My vision for Jersey is that it should be an inspirational place to live, work and play, with a quality of life that is the envy of the world. We should be a beacon for how to generate prosperity for all whilst protecting the environment.
Some of you may think we’re there already, but I know that for many we’re not. We need to make Jersey work for everyone.
It is this thinking that has given me my campaign slogan – People, Place, Prosperity.
A Deputy for St Brelade and for Jersey
In this election you are being asked to choose a representative for St Brelade, but also a Deputy who will address island-wide issues. In St Brelade this dual role is made considerably easier because of one, simple observation: our parish is in many ways a mini version of the whole island. We have our urban area, along with countryside and coast. Our population density is close to the island average, even our voter turnout is similar to the island as a whole. Not surprisingly therefore, our parish issues are also often island issues – the housing crisis, inequality, protecting the countryside.
But it is also true that we have some very specific parish issues, and I address these in a separate parish manifesto here.
The big picture
It is worth taking a moment to look outwards and place ourselves in a bigger context.
- We’re coming out of a gruelling pandemic, a brutal war is being fought in Europe and the messiness of Brexit is still not fully resolved.
- A 30-year wave of globalisation has gone into retreat, with significant threats to supply chains, food security, energy prices and the cost of living generally.
- The threats posed by the climate crisis and mass extinction are now at the centre of the business and political worlds.
- Tax transparency is climbing steadily up the political agenda.
These are colossal tectonic shifts, which pose huge challenges for all of us. On top of that we can add all the challenges of the housing crisis and an economy that is suffering from poor productivity and labour shortages. Yet out of of every crisis comes opportunity. We can use this moment to rethink our economy, our society, our environment.
A moment for RENEWAL
The more I’ve talked to people during this campaign, the more I’ve sensed a hunger for change.
This election is our chance to debate what kind of island we want to be. Jersey has not had a significant rethink about our direction of travel since the shift to finance more than 40 years ago. What is needed now is a moment of “national renewal”. (Or, if you don’t like the idea of Jersey as a “nation”, let’s just say “renewal”.)
What does renewal look like? You can find out more throughout this manifesto, but for me it needs to be rooted in three absolutely critical values.
- Inclusive – renewal needs to be for everyone.
- Sustainable – economic growth needs to work for the long term.
- Smart – we need to identify the opportunities that are right for our island, that play to our strengths.
Can we do it? The naysayers will point to years of political gridlock, government failure and incompetence. That’s where I hope – believe – I can make a difference. My career in television was built on a reputation for delivery and for bringing people together to achieve a common goal. At its best, the strength of our political system is that it encourages collaboration. The confrontational nature of party politics is not best placed for the challenges we face. We need to come together to chart a new course.
This manifesto is a summary of my ideas about that new course. It is not comprehensive. I have written in more detail about those areas where I feel I have the most to contribute. But most of all I hope it triggers a debate. What are YOUR thoughts about how to renew Jersey? Government can help, it can set a tone and a direction of travel, but ultimately I believe renewal has to come – and will come – from people and from business. From you.
Where are we now?
We all know Jersey’s strengths: beautiful environment, extraordinary heritage, vibrant communities, creative people.
And we all know what’s not so great: an out-of-control housing crisis, failed population policies, an economy on the slide and a remote, secretive, out-of-touch government.
My aim is simple: to build on the good stuff and use it as the basis to tackle what’s gone wrong. The strengths we know so well should be weaving through every solution that we propose. I see the job of the next Assembly as setting new goals, liberating creativity, removing barriers and inspiring a new generation to remake Jersey. Political leaders have to set the tone for a new relationship between people and government. Unfortunately, that relationship has been corroded over recent years.
Restoring faith in our politics
The first priority is to restore faith in government and indeed in the entire political process.
At the moment the Council of Ministers are squandering one of Jersey’s greatest assets: the ability to mobilise our relatively small population in pursuit of common objectives. Jersey is small enough that we can debate the major issues as an island. However, the government has failed to engage openly and honestly on many of the challenges that face us. They have not built on the unique ability we have to solve problems by getting everyone in the room: business, unions, government, charities. Too much in Jersey happens behind closed doors, with little public input, and only token displays of consultation. Government communication is appalling and many consultation exercises are box ticking.
The new hospital is a classic case in point. Instead of leadership, we got opaque press releases and manipulation behind the scenes. Why did Ministers not engage with the public, appear on the radio, hold meetings, put their case, answer concerns? Similarly, the recent attempt by the government to claw back money from the payroll co-funding scheme has been shambolic: demands for repayment sent without explanation and a failure to provide an appeals process. The silence from ministers has been deafening.
I find the government’s lack of transparency baffling, counter productive and little short of outrageous. Only by being open and honest can we hope to restore trust and faith in government. And only then will we be able to tackle the major problems that face us with unity and resolve.
I believe in open communication. I believe in getting the relevant people and organisations involved in decisions that affect them or tackling problems to which they can contribute. Politicians have a huge role to play in setting the right tone, creating the forums in which ideas can be exchanged, and facilitating partnerships that can deliver better outcomes. Politicians – particularly in ministerial positions – should be visible, accessible and engaged with public concerns.
If elected, I commit to engage openly and honestly with you, in whatever roles I may be involved. I believe in open government – this is at the core of who I am.
In terms of policy, one change is crucial to restore faith in government. We have to undo the Parker reform that removed the direct line of accountability between civil service and ministers. This has reduced the ability of Ministers to govern effectively, by weakening accountability.
If elected, I will support the moves recently proposed in the Assembly by Deputy John Young to ensure that every Minister should be responsible for a single government department, working with a single Director General.
Beyond this, my priorities for Jersey fit under three headings: People, Place and Prosperity.
People: Making Jersey work for everyone
I know that for many people Jersey works well. There is much of which we as an island can be justifiably proud, but there are also significant problems, many of which have worsened considerably over the last few years. The biggest single example of this is the housing crisis in all its multiple dimensions, but beyond this we have many other issues to tackle. These issues are not only problems for those directly affected, they affect us all.
For example, unaffordable housing and cost of living problems are crippling for those directly affected, but they also mean that we are losing key workers (and finding it difficult to attract replacements). Another example: bullying at work is a disaster for the victim, but we are all impoverished when people are no longer able to contribute their best, not to speak of the well known long term health and mental health costs. We need to take a holistic approach, to think of how we can improve the wellbeing of everyone in Jersey.
Although Jersey’s government has a theoretical commitment to wellbeing built into every part of its planning, it is an invisible commitment, rarely mentioned, let alone prioritised. This is such a missed opportunity. Focusing on wellbeing puts people, their living standards, the quality of their lives at the centre of government policy. Implementing this kind of approach could be transformative in setting easily understood targets to assess whether lives are actually being improved. It would also establish yardsticks by which government performance could be judged.
New Zealand has pioneered this approach, and I believe as part of our programme of renewal we should do the same here. Under the New Zealand approach, all government spending has to advance one or more of 5 wellbeing priorities. Every year government publishes a “dashboard” showing progress on a series of markers of wellbeing, so that progress over time can be measured. At the moment, we have the Jersey Better Life Index, but the results are only published every few years. (And unfortunately they show that measured as a whole, wellbeing in the island is getting worse.)
Making such a change here in Jersey would be a hugely powerful shift, signalling to the whole island that our priorities have changed. Although we need to continually be developing our economy, we must be doing so in a way that makes a meaningful difference to people’s lives. Debating what those wellbeing priorities should be would be a significant part of the renewal process, involving the whole island in a discussion about the kind of place we want to be.
If elected I will push for the creation of a Wellbeing Framework, that will set a series of priorities for government beyond just growing the economy.
The rocketing cost of housing is in danger of tearing Jersey apart. Divisions between haves and have nots, old and young, urban and rural are deepening dramatically. This represents a colossal government failure. We cannot solve the housing crisis just by building more homes (crucial though that is); we need a comprehensive package of measures that also tackles demand, including a population policy that over the medium to long term stabilises Jersey’s population.
I start from one fundamental principle. Housing is a basic human right. The inability to find housing at an affordable price has multiple negative impacts on society. In Jersey we know it is leading to people leaving the island, with considerable implications for our economy and for our society. But high housing costs also trap people in poverty, increase their sense of insecurity, and therefore ultimately undermine the economy. We are in danger of making housing so expensive that we lose essential workers such as teachers and health workers who simply cannot afford to live here (or to move here). Lack of affordable housing is causing many businesses to struggle with recruitment and staff retention.
In other jurisdictions people are able to access lower cost housing by living away from expensive areas. In Jersey this option does not exist. We have to solve our housing problem and make the housing market work for everyone.
There are some specific measures that we can take to deal with the problem. The price of housing is driven by long term mismatches between supply and demand, but also by short term changes in market sentiment. Last year prices rose by 16% – a significant element of this price rise was driven by sentiment: a fear of missing out and the feeling that prices can only go up. We need to change expectations.
I propose five measures that will work to take the heat out of the housing market, level the playing field between investors and people trying to buy their own home, and improve access to affordable housing.
First, if elected, I would support moves to end mortgage tax relief for buy to let investment.
At the moment, an investor attempting to buy a property gets tax relief on their mortgage, whilst someone attempting to buy the property to live in it does not. This is wrong. It means that the investor can afford to offer a higher price than the potential owner-occupier. We need to level the playing field, and removing mortgage tax relief will do this.
Second, if elected, I will support an empty property tax to encourage bringing empty properties back into use, with appropriate exemptions for which there should be consultation.
Just off Rue du Coin (in St Brelade) is a granite farmhouse that has been empty for my entire adult life.
Everyone to who I tell this story seems to have a similar tale to tell. There are more than 4,000 empty properties in Jersey. Of course many of those will be only temporarily empty, for example because they are being renovated, or because the occupier has gone into care. But some are empty because the owner is happy to keep them that way. At a time of extreme housing need, we need to signal through the tax system that it is preferable for empty houses to be lived in.
The exact mechanism for achieving this, and the exemptions that would be necessary should be subject to consultation. It may also be that rather than an empty property tax disappearing into government coffers, it could be used to set up a specific fund to contribute to affordable housing. Another option would be for the tax to be administered through the parishes, with a proportion of the revenue raised going to each parish to set up specific funds run by parishioners for purposes decided by the community.
Third, if elected I would support the expansion of the shared equity housing scheme that has recently been proposed.
Fourth, if elected, I would support measures to significantly increase the proportion of affordable housing in developments on States-owned land, including the Waterfront.
Our greatest need as a community is for affordable housing, not luxury apartments. It makes sense therefore to maximise the provision of affordable housing units on land under the government’s control. There is not much point in having a government owned property developer (the JDC) if it operates in the same way as a private developer.
Fifth, I support increasing the supply of houses by releasing more government owned sites, working with developers and landowners to ensure brownfield sites are developed, and supporting modest increases in the height of buildings in St Helier. (I do not support turning St Helier into a high rise town. Neither do I support the automatic conversion of glasshouse sites into housing – these need to be considered on a case by case basis.)
Taken together, these measures will take the heat out of the market by making clear that the government is prioritising the needs of people over investors, and offering hope to those who are trying to get onto the housing ladder.
We need to continue to deliver new houses, particularly in St Helier, where the focus needs to be not just on the number of units, but on the kind of “place building” that will make town a desirable place for people to live. There needs to be a greater focus on 3 and 4 bedroom homes in St Helier, as part of a drive to make it attractive for families.
There are two issues to consider; first security of tenure, and second rent levels.
There are many cases of which I am aware – and also many that have been well publicised – where tenants have been given notice to leave their homes at short notice. This is incredibly upsetting to tenants, and disruptive of their lives.
If elected I would therefore support the recommendation in the housing policy development board that: “Security of tenure and tenants’ rights should be enhanced by reviewing, amending or creating new legislation and enforcing changes made through a resourced programme.”
What about rents? Currently the government is setting up a rent control tribunal, which will allow tenants to appeal against rent rises they consider excessive. This has the potential to be act as a significant brake on rent rises, giving tenants a clear mechanism to reduce excessive rent rises.
It’s also the case that my policies on house prices will prevent the huge increases in rents that we’ve seen over the last few years. For example, an empty property tax would ensure that property owners who are keeping a property empty in order to hold out for a high rent would instead have to weigh up whether to pay a tax or lower the rent that they are asking for a vacant property. Furthermore, as more empty properties are encouraged back onto the market, then rents can be expected to soften. A long term stable population policy will also reduce demand and therefore make it harder to sustain big increases in rent.
What about compulsory rent stabilisation measures? The housing policy development board recommended setting up a board to enforce rent increases at or below a set index (for example, the retail price index). The board also recommended (point 7.3.11) further research. My view is that further research is indeed essential to ensure that rent stabilisation does not have negative unintended consequences.
- These can include an increase in rents at the start of a new tenancy, as landlords seek to set an initial high rent to protect themselves against the effects of rent stabilisation further into the tenancy.
- It is well known that rent stabilisation measures tend to favour those already renting over new entrants.
- It is also well documented that rent stabilisation can in some circumstances lead to greater rent increases as landlords tend to push for the maximum rise possible every year, whereas they may not have done so with a more flexible system.
- Furthermore, there are risks that landlords do not upgrade properties for fear of not being able to recoup their investment.
The Jersey rental market is complex, with many different landlords, from small investors letting out a single property to large scale providers. It is seductive to see rent stabilisation as a simple solution in all circumstances. I am open to further discussion, but remain to be convinced that it will have the universally positive effects that its advocates suggest. (This report summarises the arguments in an even handed way.) Therefore I prefer at the moment to support the establishment of the rent control tribunal.
Poverty and inequality
Everyone deserves a chance to succeed in life, and we need everyone to be able to give of their best for Jersey to thrive. In Jersey today too many people are held back, whether that is through poverty, discrimination, prejudice or other factors beyond people’s control. We have become a deeply divided society, where the needs of the very well-off are catered for, but the needs of ordinary people often are not. Renewal means renewing the bonds that tie us together as a community. We (re)discovered during Covid just how much we depended on each other, and just how much we need people who do jobs for which pay and status are relatively low. I believe that most islanders share a desire to see a society where everyone is able to raise themselves up, and are prepared to do their bit to help make this happen.
Removing barriers to opportunity is one of my main motivations for standing for election.
We simply have to tackle poverty and inequality in Jersey. It is morally wrong, but also economically ruinous because desperation crushes hope, stunts children’s education and stops people contributing their best to society. Every Council of Ministers pays lip service to the task of reducing poverty and inequality, but then avoid any significant action to change things. I will fight relentlessly to tackle these long-standing issues.
The 2021 household income survey (released May 6th) lays bare the size of the task.
- More than a quarter of all households in Jersey live in relative poverty.
- More than a third of all pensioners live in relative poverty.
- Over the last 5 years, the lowest paid have seen no increase (after housing costs) in their incomes.
The answers are not simple. Some are long term, to do with changing the kind of jobs that are available in our economy. Making housing more affordable (see above) will make a very significant contribution to reducing poverty, as housing costs are the single biggest contributor to income stress. However, there are some additional measures that can be taken.
If elected, I will support raising the minimum wage to the living wage.
We cannot hope to tackle poverty whilst we allow wages to fall below that which we know is necessary to avoid poverty. Low wages are effectively subsidised by the government through the social security system. This move will need to be made in conjunction with employers, and with consultation over the kind of employee benefits that can be used to discount the living wage, but the direction of travel needs to be clear.
If elected I would also support a review of social security benefits, because it is clear that our social security system is not doing enough to support people in poverty.
Education and training
Jersey spends less on education and training than almost any developed country. It is also sadly the case that although our educational attainment levels are a little better than the UK’s, they should be much better, given the relative wealth of our island. What’s more, the education and skills level of our workforce – taken as an average – is well below where it should be. Yet the one thing we know for sure is that our future depends on talented, creative islanders seizing opportunities as digital, biotech and other technologies develop. There is no better investment we can make than in education and training.
If elected, I will support steadily increasing funding of education with the aim of bringing it up to the average of the OECD countries.
However, increasing spending is only part of the answer. It is clear that education is going through fundamental changes as distance learning becomes more common, lifelong learning becomes an imperative and questions are asked about whether our rigid, test-based school system is still appropriate. These are not my areas of expertise, but I believe that we should establish a broad-based task force – similar to the Jersey Economic Council that reported in 2020 – to chart a new course for education and training. Its remit should be to recommend ways to improve the education and training opportunities available on-island, as well as increase the variety of options available to parents and adults. It should also investigate whether there is scope to develop a university campus in Jersey, in partnership with an established university, to build on the kind of initiative that JICAS has already established.
I have written elsewhere about my approach to the new hospital and I will update my position if there is any announcement on the planning application before the election.
Unfortunately, the debate about the future hospital has obscured serious issues that have arisen around the delivery of health services, including mental health services. For example, I have heard from multiple sources that the level of service provision in the hospital has deteriorated and that primary health care and mental health services are under significant pressure. This is NOT because of failings in the efforts of the people delivering care, it is because of failings in management and leadership. A huge amount of time has been spent devising the Jersey Care Model, which still does not have enough substance to judge whether it will work or not.
Meanwhile, we cannot wait until a new hospital is built to sort out the issues in health care. I believe that we should have a full, independent inspection of the General Hospital now (not the inspection by the Jersey Care Commission that is currently proposed). Rather than focusing on a “jam tomorrow” care model, government should aim to reset its relationship with primary care providers and with charities who are providing health services with the aim of rebuilding trust.
If elected, I will push for an independent inspection of the hospital.
Place: Environmental leadership
I came back to Jersey in large part because this island has an amazing natural environment. The beauty of its coastline, the tranquility of the countryside, the richness of our unique heritage, the safety of our communities – these are precious gifts in the modern world and I passionately believe they are among our greatest assets. They should also a key foundation for our renewal as an island community – both in terms of our economy but also in helping us all to live better lives.
Our environment needs to be protected and enhanced, so Jersey can continue to offer a great quality of life. But this isn’t just about touchy-feely stuff, it isn’t just a defensive “protect what we’ve got at all costs” approach, because the environment is fundamental to Jersey’s economy. Jersey’s “brand” is largely defined by its beauty and its unique heritage, and we should build on this to make environmentalism central to our economic rejuvenation. We have a terrific opportunity to use a green agenda to drive innovation and rejuvenation in all our main economic sectors – farming, finance and tourism.
If elected, I will support the creation of a separate Minister for the Environment, whose role will be to protect and enhance the environment, championing its importance in government and to the public.
Past failures of environmental regulation have led to disasters such as the PFOS contamination in St Ouen’s Bay, and the contamination of groundwater with nitrates from farming. This reminds us that strong environmental regulation today will save us money – not to speak of our health – in the future.
If elected I will back measures to increase protection of the marine environment, working with the fishing industry along the lines of the model successfully promoted by Blue Marine in Lyme Bay. I support the creation of a marine park covering 30% of Jersey’s coastal waters.
Championing the environment includes taking a leadership role on climate change. Some people portray tackling climate change as a cost, whereas I see it as an opportunity. Almost everything we can do to reduce our carbon emissions will improve life in Jersey. For example, active travel means healthier lives, which means less spending on health. Electric cars mean cleaner air, insulating houses means lower heating bills and so on. We need to push ahead with our net zero carbon ambitions, including measures to increase the adoption of electric cars and replace oil fired heating systems with electric/heat pump systems.
But this isn’t just about reducing carbon emissions – we also have a wonderful opportunity to increase carbon drawdown (sequestration) by promoting regenerative farming and enhancing our seagrass beds. We must also put new impetus into the quest to generate carbon free electricity, both through encouraging solar panels, but also by investigating the feasibility of a wind farm in waters close to the French wind farm currently under construction off our southern shores. Finally, we should join forces with Orkney and other pioneers of tidal and wave generated electricity, collaborating also with Guernsey, to explore the amazing potential for these “next generation” low carbon electricity generation technologies.
What I have missed most of all over the last few years is a sense of leadership regarding our net zero ambitions. We need a Council of Ministers that is prepared to show its excitement at the opportunities that lie ahead, and prepared to take on the inevitable resistance that will arise. We need some passion, some energy and some determination to ensure Jersey rides this great wave of change that is coming to the whole world.
If elected, I will champion the island’s net zero ambitions.
This will include raising more money for the island’s climate emergency fund, via the principle of “user pays” taxes. These will increase the ability to offer financial incentives to move towards lower carbon options in transport and heating, particularly for those without the means to do so. I will support moves to promote regenerative agriculture, and to protect the island’s seagrass beds.
The payoff won’t just come in meeting our international obligations, or in improving our health and wellbeing, but in the economic benefits that being a leader on climate change will bring. We have a wonderful opportunity to make Jersey an inspirational beacon when it comes to carbon reduction. For example, there is a huge market for “green” tourism. Having said that, we are in a turbulent, if not outright dangerous, global political situation, so a word of caution is in order: it is clear that our approach to carbon reduction has to be realistic, flexible and rooted in social justice, if it is to continue to command widespread public support.
Population and immigration
I have written extensively about the need for Jersey to have a stable population (see this article for the JEP). In theory, the States Assembly has now embraced this goal (“The Council of Ministers considers that the aim of its Common Population Policy should be to achieve a stable population position for Jersey, where reliance on inward migration has been significantly reduced in the longer term.” Common Population Policy, 2021.) However, the Policy is vague, and history suggests that given half a chance, government will find ways to avoid moving to a stable population.
Immigration is clearly a complex topic. However, there are some myths that need to be confronted.
First, the last 20 years have seen a sustained experiment in large scale immigration into Jersey. This was supposed to improve economic growth. It has failed. Our economic performance over the last 20 years has been lamentable, and significantly poorer than Guernsey, which has had virtually no population growth. It is simply not possible on the basis of past experience to argue that population growth is necessary to support the economy.
Second, immigration was supposed to lower the dependency ratio – the ratio of non-working to working citizens. Again, it has failed. The long term dependency ratio has risen, as it must, because the working immigrants who come in eventually grow old and become dependants themselves. That isn’t to say that we do not have to tackle the problem of a rising dependency ratio because we do. But it is to make clear that we will NOT solve the problem with increased immigration.
The inescapable conclusion is that high levels of net immigration do not provide a solution to our problems.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there is a strong demand from business for more immigration to fill vacancies, particularly in the post-Covid environment, which has led to emigration from the island. Reductions in immigration must therefore be achieved gradually, and carefully and continuously reviewed to ensure that the economic costs are not too high.
If elected I will support measures to steadily reduce immigration in such a way that our population is stabilised over the medium term (5-10 years). At the same time, we must work with business to identify labour shortages and find solutions that work for each sector. This may involve government helping to fund training, or supporting measures to increase productivity.
My commitment to a stable population is not because I am against immigration. Far from it. How could I be? My wife is from the UK, and so is my mother. I love Jersey’s diversity, and I’m delighted that my children are growing up surrounded by children of different colours and nationalities, who speak a range of languages. It is exciting to meet people who have moved to Jersey bringing skills and perspectives that are new to the island. I strongly believe that Jersey benefits enormously from the people who come here; we need new talent and we need people to do the jobs that islanders don’t want to do. The issue is not about whether immigration is a good thing, because it clearly is; the issue is about numbers.
We cannot possibly solve our housing crisis whilst allowing the population to increase as it has in the last 20 years. Neither is it possible to protect the environment if we keep needing to build more houses. And the long-term dependency ratio will continue to worsen as the population grows. We need to put the island on a sustainable trajectory where economic growth is achieved through investment and consequent productivity increases, not through immigration and population growth, whilst supporting business in achieving this transition.
Another way of putting my proposed immigration policy is the following: I believe that we should allow immigration into the island of at least 2,000 people a year. (This is because around 2,000 people leave Jersey every year). Yes, let us embrace immigrants and immigration, as we always have. Jersey is an immigrant island – it always has been and always will be. But let us control immigration so that we can protect our quality of life, plan for the future and manage our resources.
Prosperity: Economic renewal
We need to be clear: Jersey’s economic performance over the last 20 years has not been good enough. Population growth was supposed to generate economic growth, but there has been no economic growth in real terms since 2000. Productivity has collapsed. All our traditional economic sectors (except perhaps construction) are struggling in one way or another.
We desperately need a strategy for economic renewal. The truth is that there has been no significant change in economic strategy since we embraced finance 50 years ago. Meanwhile, the world has changed. Today decarbonisation, sustainability, digital innovation, corporate social responsibility and environmental protection are all big business.
We should not hide from these powerful new trends, but embrace them. Each offers opportunities for us to take our traditional economic strengths and give them a new lease of life. For example, tourism can be reinvented by marketing the island as a shining beacon of sustainability. The finance industry can take a global leadership role in financing the global energy transition, and supporting investment in sustainability more widely. (The “Jersey for Good” report from Jersey Finance shows that there is a growing awareness of this potential.) Our role as a tightly-regulated finance centre also means that we can take advantage of potential new markets as varied as cannabis farming and data stewardship.
Covid has given us some sharp lessons – which have been reinforced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We need to build our resilience as a society. We cannot become self-sufficient, but we can build a much more integrated economy and society.
If elected I will promote the following measures: Producing more of our own food (see section below on farming and fishing), making sure that government “buys local” whenever possible, diversifying our electricity supply (especially by generating more clean energy), drastically improving our recycling rates, and nurturing talent in the island so that we depend less on immigration (see section on education & training).
The future economy will depend on creativity and innovation. Jobs that are routine will be taken over by AI. Whilst this may bring short-term problems, particularly for example in finance where jobs may be lost, it also opens up exciting opportunities for roles that are more rewarding. Driving digital innovation through the economy is vital to keep us competitive.
I have spoken elsewhere about the potential for digital technology to be a force for good. Digital transformation offers huge potential for Jersey to carve out lucrative niches in rapidly growing new fields such as data stewardship. But digital is also a key way to reinvigorate the three traditional “legs” of the Jersey economy: tourism, finance and farming. To take one example: there is a fascinating pilot project involving the Jersey Royal company that uses drones to collect data, helping to enable “precision farming” techniques and thereby reducing chemical inputs.
Digital Jersey’s aim to make Jersey a testbed for digital technologies is an excellent way to drive awareness of Jersey as a digital hub, both in the island and outside. I support the recently announced Technology Accelerator Fund. If we are to resolve the conflicts between economic growth, reducing dependence on immigration and protecting the environment, then being smart about our use of new technologies is going to be key.
We need to drive up productivity. Productivity in finance has almost halved in the last 20 years, and in the wider economy it’s also fallen. For years, government has talked about the need to do something about our productivity problem, but failed to act. Nothing is more important for our long term prosperity than to increase our productivity.
If elected, I will push to create a task force for improving productivity, incorporating representatives from business, government, unions and the third sector. It should be along the lines of the Economic Council’s excellent “New Perspectives” report, that has gained widespread support. If we are to renew our economy and our society then we need all sections of society to buy in to the goal of increasing productivity. It is the best way we have of resolving the tension between economic growth on the one hand and environmental loss on the other.
Farming and fishing
There are those who argue the farming and fishing are too insignificant to be worth supporting any longer. I profoundly disagree. Not only are they integral parts of our island identity, written into the fabric of the countryside and coast, but they are deeply relevant to our future. At a time of increasing global instability, we need to build resilience into our economy. Encouraging food production and therefore increasing food security in the island is a vital part of this mission. So I view with dismay the potential loss of Woodside Farms – the largest vegetable producer in the island. Today, we need to take steps to renew our farming and fishing industries. This renewal needs to embrace the kind of environmental goals to which we aspire, which means that support for our farmers and fishers must be tied to continuous improvements in sustainable practices.
I believe strongly that we must move towards regenerative farming practices. This will take time, and we will need to proceed gradually to ensure that farm viability is protected, but the direction of travel needs to be clear. It may be that rather than our traditional dairy and potato sectors, other, newer farming operations can take the lead in establishing regenerative farming. The recently established Jersey Hemp and the Jersey Tea Company have both committed to organic farming, and I believe there is an appetite for other innovative uses of our farmland that are similarly progressive in outlook. One issue we have to tackle is that people who want to try out new farming ideas struggle to get access to land. We should work with landowners and farmers to identify fields that could be made available.
Our fishing industry is due a long overdue period of stability, having been at the sharp end of the prolonged dispute with France over access to our waters. But we must not stand still. We have spent years talking about the need for a fish processing plant on island, so that Jersey fish can be sold in Jersey supermarkets. We need to make it happen, as part of our strategy to increase food security. Government support may be necessary, but in this case, just as with farming, support should go hand in hand with measures to increase the sustainability of our fisheries. I support the model proposed by the Blue Marine Foundation to create a Marine Park, in conjunction with the fishing fleet, as they have successfully done in Lyme Bay, Dorset.
If elected I will support the following measures: the construction of a fish processing facility, support for farmers to move to regenerative farming techniques and measures to increase access to farmland for those with new creative ideas for food production.
The creative sector
One other idea. Since returning to Jersey I have been incredibly impressed by the range of creative, artistic talent in the island. We punch way above our weight in the Arts, and we need to make more of this area. I have been involved in a group that is setting up a “Screen Jersey” organisation to promote film making in Jersey, but this is just the tip of the creative iceberg. The Arts have the ability to create a buzz in the island, they attract young, talented people (and retain others who might have left), and they help change our image on the international stage.
If elected I will support the creative sector, to make it a much higher priority within government.
Taxation and government
Government has a key role to play in a project of national renewal. I see the job of the next Assembly as vital in setting new goals, liberating creativity, and inspiring a new generation to remake Jersey. It is about tone as well as content – letting people know we are on their side, that we want them to be excited by the opportunities ahead, and that we need their contribution to help us find the best solutions for Jersey. The problem is that the government machine has become top-heavy, bloated and sluggish and resistant to the involvement of ordinary people and community groups. For example, we have a huge press team, but their output often seems more about protecting government than informing the public.
Since coming back to live in Jersey I have been amazed at the complexity of some interactions with government. To give one example, it is scarcely credible that we do not have a fully digital system for submitting and immediately calculating tax returns. I am still awaiting my tax demand from a (simple) tax return submitted 10 months ago. For small businesses, bureaucratic processes are often onerous, and taxes kick in early.
If elected I will push for a German style small business exemption scheme, that aims to slash the taxes and bureaucracy for small businesses in their first years of operation. We need to encourage entrepreneurial innovation, particularly as all good ideas start small and come from the imagination of people who think outside the box. Creative and innovative people need to be given the freedom to follow their dream, not be ground down by bureaucratic overload.
High Value Residents
The government has promoted the benefits of bringing high value residents (HVR’s) into the island without paying enough attention to the downsides. Of course some high net worth individuals make a terrific contribution to island life. However, there are also costs. Many do not actually live here in any meaningful sense, which means that their contribution to the economy is limited – they are not spending money here.
There is evidence that the property threshold of £1.75 million is too low, because it has meant that HVR are adding to pricing pressures in the housing market. The current tax requirement (£145,000 a year plus 1% on additional income) is too low. There are also other issues such as the buying up of coastal hotels and restaurants that then get turned into mega mansions, effectively reducing public access to the coast.
If elected, I will support increasing the tax requirement for high value residents, and increase the threshold from the current £1.75 million to £5 million. We should also have an independent review of the costs and benefits of high value residency.
Jersey’s success has been built on avoiding government debt. The current government has exposed us to great danger by sanctioning borrowing of close to £2 billion. This cannot now be undone. However, taking on more debt must be avoided.
If elected, I will resist moves to increase government debt any further.
In Jersey the tax burden falls heavily on the individual, through income related taxes and GST. Meanwhile, the zero/ten tax system is coming under scrutiny from our critics, as the international community attempts to reduce the ability of companies to declare profits in low tax jurisdictions. We do not yet know how this will play out – it is even possible that Jersey will be a beneficiary of new rules setting minimum tax rates.
If elected I will support a review of the zero/ten tax system, with the aim of reducing the tax burden on individuals and broadening the tax base. This needs to include consideration of tax for business profits. It cannot be right that businesses that benefitted from hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers support during Covid pay no tax on their profits. We need to maintain Jersey as a business-friendly environment, with low taxes, but I do not believe that with zero/ten we happened to accidentally hit upon the perfect tax system. There is room for improvement.
Getting things done
A final word. Much has been written over the years about the failures of politicians to drive meaningful change. Some have put their faith in party politics as the solution. I am unconvinced. The advantages of political parties in the Jersey context are overstated. No political party is going to come close to a majority (not least because no party is close to having enough candidates to wield a majority in the Assembly). The next Council of Ministers will be a coalition of parties and independents, and will depend on cooperation and collaboration to get things done. Adversarial party politics – with each party trying to define itself in opposition to each other – is not necessarily helpful in achieving the kind of collaboration we need.
My television career was built on the ability to bring diverse talents together in the service of a common goal. I believe I have the kind of open minded, common sense approach that will help find ways to bring people together to solve problems. One of the strengths of Jersey’s independent representation is that it promotes a non-sectarian, practical way of approaching issues. I am comfortable with the idea of working with different members of the Assembly on different topics. That kind of level headed attitude will be more necessary than ever in the next Assembly.
How to vote
You can vote both by post or in person, as long as you’re registered. For more information, visit www.vote.je/how-do-i-vote/.