house every member of our community adequately, and provide more affordable homes for islanders. The Minister for Planning and Environment has therefore decided not to pursue Policy H3 of the Island Plan. This policy would have required planning applications for private residential developments over a certain size to allocate a percentage of the homes built for social need.
This could stop land being brought forward for residential development, undermine the delivery of affordable homes and adversely affect the construction industry.
Council is determined to boost the supply of social, rented and affordable homes. For this reason we have agreed to bring forward the sites set aside in the last Island Plan for re-zoning to provide more affordable homes. Together with the use of States owned sites and tough planning obligations this is designed to boost the supply of homes, while also boosting the economy.
A Working Group composing the Ministers of Treasury and Resources, Planning and Environment, Housing and Economic Development has been set up to explore other ways to capture value from the development of land for affordable homes.
Back to Work
When we debated the Strategic Plan we agreed that getting islanders back into work was our top priority – I am sure Members agree that every new initiative must work towards this aim.
The Back to Work team has greatly enhanced support for unemployed islanders and I am proud of what we have achieved.
The Hospitality Campaign is encouraging jobseekers to take on roles in the hospitality industry. The Start Up Business Programme is helping unemployed people with a viable business idea to become self-employed. And the National Trust has set up a volunteer scheme which trains jobseekers while they work on conservation tasks.
These schemes are in addition to the established support provided by Advance to Work, Advance Plus, Workwise and Work Zone - and the establishment of the Colomberie Job Club.
And now, I am pleased that £1.6 million of extra funding from the department’s carry forwards will expand these programmes, boosting efforts to help unemployed islanders to find rewarding work. I will redouble with Ministers our efforts to do all we can to get people into work in the coming months.
The Financial Services sector provides thousands of valuable job opportunities for islanders, and, I am sure Members agree, is critical to our economy, and our future.
While Jersey is ranked as the top offshore finance centre in the Global Finance Centres Index, there are significant challenges ahead. The financial crisis has prompted a decline in the numbers employed in the finance industry and increasing competition for the available business.
And yet political responsibility for this important industry is shared between three departments – Chief Minister's, Economic Development and Treasury - leading to a lack of focus.
Against this background it was decided to commission research into the opportunities for Jersey as an International Finance Centre. Some of the emerging work from Global Advisors McKinsey was considered last week by the Council of Ministers. We recognised the need to formulate a new strategy, and to implement it quickly.
One of the report’s key findings is the importance of clear lines of government responsibility for financial services. McKinsey recommended this should be centralised within the Department of the Chief Minister. Council has accepted the principle of transferring political responsibility for the financial services industry to the Chief Minister.
I will also be asking the Minister for Treasury and Resources to take on some operational tasks so we can move quickly on the report’s recommendations.
A briefing on this research work will be arranged as soon as possible, so Members can be thoroughly briefed on the government structures needed to implement a strategy which will be critical for the future wellbeing of Island residents.
The future of finance is vital, and in a changed world we need to do all we can to secure our leading position – which I am sure we can.
This change in political responsibility will increase the workload of my department, even with support from the Treasury and Resources Minister. So we have been discussing how best to manage our other major initiatives, one of which is the reform of the public service. To ensure political leadership, I have decided to delegate this objective to the Economic Development Minister.
I am pleased the Minister has agreed to lead this important project, building on the strong start that has been made, focusing on improving the quality of our services and delivering them in the most cost effective way.
Formal Terms of Reference will now be drafted to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Chief Minister, Economic Development Minister and Treasury & Resources Minister. Support will be provided by senior officers from the three departments and regular meetings will be held to ensure these important projects are properly co-ordinated.
Jersey continues to face difficult economic times in an increasingly competitive global environment and I am determined we should maintain a careful balance between our economic, social and environmental policies while remaining nimble in the face of new challenges.
The changes I am announcing today are designed to do just that – leaving a lasting legacy of a strengthened economy and better services for our future.