18 January 2023
Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to address
the first Chamber lunch of 2023.
I hope that, like me, you
are looking to the year ahead with optimism, aware of the
challenges we will undoubtedly face but confident that we
can meet them.
Last week marked our six-month anniversary as your
government so this is a great opportunity to reflect on that
time and look ahead.
The Council of Minister’s and I enter
this new year having put the groundwork in place to deliver
our programme for change, and our focus is now on the
tough issues that matter to Islanders and businesses. We
only have 3 and-a-half years left to deliver for the Island,
and the hard work has only just begun.
Our first months in
office have been eventful for the Island as a whole
We’ve made some progress, faced challenges, and,
unfortunately, experienced terrible tragedies. July feels like
a long time ago, we entered office full of hope and ready to
get on and deliver for the Island.
During our first 100 days came the sad news of the death of
our late Queen, after her 70 years of exemplary service to country, commonwealth and faith, it
was very moving to take part in the tributes and reflections of a remarkable woman. Soon after and as we celebrated our hundredth day in office and the
success of our 18-point action plan, we observed the departure of Liz Truss
from Downing Street. It was a reminder that not everyone sees their term of
office to the end, so there can be no complacency or loss of focus.
Then in December Jersey experienced a most terrible and shocking month.
First losing a trawler, the L’Ecume II along with its Captain and 2 crew
members. Then just two days later the explosion at Haut du Mont destroying a
block of flats, damaging nearby buildings and taking the lives of ten people. The day after, a fire which killed one man. We then saw the
loss, almost overnight, of five percent of the island’s dairy
We’ve seen that again in the past couple of days with
the incidents of flooding which have impacted parts of the
Island and again displaced people from their homes.
Each of these tragic events have brought great sadness to
us all, and of course we think first and foremost of those we
have lost and their families. We also keep in mind those
who have been displaced from their homes and we’re
working hard to help them rebuild their lives.
But we also have good cause to reflect on the island’s
response to those very different incidents. Each has
required the support from our frontline services. The
maritime search and rescue, the police, fire and rescue,
ambulance, health care workers and of course the honorary
police. Each and every one of those men and women have
been tested and shown us how well prepared they are and
how committed they are to serving this community and
being there just when we need them.
Of course, we have had to reach out to our neighbours for
assistance, and they have not let us down either – our sister
Bailiwick, our French neighbours and the UK have all sent
people and equipment to support us in dealing with these
It’s often said that Jersey is a laid back, calm and relaxed
community, enjoying our relatively quiet and safe position
in the world. But it's through the difficult times and the
greatest challenges in life that we learn the most about
ourselves. And haven’t we discovered just what a strong
and resilient community we are?
We have something that is fast ebbing away in other places,
a place where people look out for each other, care about
each other…. and respect each other.
That is something we
should, and will, celebrate and protect.
You may have heard of Greg Connor from St John, he lost
his home through fire, a fire he thankfully escaped. Stunned
by the kindness of people who wanted to help him in his
hour of need by raising thousands of pounds for him, Greg
told journalists, that we are ”a wonderful island.”
words. Easy to say. But we have proven over the past six
weeks that he is quite right, we are a wonderful island
community, and we have a lot to cherish and be proud of.
It’s not a coincidence that the Constable of St John has
created the hashtag Coast, Countryside, Community.
This government has described our overarching goal of
Jersey being a community where everyone can thrive. We
have committed to taking actions in seven priority areas,
but in essence it’s about improving people’s quality of life
both for today and into the future, by ensuring our
economy remains strong, that we plan for the future and
take care of our beautiful environment.
Three and a half years may sound like a long time, but it
isn’t – time slips away quickly in Government. That’s why
it’s vital that we are aware of both the challenges we are
going to face, what we need to do to address them and
then to grasp some catalysts for change.
Tangible delivery is
always the final, and hardest step, and we will achieve this
through a relentless focus on the cost of living, housing and
recruitment and retention, so that we can stabilise our
workforce, economy and community.
We have a formal programme for Government, the
Assembly has agreed our Strategic Plan, adopted the
Government Plan for 2023-26 which sets our fiscal
framework, investing in key services for Islanders and
focusing on value for money in the public sector. In
addition, each Minister has published their priorities for
2023, which will be followed by Delivery Plans.
As a result,
moving forward Islanders will have a clearer vision against
which we can be held to account.
Following the election, it was clear that we had to act on
some critical areas where islanders wanted and needed to
see change… and that’s not just in the engagement with
The States agreed a mini-budget which was swiftly devised
by Deputy Gorst, our Treasury Minister, and his capable
team. That set in place targeted support to tackle the rising cost of
living – which includes doubling the community costs bonus
and winter fuel payments. The minimum wage was
increased to £10.50, and we began work on dealing with
our housing, population, and skills challenges.
So far, I
would describe this as a tax-cutting Government for most
To help people cope with the cost of living, we increased tax
thresholds, so working Islanders can earn more money
before they start paying tax. Alcohol and fuel duties are
frozen and our actual and prospective national debt – which is
taxation delayed for future generations – is down.
are serious about balancing the books and are asking some
people to pay more:
- Stamp Duty has increased for those purchasing
property which they intend to “buy-to-let”
- Tobacco duties are up
- Contributions from those on the latest High Value
Residency scheme have been increased.
We feel this is the right balance to reflect this Government
which is pro-business, and pro-enterprise.
We want people
to have more freedom to make their own choices, and to
keep and spend their own hard earned money as they wish. Equally, we know there are challenges in ensuring we have
sustainably and fairly funded public services for the future –
services on which we all depend. But that they deliver value
We won’t shy away from those discussions, we’ll
be honest with the Island, and we’ll take decisions that are
in Jersey’s best long-term interests.
One example of the Government putting this narrative into
practice is our approach to the new hospital estate. We set
out our position clearly during the election – which was to
undertake a quick review of the options available. We’ve
met our election commitment and avoided pursuing a
project which was already over-budget, unaffordable, and
would have inflicted a large, long-term debt on the Island.
After the Assembly backed our changes to the project’s
funding in the Government Plan, Deputy Tom Binet will
soon be able to ask the States to formally support our
proposed way forward for affordable, deliverable and
appropriate health facilities. Once that is agreed we will
start to get on and start building, at least making way for
our new health estate this year.
In our next government plan we have committed to
proposing a new sustainable health care funding
mechanism. Health is an area where there is much to do
and Deputy Wilson is leading a turnaround programme.
The top priority has to be delivery of a stable workforce
through improving culture and conditions. Essentially if we
cannot treat our sick and teach our kids, why would any of
you want to run a business here?
Looking to 2023
As much as there is an endless diary of meetings, I try to
meet Islanders daily, to engage as often and broadly as I can
– a feature of my diary is finding time to be out in the
community and in my constituency as much as possible. It is
clear from these engagements that the focus of Islanders is
on three main topics:
- How we are supporting islanders with the cost of
- Recruitment and Retention
These are our three areas of relentless focus.
pretend that these are easy topics to deal with, or that the
policy answers are obvious.These are either locally
ingrained problems, global problems, or both, but I do believe that our island is well placed to innovate
and find solutions.
And there are exciting opportunities,
particularly in the area of energy and technology.
Jersey people have always travelled far and wide and we
are pleased to back Phil Sharp, a local yachtsman in his
desire to race a hydrogen fuelled boat in the Vendee round the world race. It will be the only zero emission boat and it
will have Jersey on the mainsail.
It’s important for Ministers not to shy away from tackling
the difficult issues that matter to Islanders and we won’t,
but we will represent the spirit of modern islanders.
Otherwise, there’s not much point in us being here. In fact, I
see our role as simply being the people of Jersey in the
room. We have the honour to take evidence, read papers
and decide what you all want us to do.
Cost of living
The Government here has only two main levers. We
recognise that many of the price increases we see are a
result of external factors – not to make things worse by
unnecessarily increasing taxes, and by giving targeted
support to those members of our community who require
Our support must be targeted and realistic – it simply
isn’t possible for Government to support in every respect –
we must be responsible and prudent whenever we are
allocating taxpayers money.
On housing, we need to deliver the additional affordable
accommodation we require and Deputy Warr is totally
committed to increasing home ownership. We have
ongoing public and private sector projects, with further
sites identified across the Island.
If there is a prevailing view, which increasingly it seems
there is, after voting against re zoning out of town, it now
seems that members feel that St Helier has been taking the
brunt of housing development for too long, then we must
think harder about how we can invest in town to make it a
better place for people to live, work and visit.
At the very least, this must mean placing a greater focus on
more open space and high-quality education and
community facilities, to support the people that already live
here. To take the pressure off town, I have long favoured using derelict glasshouse sites for sustainable, swift building
projects with linked community gardens.
In 2023, we need to continue delivering new affordable
housing where that has been agreed, and Andium are about
to hand over 300 new homes by June with a further 700
But we also must take the decisions as to
where, and how, we are going to deliver all the homes we
know we will need to house our community. That means
ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place above and
We will start supporting first-time buyers with their
purchases – utilising the £10 million that was set aside for
this very purpose but has been sat dormant in Government
accounts for far too long.
This is a good opportunity to mention my priorities for St
Helier – which we will deliver, irrespective of whether more
housing goes into our Capital Parish or not.
When I leave
office, I want St Helier to be cleaner and greener, a more
enjoyable place to live and visit.
That means more open green space, more trees, walking
and cycling routes and community space, and I'd like to see
fewer cars in St Helier.
This all means we have decisions to make – about access in
and to St Helier, our road network, car parks, and where we
put new St Helier schools and other public infrastructure.
Those decisions won’t all be universally popular, but one
third of our population live in St Helier, and even more visit
each day for work and leisure.
Parishioners in St Helier need, and deserve, an improved
living environment. This can be a catalyst for change, in
terms of supporting islanders to live healthier, more active
Recruitment and Retention
Our third area of relentless focus is dealing with our
recruitment and retention challenges. This impacts both the
public and private sector.
It means an honest conversation
about our population – how we are going to remain fit for
the future by raising revenue, servicing the needs of our
community and driving the economy. For years our challenge has been controlling population
growth – but now we are seeing significant vacancies in key
areas of the economy.
We see the result in our health and
care systems, in retail, hospitality and other industries.
Whilst the long-term aim is to achieve a stable population,
frankly right now we need more people to be coming to
work in Jersey.
Key to achieving this is improving living standards in the
Island – I can understand that families are not going to want
to stay here if two parents are trying to bring up their
children whilst holding down three or four jobs between
That’s one reason why I committed in my manifesto,
along with most other successfully elected candidates, to
building a fair society where all workers are paid well for
the work they do.
Deputy Millar has already increased the minimum wage to
£10.50 per hour. We are grateful to the Chamber of
Commerce for your acceptance and engagement on this
matter, including one particularly productive and swift
meeting outside on Broad Street.
As we look forward, I think we should start talking now
about how this figure can rise further. An international
benchmark is often set at 2/3 of average (median) wage -
for Jersey this would be £12.50 an hour
It remains my priority to get our minimum wage as close to
this level as possible, and I am certainly not going to allow any slippage in the other direction. I know that this is a
challenge for some business sectors, but broadly speaking I
believe that most of industry is fully supportive of higher
minimum wage rates, and I recognise that many businesses
are already paying at this level and above.
Wages are of course just one part of ensuring we can recruit
and retain good people. Our immigration rules need to
meet the Island’s needs, we need to provide decent and
affordable housing and good quality public services. We
need robust supply lines and regular transport links. And we
need to ensure our people have the skills they need for the
modern and future economy, including through upskilling
and re-training where necessary.
Government often asks for quite a lot from industry, but we must deliver what
you need in return.
Criticisms of Government
I know that, during our first six months in office, Ministers
haven’t been immune from criticism. I don’t hide away from
that, I don’t pretend some people aren’t happy with us, and
I don’t think we’re perfect. But we are here to listen,
engage and learn.
We are making plenty of commitments, we are ambitious,
and we’re taking on big topics. We accept that we aren’t
going to be universally popular. But I will always do what I
think is right for the majority of Islanders, what is right for
our long-term interests and what is fair on the majority of
One recent criticism has been of our resilience, and our
preparedness for future shocks and emergencies which
might interrupt our supply chain. There are some
commentators who are keen to make their points as
publicly as they can, and indeed they would like us to
purchase their services to work on this area of policy.
I don’t disagree with everything that is said – we can
improve our resilience – and we are taking steps to do so.
One of those is to improve our links with France, so that
we’re not so reliant on our northern supply routes.
Deputy Morel, Deputy Ozouf and I are working with our
regional colleagues in Normandie and Brittany to deliver the
changes that will increase that resilience.
However I can’t allow
Islanders to be unnecessarily worried or concerned – we
have good neighbours, a long constitutional relationship
with the UK, good links, and our resilience is strong and
robust. And we have talented people who are constantly
working on emergency planning.
We’ve also been criticised in some quarters for the 7.9%
pay award which we have offered to our staff. It’s a fair
offer which I stand by – below inflation, affordable and
recognises the efforts and dedication of our employees.
I spoke earlier about living standards – and that applies to
people in whichever area of the economy they work. Let’s
face it, I know you all need people and we can’t let you have
them all by eroding the wages of our people, so they all
move to the private sector!
I’m currently reading a fantastic book called The Myth of
Normal, by Gabor Mate. It's one of those books that I am
not looking forward to finishing because I know I will miss it.
He talks about trauma, childhood, well-being and the
importance of community and suggests that
meaningful you find your life, the better your measures of
mental and physical health are likely to be”
Mate cites loneliness as one of the great threats to human
health and quotes the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy
who describes the human condition in the 21st Century as
“We compete for jobs and status. We compete over possessions, money and
reputations. We strive to stay afloat and to get ahead. Meanwhile the
relationships we prize often get neglected in the chase. “
’ve not come here today to preach to you, but I do hope
that in your plans for the year ahead you might be able to
find more time for friends, family and community. Because
there is Moore2Do!
Who ends their life wishing they had spent more time in the
office or watching tv? There are so many areas of island life
that could benefit from your skills and talents. The
honorary police have vacancies in every parish, except In St
John where there is a waiting list!
Many of our youth groups need leaders to support them in
their work that offers those valuable experiences that
enrich a young person’s life and gives them greater
perspective and opportunities to develop skills and talents
that we will need in the workforce of the future. There are charities that could benefit from your skills on
Every connection we build helps not only to
enhance our own life experience, but improves our mental
health and also strengthens our community.
So with that in mind, I look forward to working together
across the community throughout 2023, supporting
islanders through the cost of living, housing and
recruitment and retention and to moving forward into a
better future & creating a community where everyone can