I am 61 years old. I was born in Guernsey and have lived here all of my life. I was educated at the Vale School and Elizabeth College, having gained an 11+ scholarship. I was brought up in the North of the island. I originally lived with my parents on the St Sampsons side of the Braye du Valle and have subsequently lived in the Vale, St Andrews and presently live in Castel. I worked for over 39 years in the public sector predominantly in finance roles and am very well acquainted with the States Budgets and Accounts. I was a member of the executive of the Association of Guernsey Civil Servants branch of PROSPECT for a number of years and became Branch President during my last year at work. I have a practical common sense attitude towards life.
My Beliefs and Motivation for Standing for Election
I have a strong core belief in democracy, equality, fairness and the right of everyone to have the opportunity to enjoy a full and good life and to fulfil their maximum potential. I am proud of Guernsey, our community and our way of life. I am proud of our shared heritage and history, and the diversity of our community. I am also pragmatic and believe that we must nurture, expand and diversify our economy if we are to continue to enjoy the excellent standard of services we now have.
A Responsive Accountable Government
It is clear that there is understandable public dissatisfaction with the way the States take account of public opinion between general elections. I would support the introduction of a petition system similar to Jersey’s which would require a public written ministerial response at 1,000 signatories and consideration for States debate at 5,000 signatories. Jersey has a population of around 108,000 compared to around 63,000 in Guernsey which means that at 1,000 signatures a Jersey petition would represent under 1% of the population compared to 1.6% of the population here. In Jersey you would need 4.6% of the population to support a petition to potentially initiate a States debate. Here 8% of the population would be required. There would no doubt be resistance to this suggestion but the system works well in Jersey and there are safeguards in place which prevent the States wasting time on frivolous debate. We need a valid way for the public’s voice to be heard and taken account of more often than every four years. We also need to ensure that small minority pressure groups do not hijack the island’s direction.
Consumer and Employment Legislation I would support the introduction of modern consumer protection legislation. Islanders need this as do local businesses if they are to compete effectively with off island suppliers. I would also like to see an ombudsman service introduced for islanders to use to resolve disputes with providers of professional services. As regards employment legislation home office working is now a reality. The pandemic has accelerated this process and the change is likely to be permanent. The States need to act decisively to ensure that the island is not left behind in adapting to this brave new world of work. Many businesses will see the advantage of this change reducing their office footprint and associated costs. Employees could also gain up to ten hours a week by way of the daily commute and mid-day breaks and flexibility around child care and school runs would be improved. The environmental impact will also be positive reducing the pollution and carbon emissions created by the daily trek between the North of the island and St Peter Port. We must however ensure that costs such as lighting, heating, telephone and broadband connection are not just passed onto employees and that employers provide suitable furniture and equipment for the health and safety of their staff working from home and that they provide such items as ink tanks and stationery if required. Many local employers who truly believe in investing in people are already doing these things. As with everything else in our changed world we have to do things in the right way to make the island both fair and competitive in the job market. People matter.
Sea and Air Links We are an island community and sea and air links are vital to us. It is my feeling that islanders essentially want to be able to buy ferry tickets at a reasonable affordable price and have a high degree of certainty that they will travel on the dates and at the times on their bookings. I would support and encourage robust action to improve ferry services which have deteriorated considerably since 2015. As regards air connectivity, we own an airline, the airline has a very large level of debt and makes increasing losses each year (pre-Covid). Conversely it has been pulled in different directions by a number of States bodies and has had no real steer from government about how to conduct its business in 17 years of public ownership. The airline needs to know what is expected of it. Operating an air route has many overlapping effects. Flying aircraft with high seat occupancy is beneficial to our airline, the tax payer, the passengers and the environment (income increases, costs go down and environmental impact per passenger is lessened). A long hard look needs to be taken at air links. As stated in the States Revive and Thrive policy now is a time to look forwards, not backwards – ‘Recovery initiatives will not simply focus on reinstating the pre-pandemic status quo’ and ‘what was business-as-usual for the island, and elsewhere, may never be the same again’. This is particularly true of the aviation industry which has contracted nationally and internationally on an unprecedented scale. Business travel has been particularly affected and airlines are struggling to find uses for business lounges and business class seats. Locally not-withstanding the requirements of Economic Substance demand for so called business tunnels has at the time of writing been very low. Moving forward it seems highly likely that there will need to be a mix of loss making essential routes, offset by profit making routes (frequency should be dictated by load factors) and routes to cater for the wishes of islanders taking them to places they might actually want to go. Jersey has adopted a subsidy model allied to a loan to Blue Islands. We have chosen to own an airline. We need to maximise the benefits of that choice.
A Fair Society It is my belief that whilst we live in an affluent island there are great inequalities in our community. There are foodbanks, charities distributing hundreds of presents at Christmas to children and the elderly and there are local voluntary organizations which assist many islanders with basic essentials. I believe that there is nothing wrong with being ‘ordinary’ or ‘average’. The sun shines equally on us all rich or poor, old or young, whoever we are. We need to ensure that opportunity and enjoyment of life is also a reality for everyone throughout their whole life. The present pandemic has worsened these differences. Whilst we must all be thankful that the Finance Industry which is the powerhouse of our economy and accounts for around 40% of our GDP has largely functioned as normal, huge numbers of us have seen our circumstances nosedive. The island’s furlough scheme has not been generous, effectively moving many islanders onto the local minimum (non-living wage) and opening up the rift between the haves and have nots. In 2018 only 59% of Local Market homes were owner occupied compared to 66% in 1981. As no efforts have been made to alleviate the plight of private tenants many local families have seen their savings wiped out and their debts mushroom. We need to record and publish indicators of the financial health of islanders (household savings and debts being an example) in addition to reporting on the performance of the economy. In order to do something about the problems of deprivation and in work poverty we need first to actually understand it and have at the very least consistent annual ways of measuring it. For seventeen years the States have published a Guernsey Facts and Figures booklet. It is very useful. The latest edition published in 2019, contains quite reasonably 48 pages of Fiscal & Economic data (various breakdowns of GDP & GVA, different measures of inflation, earnings, employment and unemployment statistics etc). There are 39 pages of Social data including 8 pages of information about population, 10 pages of property data, 9 pages of data on Education and 6 pages devoted to Crime and Punishment. All of this data is worthwhile. However I can only find one page which actually is concerned solely with the general wellbeing of households. This page looks at the calls to Citizens Advice. Tellingly General Debt Advice calls have increased from 434 in 2015 to 622 in 2018 (an increase of 43% in four years). Bear in mind these are just the debt problems which have resulted in a call to Citizens Advice. There are no statistics yet available for 2019 or this year. We need to actively encourage full or partial home ownership. There is persuasive anecdotal evidence to suggest that local ‘affordable’ new builds are often purchased by individuals who would never dream of living in them, but buy them to rent out. I would support and encourage schemes to facilitate States Loans for deposits, first time home purchases and insulation upgrades for those purchasing older properties. If the island is to thrive our young people need to have the expectation that they have a decent financially secure future here.
Education I believe that the future of Education in the island needs to be properly resolved as a matter of extreme urgency. The views of all stakeholders including teachers, parents, pupils and neighbours of the proposed sites need to be taken into account. It is self-evident that the previous engagement with all groups was unsatisfactory. We need to get this right. We need an Education system which is fit for purpose and fit for the future. Education is now a whole life process from pre-school, through primary and secondary school, sixth form, further education, vocational training and apprenticeships, to adult education. We need to make the future a good place. We will be building upon the strong foundation of our local teaching staff. A good education system is one of the key reasons the island is an attractive place to live and to bring up a family.
Final Thoughts If you have made it to this point in my manifesto I would like to thank you for having taken the time and trouble to read it. I hope you will feel that I am worthy of consideration for one of your votes. This is a pivotal moment in Guernsey’s history. This is the first island wide election. We all have a difficult job this year choosing up to 38 candidates to vote for from a very large list. We are also experiencing a horrendous pandemic. I am sure that Guernsey will get through this. I hope that islanders will get the assembly they would wish for and deserve. We must learn from the past, take care of today and move onwards towards a better future.
Proposed By: Michelle Le Clerc
Seconded By: Sean McManus