Action Not Words
My short manifesto outlines ideas and views where I believe I can make the most difference if elected. I care deeply about many other issues, which I outline below.
Action for Education, Economy and Environment
Closure on the secondary education debate is paramount to all of us. I come into the debate with fresh eyes and am committed to reviewing the evidence without prejudice for each of the four models under investigation. However, I feel it’s essential the process is transparent and that the community and teachers are listened to, are involved in the process and are taken on this journey together. Of course not everyone will agree on the way forward, but it is important that we debate openly and honestly, come to a conclusion and move forward decisively.
Guernsey Institute and University
I am fully supportive of the progress on the Guernsey Institute as well as research around feasibility for a Guernsey University project. While the two projects are distinct in their mission and outcomes, they both recognise the essential need for investment and the demand for quality education and skills to be developed on-island.
Lifelong learning provision
Without a long-term skills strategy and a lifelong provision of education and skills to islanders, we can fall rapidly behind to the ever-changing demands and innovations of the global workplace. While jobs in finance and technology may be essential for our general prosperity, we cannot do without the hard work of those in hospitality, customer care and nursing. We have to import many hundreds of people to fill those roles now, what if we provided more vocational training and career paths into those sectors from a young age?
Broad and international curriculum
I would like us to tap into the educational expertise available globally by creating links with universities, schools and educational projects so that students of any age can collaborate across borders. I have seen this work successfully for the international business school, INSEAD, that I was lucky enough to attend, that taps resources across the globe. Our companies do the same, drawing on resources from around the world to operate globally. There is no reason that Guernsey cannot do the same in education.
I would like to see broader, more blended online-offline learning approaches that take us beyond the four walls and teaching practical life skills that help us live healthy and financially thriving lives such as financial literacy, growing and cooking food, mental and physical health.
Our island is rightly proud of its long history of being nimble and adaptive to changing circumstances with a strong entrepreneurial grit, determination and survival instinct. While we have thousands of hard-working small businesses and self-employed, I feel we are in danger of losing that spirit, and I have not seen much happen in the eight years I’ve lived here, other than a tendency to double down on things that have worked in the recent past.
Red tape and public sector reform
We must do all we can to keep the burden and red tape on the businesses and entrepreneurs as low as possible while ensuring we remain a white-labeled jurisdiction with strong social policy frameworks that can attract the brightest and best talent. It’s not as easy as in other jurisdictions to establish or to run a business. There are many planning hoops to go through for commercial and residential modifications and developments while building laws have low energy efficiency and environmental standards. I would strive for government efficiency and red tape elimination as a precursor for economic development and we have a long way to go on the promised public sector reform.
Provision of public services has never been more complex than today. It’s easy to reminisce about a golden era when the country was run successfully by a few experienced businessmen. In those simpler times, Guernsey did not compete on a global stage or attempt to provide anything resembling equality of opportunity and modern healthcare. Running public services today is a combination of running complex operational units while delivering rapidly evolving policy frameworks and public service obligations. This requires a public sector that is knowledgeable, efficient, effective and delivery-focused and retains the entrepreneurial spirit to innovate.
It is an obligation of the government to ensure all public services are run as efficiently as possible operationally and I firmly believe there is room for improvement, which I’ve seen first-hand from my work on the board of Guernsey Ports.
I would also seek opportunities to deliver public services through a partnership with the private sector where it is demonstrable that the private sector can do a better job but this should be approached in a pragmatic, rather than dogmatic fashion, because we have excellent public servants who in many cases provide a first-class service at a very reasonable cost.
Reform of unincorporated States Trading Supervisory Board assets
One specific area where I see opportunities for continued public sector reform is by making the States Trading Supervisory Board assets such as Ports, Dairy and Water to be run more independently, in a similar manner to Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Post so they are not subject to capital allocation, HR and all other government-related processes. If we go down that route, we will also need to figure out how such assets are funded and paid for. I’ve seen first-hand the chronic underinvestment in our infrastructure, which I firmly believe is largely attributable to the fact that these assets have been run as internal States departments, rather than stand-alone entities. The gap in capital funding amounts to nearly £300 million over the last two States terms.
These are important strategic assets for Guernsey, and public ownership ensures that we all continue to benefit from them. However, the management should not be constrained but instead given the opportunity to deliver better products and services to the community and greater productivity to create value for us all.
Investment into Infrastructure
This brings me to the critical issue of the need to invest in our infrastructure, which is crumbling in many places, to enable the conditions for businesses to thrive and islanders to enjoy a high quality of life.
Our Harbour, a true jewel in the crown, was developed over 100 years ago and was a controversial project of its time. It was driven by the demands of the business community, with the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce taking a particularly active role.
The Reservoir is another example of the vision of our forebears to deliver water infrastructure fit for centuries to come. The project was quickly restarted following World War Two and disruptions to livelihoods carefully managed by relocating households living at the bottom of the flooded valley to equally valuable properties.
These projects were developed due to an overwhelming need to improve the infrastructure of the island, and a long term vision of what the island’s leaders wanted to deliver to future generations. Today the business community is actively asking for the development of our harbour, and drastic improvement to our data and air and sea connectivity. The public may express their requirements slightly differently, but transport within and outside of the island and internet connectivity are always high up in people’s concerns.
The government needs to be on top of those demands as well as trends of tomorrow and act swiftly to invest in broadband connectivity, expand commercial and leisure ports facilities, define a better policy framework for Aurigny and ensure it is run efficiently and is able to trial routes and seasonal charters to meet the demand from business and the community. We have more demand for leisure boating than our marinas can currently fit and QEII Marina was one of the best capital projects of its time, delivering a rapid return on investment back to the States.
I know that the thoughts of infrastructure and harbour developments may have worrying connotations to some islanders. We must address their concerns that such developments will take away from the true essence of St Peter Port and it’s key they preserve the character of Town, while making it more modern and fit-for-purpose. We can learn the lessons of less sympathetic developments elsewhere and ensure that we make Guernsey an even more desirable place to live and work.
Independent governance structures
Even if we might have the willingness to actively invest, I believe our current capital spending process and committee governance of projects is not the right set-up for multi-million infrastructure developments. I would seek the establishment of separate governance structures such as a Revive and Thrive Development Board or a Seafront Enhancement Corporation that can manage large scale projects outside of the machinery of government with a clear mandate and supported by the right expertise and experience of the board and executive teams. I firmly believe that any political committee formed around capital projects is doomed to failure because the likelihood of having the right skills around the table is small and you are tied up to long-winded government processes that are likely to inhibit rather than accelerate progress.
Business support and Enterprise Incentive Scheme
I’ve worked with or advised many hundreds of businesses in the Bailiwick and beyond, including setting-up or running several of my own businesses, such as Island Mums. I’ve always been astonished at the lack of any business support (except Startup Guernsey, which was closed down last year by Economic Development) available here on-island. While private or community initiatives have stepped in and are playing a role, I believe we are failing entrepreneurs and small businesses.
With this in mind, I would like to explore launching an Enterprise Incentive Scheme which gives income tax breaks to individuals who invest in local businesses. Such schemes have been run with huge success in the UK and beyond stimulating billions of investment into innovation and small and medium-sized enterprises. We have a large number of investors that live locally and yet we do nothing to encourage them to invest their capital locally with the exception of the Guernsey Innovation Fund that is only open to a select few.
If we are to maintain a stable population policy but want to maintain economic growth, we should have better support for those who are not actively employed (but not on the unemployment roll). These could be older generations and mums. Through my work at Island Mums, I came across non-working mums who would have liked to work if they could get flexible, term-time or short contracts, which are still in the minority in the workplace. As work practices change and become more digital and global, the opportunity for such jobs should increase. A PWC Women in Work Index showed that supporting more women to work can give a 6% boost to our economy.
Business relocation through Open Market
Our Open Market licensing framework can be an important economic enabler that helps to attract enterprising families to relocate to Guernsey, establish new businesses while employing and upskilling locals and become active contributors to our community. I would like to see Locate Guernsey become a Business Development Agency, focused on attracting and giving incentives to entrepreneurs to employ locally.
Engagement with Business Community
I would also like to see Government and Business work much closer together and set-up proper engagement frameworks such as an Economic Advisory Council (EAC). Government is often accused of not having much business expertise – an EAC would be a way to tap into the vast expertise available locally. In my experience at the Chamber of Commerce, I have seen that many business people are willing to provide their expertise and time when they feel it is going to be used productively.
There is much talk about Citizen Assemblies and I would welcome running a trial for a Citizen Assembly on the Economy as a regular engagement vehicle with a sample of islanders truly representative of the Guernsey population.
We would be doomed without a thriving Financial Services sector. Yet we are a little bit in a Catch 22 situation. If we only invest and support the Finance sector, we would put all eggs in one basket. No matter how much we value the sector, we cannot have a robust economy and thriving quality of life without a myriad of other industries – we need people to build our houses, to sell goods and provide services to our children.
I would still like to see more done for Finance and accelerate the work of Guernsey Finance, and specifically its work in Green Finance by unlocking more funding and perhaps seeking more funding sources from the finance sector.
Part of the support for Finance also lays in ensuring it’s not burdened with unnecessary regulation and that our regime is nimble, innovative, digitally-enabled, and light-touch while preserving our white-label status. We need to be able to enact new regulations swiftly and effectively that will allow Guernsey to establish a competitive advantage. We have shown the ability to do this in electronic agents and in the Guernsey Green Fund certification, and we need to ensure that Government and the regulators remain attuned to such opportunities.
Industries that I feel provide opportunities for us would be expanded professional services, with a focus on digital delivery (digital entrepreneurs), online education, tourism, maritime and medical services.
I talk about nature-based tourism in Action for Environment. In addition, we have a great opportunity to continue exploring our unique heritage by creating a Victor Hugo Centre, embracing arts and literature tourism and working with our community to come up with a diverse art/culture events schedule.
Digital services export may become even more important in times of Brexit when dealing with physical goods may become more problematic. This also aligns with our needs to diversify the economy into high-value sectors that do not require high numbers of workers.
Brexit is likely to be another wave that hits us with very little notice as to how the final shape of a deal or no-deal will look. The move by the UK to want to re-establish its own rules and regulations, including those for financial services and taxation, may bring us in more direct competition, particularly in the finance sector.
Of course, our government has been working hard behind the scenes on Brexit planning but I expect us to need to make some fundamental decisions in asserting our rights and independence, and I believe that we need to approach this issue with an open mind as to how best to protect the business and wider community.
My decision to stand for election has come about through my involvement in setting up two environmental initiatives in Guernsey – the Chamber of Commerce Sustainable Business Initiative and most recently Transition Islands.
I firmly believe that taking a joined-up approach in our decision-making that takes nature and environmental implications into account at all times is paramount to our survival and our short, medium and long-term success as a community.
A World Economic Forum survey showed that environmental issues were considered to be the top 5 most important by business leaders around the world. Global businesses increasingly only want to work with companies and jurisdictions that are seeking to proactively address these issues.
We know from our Habitat and Biodiversity reports that we have lost a huge amount of natural habitat and dozens of species of birds and insects since the 1990s. Much of what makes Guernsey such a special place to live is down to our environment despite the fact that we’ve never put a price on is actual value. This is now changing with Natural Capital Accounting which will start showing us the value of the ecosystem services that Nature actually provides to all of us for free every day.
Following a dramatic shift in public opinion locally and globally, our government has come up with a Climate Action Policy, Strategy for Nature and an Energy Policy.
The good news is that action for the environment is good for business, good for our health and well-being and good for the world.
UN Sustainable Development Goals
I would like to see joined-up frameworks such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs) to be used as the guiding principles for any policy development including the next Future for Guernsey Plan.
Green Energy Fund
I would like to see serious funding commitments to the Climate Action Plan through Revive and Thrive such as setting up a £50 million Green Energy Fund, giving households grants to install electric heating and make homes better insulated and energy-efficient. This will have multiple benefits from creating construction and engineering jobs, have warmer homes, move away from fossil fuels and reduce pollution. This can be funded through energy savings on bills and spending capital currently to provide immediate benefits to the economy and be paid back over an extended period makes great sense in a period of historically low interest rates.
Local food growing
Our food choices affect the environment and our health on many interconnected levels – from nasty chemicals, soil degradation and land conversion to water depletion, food poverty and waste.
While we’ve moved away from agrarian economies long-time ago, I feel there is a big shift of people wanting to have a better relationship with their food, understand where their food comes from and how it’s been grown. Coupled with the urge for more food security, we’ve seen this first hand during Covid-19 lockdown – a big increase of local households growing food and selling more on hedge veg stands.
I would like to launch a Local Food campaign in partnership with food businesses, growers and community organisations to get Guernsey to grow more food. This could include an incubator for food entrepreneurs on the basis of Guernsey Institute, community gardens and getting more fish to be sold locally.
The best tourism product we have is our environment, let’s emphasise what it has to offer. Active, adventure, sports and ecotourism are niche but growing categories. Whilst we have some great businesses in the sector, we don’t support commercial businesses to operate more year-long facilities or even maintain what we have, like the La Vallette bathing pools.
I would like to see more investment into facilities that help us and by implication, tourists, enjoy our natural environment more – bathing pools in new locations, a water-sports marina for non-polluting water activities like kayaks and sailing (Havelet Bay breakwater) and launching a unique annual sports activity like Tour de Shores, which can be easily run as an independent and fully commercially funded event.
I believe the focus on this unique niche of tourists rather than the silver generation like in previous Visit Guernsey campaigns, is likely to be higher-spending, willing to access unique experiences and come along with children, as the local adventures and activities don’t need to be strenuous.
This type of tourist may also prefer more off-the-beaten track accommodation, B&Bs, Airbnb and glamping and I think this can help alleviate the accommodation beds issue while giving locals extra income if they can offer some of their houses for rent to tourists like it’s happened in Sark.
By being closer to Nature, we will appreciate and protect Nature further, which fits entirely with our new Strategy for Nature. Creation of a Centre for Nature, and of marine and land conservation areas, will help focus those efforts and provide world-class nature-based visitor attractions.
I have strong values and principles around justice, equality and integrity and would support social policies that make our community more equal, fair and protected.
Business as a force for good
My diverse business experience has taught me one thing – is that it’s a duty and obligation of business to be a positive contributor to all of its stakeholders – shareholders, employees, suppliers, community, nation and environment. Recognising this duty and embedding it in the business culture and strategy will lay at the heart of ensuring we have a fairer, more equal and more environmentally responsible business sector. Pioneering and visionary businesses voluntarily and proactively take this point of view and other businesses may need to be brought along on the journey through support and policies.
Discrimination and equality
I firmly believe we should eliminate barriers that prevent equal opportunity for all to realise their full potential and that will involve access to education, health and employment.
I would be an active proponent of progress on the Discrimination legislation as well as pay-for-equal-value agenda. I believe people should be paid fairly and proportionately.
Our healthcare has started a process of transformation through the Partnership of Purpose under the leadership of Deputy Heidi Soulby, one of the founding members of the Guernsey Partnership of Independents.
While I don’t have much direct expertise in the healthcare sector, I see that the direction of travel has been very well received. I am supportive of the commitment made to NICE drugs. As an islander and mother, I would like to see more effort put into preventative measures, improving active mobility and general level of physical activity of islanders, access to healthy food and good mental health from an early age.
At schools kids are taught about the growth mindset and resilience, I would like to see parents and older generations provided the same type of training. We have some great mental health services provided through charities, however, we should work to mainstream mental health so it can be easily accessible and non-stigmatized through GPs , schools and workplaces.
I also believe we need an approach to the justice system that seeks to deal more holistically with the problems that lead to a small number of islanders disproportionately penalised, at a huge cost to all of us, and ensures that repeat offending is increased as well as undermining the ability of offenders to integrate back into the community.
The millions pound question.
The previous States have already made policy commitments that outstrip our ability to pay for them even with a successful public sector reform – these include among other long-term care plans, secondary pensions and NICE drugs. This means that if we don’t do anything else, we would need to increase our tax rate to cover the outgoings unless we want to have less public services and choose which frontline staff to cut.
But I believe we can do quite a lot to keep the pressure on taxes in check. This is the reason I am standing, and why my focus is on action on the economy.
Public sector reform
First of all, we must continue the public sector reform and ensure it’s good value for money. I’ve outlined one specific area in relation to unincorporated STSB assets (Ports, Water, Dairy), which I believe can run better if allowed to trade more independently like Guernsey Electricity and Post. This will be allowed to fall outside of the complex processes of the Civil Service including capital allocation and HR.
Red Tape elimination
Secondly, we must eliminate red tape and work spearheaded by the Chamber of Commerce has provided a number of recommendations. I think there is much work to do in Planning to make sure its fit for purpose and is not a bureaucratic barrier.
Infrastructure investments and borrowing
Thirdly, we must invest in our economy and infrastructure if we are to help create conditions for the public sector to thrive. The small size of our economy makes it commercially difficult if not unviable to create long-term capital investments within the private sector. It’s the reason why the States owns the vast majority of the island’s infrastructure such as the Electricity and Water grid, Airport and Harbour, Waste disposal and Postal services. Notably, the sell-off of Guernsey Telecoms and creation of a competitive Telecoms sector has led to Guernsey being ranked number 38 with global broadband speeds compared to 2nd for Jersey with a States owned Telco. Competition and privitisation are not always the solution for small markets like Guernsey.
We have a good balance sheet to enable borrowing but must do so for quality capital projects that deliver across a number of desired outcomes and are financially viable. Fortunately, economic conditions are such that long term investment for clearly targeted economic returns can repay this investment are feasible and economically prudent. They will not encumber future generations but rather leave them with a better economy built on better infrastructure.
There has been no major investment in our infrastructure in the last 8 years except the Waste transfer station and underinvestment is close to £300 million based on a commitment to invest 3% of GVA annually.
Infrastructure investments have an immediate stimulus to the construction and related services industries but more importantly, creates the right facilities for the private sector.
Business incentives and relocation
Fourthly, we must seek mechanisms to unlock economic diversification, investment into new enterprises and importation of talented entrepreneurs. So far we’ve left this work almost entirely to the private sector with the exception of the States Innovation Fund. We need to do more, it does not have to cost significant amounts for the taxpayer and will widen our tax base of employees.
Lastly, we should seek public-private partnerships or outsourcing of services to the private or third sector if they can provide the service at better cost, value and quality. This underpins the Partnership for Purpose approach in health and could be extended in many other areas including commercial waste collection, tourism, food growing, finance etc.
If we put some more fuel under sustainable economic development, we can create conditions where more people are working, where productivity is rising, where we can export more of our high-value-added services, where we have a strong tourism sector and fewer people non-active outside the labour force – all of which will contribute to a higher tax take.
Overriding all other considerations, we do need to balance our budget across the economic cycle, and at times this may mean that higher taxes are necessary. I will strongly oppose anything that makes lower-income households worse-off. Yet, we may come to a point where we must make some very tough decisions about taxation, public services or both.
I hope that by being bold and acting for our economy, environment and education TODAY, we are not going to end up in the dire position of underinvestment and poor sustainable economic growth. Down this path is a potentially dangerous cycle of progressively increased taxation but almost certainly eventual frontline service cuts. I believe we have a choice not to follow this path and I hope that you will support me with your vote so I can help bring some of these ideas to the next States.