Skip to main content Skip to accessibility
This website is not compatible with your web browser. You should install a newer browser. If you live in Jersey and need help upgrading call the States of Jersey web team on 440099.
Government of

Information and public services for the Island of Jersey

L'înformâtion et les sèrvices publyis pouor I'Île dé Jèrri

Chief Minister's speech to Chamber of Commerce - January 2024

11 January 2024


May I start by wishing you all a very happy new year. I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to take time to reflect and set new and exciting goals for the year ahead.

Goal setting in government is as important as it is in business. In a world of great expectations and infinite possibilities, we have spent some time post-election identifying our priorities and then through our government programme, checking on performance.

So, today, I want to leave you with confidence. Confidence in our future, in our economy, and in our Island. It’s why, today, I’ll go beyond business and talk to you as parents, grandparents, family members, and Islanders. We’ll discuss issues that affect you now and in the future. I’ll then set out our immediate priorities for the year. We’re at the point in the electoral cycle where frustration sets in and I am here today to take stock and look forward.

I can assure you that as a group of people who are ambitious for the Island, the Council of Ministers are impatient and motivated to deliver on our priorities. Priorities that focus on the challenges Islanders face, as well as creating opportunity and prosperity for all, so our Island community can thrive now and into the future.

However, the gap between this Council of Ministers’ aspirations for our Island and what we have achieved so far is bigger than I would like. As we are spending taxpayer’s money, the processes and checks and balances are generally there for a good reason. But it does take patience and persistence.

Before I talk about that gap between achievement and aspiration, and look ahead to our priorities for this year, let’s first highlight what we said we would do and have done. 

Highlights of 2023

This time last year I was speaking to you about what we need to do in our three areas of relentless focus: cost-of-living, housing, and recruitment and retention. We couldn’t have predicted the unprecedented number of emergencies and major incidents we’ve dealt with during this time. And, difficult as they have been, those challenges have made our community stronger and demonstrated our resilience.

I would like to just stop here and recognise the work of our public sector and take stock of their contribution to our safety and well-being. Their response and management of these incidents has shown us just how well trained and capable they are, and it is right to give them some well-earned praise and recognition.

So, back to taking stock of our first 18 months in office.

Cost of living

We’ve been quick to support Islanders through the cost-of-living crisis. We’ve put money back in Islanders’ pockets when they need it most. Deputies Millar and Gorst have been instrumental in putting this support in place. We have also listened to feedback from you at Chamber, and the wider public, and frozen fuel duty for a second consecutive year, and eased back on increases to alcohol duty.

I know every penny counts – and I want to put pounds back in your pockets – but let’s not forget that with our GST rate still at 5%, a £6 pint of, say, Guinness would incur 71 pence of duty in Jersey. In the UK it’s £1.45. If people buy local, a pint of Liberation Ale incurs only 50p of duty and GST in Jersey.


We all know there are issues in our housing market. We’re not alone. Many nations are finding that they have simply not built enough homes… and the combination of short supply and low interest rates has caused prices to rocket way ahead of growth in wages.

To tackle this, we have made progress by: 

• Raising the bar to the discounted stamp duty rate for first time buyers to £700,000. Yes, a HUGE figure. One that illustrates the scale of the problem that prospective homeowners face.

• Deploying the £10 million set aside for shared equity schemes – to help first time buyers into home ownership – the response for expressions of interest has been fantastic.

• Investing £15 million to upgrade our sewage infrastructure to complement the recently completed £67 million project to update our Sewage Treatment Facility, which began under the Gorst Government.

• And, your former President, Deputy David Warr, has made policy changes to the Affordable Housing Gateway criteria, enabling more Islanders to access social rented homes, as well as bringing forward proposals to improve residential tenancy issues.

Thankfully, one organisation that has been building and is continuing to deliver quality homes is Andium. Yes, a company owned by all of us.

Recruitment and retention

Of course, to do all of this we need people with the skills to do it. I know that areas of our economy are experiencing acute challenges in finding and retaining skilled workers. The majority of you here will know that only too well.

When we took office, we immediately secured important bilateral deals to help with labour market shortages in the hospitality and agriculture sectors. We’ve also adapted housing rules to enable sectors, such as care workers, to access housing that is provided by the agencies employing them. But we appreciate there is more to do. In public services, there’s more to come in healthcare and education by tackling vacancies in those critical areas. We’ve already recruited an additional 47 teaching assistants and 29 special needs co-ordinators. 

And we’ve created 130 more homes for our key workers and set up an accommodation service so that people like nurses don’t have to spend part of their shift booking short-term accommodation for their colleagues. We’re also recruiting to increase the number of fire and rescue, Ambulance Service, and customs and immigration personnel. Set against these labour shortages, as an Island we’re close to full employment but with hundreds of vacancies – we have a structural challenge as well as a cyclical one.

As a small Island community, if we’re to remain a desirable location for business, I recognise that we must have stand out health and education services on offer. And I’ve already mentioned my pride in our emergency services and first responders.

We’ve also made a significant investment in the governance and leadership of the whole health service. Our turnaround team have now been here for a year. They’re supporting us to correct the legacy we inherited. The uncontrolled spending habits are being replaced with a financial recovery plan. This will deliver £25m in financial efficiencies by 2026.

Under Deputy Wilson’s leadership, we’ve introduced a Freedom to Speak up Guardian to help support health workers to improve the culture in this service.

And the Health Advisory Board, which includes a number of eminent non exec leaders, is now receiving good feedback after beginning to hold its meetings in public as part of a new process of holding the health executive to account.

Working together, the Home Affairs and External relations Ministers have successfully piloted a project to enable French day trip visitors to enter the Island with their Carte d’identite. This shows how we can help other nations to overcome some of the post Brexit challenges.

We’ve strengthened our relations with the EU and many nations in our first 18 months with a number of successful visits, including that of the Canadian High Commissioner.

I mentioned earlier the progress that Andium is making, that was enabled by changing the structure of that organisation so that it could have greater independence. In ten years, it has brought its existing property up to decent homes standard as a minimum and set forth on a massive programme to deliver thousands of new homes. This shows what can be achieved through an arms-length approach.

We’re also aware that a lot of our infrastructure needs renewing and in the immediate term the funding is in place to renovate the Opera House, to develop Mont a L’Abbe school, to refurbish our town markets, and to build a new primary school for the east of town, which in turn releases a site for a park and underground car park. These are all, of course, just the highlights, and we aspire to do so much more from the many lessons – sometimes hard lessons – we’ve learned. And I want to highlight some of those here today too.

What we’ve learned

In our first 18 months, we’ve gained experience that will shape our future approach. Firstly, we’ve had to deal with significant legacy issues, such as “uncontrolled spending” in health and the inaction of our predecessors, which I know frustrated most of you in this room.

We came into government with a number of initiatives for our first 100 days. I think it’s fair to say that parts of the organisation surprised themselves by the agility they showed when they stepped up to the challenge of swift delivery during that period. We‘ve also learned, in some cases, that it takes longer than hoped to turn a good idea into a workable policy. 

It’s certainly the case with our aspiration to ensure every primary school child has access to a nutritious meal during the school day, for example. The Minister for Children and Education is up and running with several pilot projects and will shortly add an international provider to our list of suppliers. It’s already clear, however, that providing meals at a scale of four to five thousand a day is beyond the existing Island capability – it will take time to build this up.

We’re a team admittedly impatient for change. In some areas – responding to the cost-of-living crisis and major incidents – pace is essential, and we’ve proved that as an organisation we’re good at it.

We’re trying to move at pace in all policy areas and the ministerial team and the executive team are working closely together to ensure we get the balance right in 2024.

Before considering some thoughts on broader issues affecting Jersey, I’d also like to share a very important lesson learned.

In government you must try to reconcile and balance many interests, often competing, on the same issue. This is especially the case in Jersey’s current political system. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a person I admire greatly, he often speaks about disagreeing well. As we improve life for Islanders, we should remember his words and yes, this is particularly relevant this week: “reconciliation isn’t about common agreement… it’s about learning to love one’s neighbour as oneself”. 

I’m afraid we haven’t always succeeded in that. Although, you’ll be glad to hear we collectively agree much more than we disagree. For example, our pursuit of more affordable homes and the economic benefits it can generate brought us into conflict with those who hold legitimate concerns about population growth and the preservation of the built and natural environment.

I don’t have to tell you here that I’ve somewhat nailed my colours to the mast in support of several big developments in St Helier, including Les Sablons. As the leader of a government that is committed to delivering more homes and economic growth, I stand by my conviction that Jersey needs those homes, and our economy needs that activity. The initial decision made on Les Sablons was disappointing, and yes, I was annoyed by it. But I recognise that it created an uncomfortable moment for some of my colleagues and caused the public to question our unity. My job is to keep us all on track and ensure that such issues do not arise again.

So, while we won’t let up on our aspirations for this wonderful Island, nor shirk the challenge of protecting the public purse, there will be a greater focus on reconciling competing interests and keeping a team that is focused on delivering its priorities. Our mantra is one of delivery for the public we serve. That is what motivates all members of the Council.

The bigger picture

Turning to the bigger picture, we’re faced with a difficult economic environment, but I firmly believe this provides us with many opportunities as well as challenges. Once in government – and having the chance to spend more time engaging with our longer-term policy teams – it’s clear to me that big trends demand a more thoughtful and long-term response from Jersey. We need to face up to decisions that could shape our fortunes for decades to come.

I was aware, for example, that the 2021 Census returned a lower population figure than most expected and that there has been a marked slowdown in the growth of our working age population. That decline is a huge worry for business – and I’m sure you’re all nodding in agreement – but it should also be a huge worry for every Islander because we have full employment, and our public finances depend on income tax.

I was also aware that the challenges in global trade and security – including Brexit – were disruptive to the Jersey economy.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that we should all be obsessing more about practical ways to improve the productivity of the workforce by embracing technology and less about the ebbs and flows of immigration. We’ve already announced specific grant support for all business in this area and a tax incentive scheme to encourage reg-tech in financial services in order to boost productivity, for example.

From the beginning of this year, we have created a 60-day exemption period for short-term business visitors. Deputy Morel is leading the charge in this important area with the Future Economy Programme.

Here’s an example of reconciliation in action: many in the Assembly support our priority to improve productivity across the Island economy. But they also raised concerns that the agriculture sector needed additional support to cope with a viscous inflationary cycle. We listened and we found a way through negotiation with Assembly members to provide that support.

Another major issue is the global rise in the number of senior citizens, and this is a huge challenge for the health and care sectors. We can see those strains today in many places across Jersey. For example, we often have medically fit patients stuck in hospital beds because we can’t find them a suitable place in a care home or community setting. At times, this can number as many as 40 patients – but we’re on the case with a target to keep this to a more reasonable number at any one point in time. It's one of many instances where we find ourselves reacting to profound demographic changes that require us to be thoughtful about the issues on the horizon. That includes focusing on our long-term health strategy alongside delivering new hospital buildings. I’m just as interested in the right level and quality of service provision to Islanders as I am in cutting ribbons on a new building. In fact, we need a more inclusive discussion with Islanders about the future health care systems required to respond to demographic and economic change.

The Health and Social Services Minister will have more to say on this later in 2024. Dare I say, we may even need a “friends of preventive healthcare” group, which is as active as our “friends of the hospital” group.

And, finally, to building more homes.

It’s a localised example of one of the areas we couldn’t see clearly when we came into government. We promised more homes, but without improvements to the sewage network – a vital piece of infrastructure – we’re simply unable to build the homes we want. But, as I mentioned earlier, we have made progress on that too, which will allow us to prioritise building more homes this year.

Council of Ministers’ five priorities for 2024

So, on to this year and I’ll close with five priorities for the year ahead.

These five priorities, agreed by the Council of Ministers, put Islanders’ needs first so you know we’re working in your interests. They integrate, and go beyond, our three areas of relentless focus from last year to tackle the big issues affecting our Island, linking, of course, to our Ministerial Delivery Plans and Common Strategic Policy.

First: We will Promote economic growth and productivity.

We are enabling this by today announcing:

• Annual charges for registered and licenced permissions will be suspended for 2024 & 2025.

• All employers can have an additional registered Control of Housing and Work permission.

• We are doubling the size of the productivity grant policy.

More detail will come on these in the next few days.

Second: We will deliver more homes by developing the necessary infrastructure, simplifying the planning process, and making regulations clearer.

We will:

• Support the building of 1,500 additional homes consistent with the current Island Plan.

• Upgrade the drainage network to enable future economic development.

• Quadruple the connection rate for homes that are not on mains water.

I have no doubt that we will see action this year and beyond in our aspiration to deliver more homes.

And Ministers are laser-focused on dealing with the issues that have slowed up the pace of development in recent times.

Third: We will improve Island health services through better governance, services, facilities, and patient care.

We will:

• Achieve an overall 20% reduction in waiting times across acute care. • Bring the new healthcare facilities project forward for final approval.

• Maintain the current figure of reducing delayed discharge of patients to 20.

Fourth: We will do more for children and families to ensure all children and young people have the best start to life, from early years through to adulthood.

This year we pledge to:

• Have hot school meals available in all primary schools by the end of the year.

• Pilot a community school model in three schools.

• Increase the number of foster places available.

• Reduce waiting times for ADHD and Neurodevelopment assessment and treatment for children and young people.

Fifth: We will invest in St Helier.

Many existing departmental plans and projects have the potential to change town for the better. This includes further developments to:

• The Central Market – we are intent on moving Markets investment forward by working in partnership with the Parish and will be completing feasibility this year.

• The Waterfront.

• Building a new town school – we will deliver a much-needed school and offer opportunities to increase green space and parking on those sites.

• Various public realm improvements, such as moving forward our ideas for the Coronation Way which we hope will spark Islanders imagination and increase cycling and walking, especially to the east of the Island.

• A new plan for improvements to put the fun back into Fort Regent. And there are others to create a replacement for Rouge Bouillon School as well as Fire and Ambulance Headquarters.

We will pull these and other economic development levers together into one plan to revitalise St Helier for all Island citizens. Deputy Morel and Constable Crowcroft will drive forward this vitally important regeneration of our capital.

To conclude.

These priorities address the early impact of demographic and economic change I alluded to earlier. We’ve made progress on a number of them over the past 18 months. It has not been easy – with external and internal events affecting our ability to deliver effectively – but we will accelerate progress this year.

Through collaboration with Islanders and industry, the Council of Ministers is focused on delivering and prioritising projects that get results.

And we will deliver. I fully expect you to hold the Council of Ministers and I to account on delivering those goals. 

It’s why this week, the Council of Ministers have agreed to reduce the number of public sector projects. It’s important for us to have the capacity to deliver on the projects we desperately need as an Island. By reprioritising in this sensible manner, we will shortly be returning £30m to the reserves.

Whatever comes our way, we will not let up on our aspirations for our wonderful Island. We’re focusing on what’s important to Islanders, both for now and the future.

And we will continue to work every day to create a community that thrives​

Back to top
rating button