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Statement given by the States of Alderney

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Wednesday 30 January 2019

General update

Sir, The States of Alderney is pleased to have this opportunity to present its second annual statement.

I hope that this will give a clear picture of the recent activities and the future work of the States of Alderney and I will endeavour to answer any questions. But if I am unable to answer a particular question I will take these back to Alderney for the appropriate answer to be provided, if necessary.

In our Statement last year, the States pointed to the success of our licensing regime for the on-line Gambling Industry. This has continued over 2018 and provides an important income stream to support Alderney's capital investment programme and economic development activity. Indeed, the Finance, Online Gambling and tourism sectors continue to be the current mainstay of our Island's economy.

Last year, we also made reference to the situation with Marine Renewable Energy. The legal dispute between the Alderney Commission for Renewable Energy and Alderney Renewable Energy Ltd has been resolved through an out of Court settlement which has clarified that the sea bed licences have been revoked and the outstanding fees due to ACRE must be paid within an agreed timescale. This clarification about the sea bed licences is of great importance and means that we can now return to exploring opportunities to develop tidal energy generation, rather than fighting legal battles.

The States has established a Tidal Energy Group to coordinate this work and a review of our tidal assets and new opportunities has begun. We need to be realistic about our expectations. Tidal renewable energy is still an emerging technology and it is likely to be some years before its commercial exploitation reaches Alderney. But we mean to be ready when it does.

There have been no significant developments with regard to FAB Link over the last year. The uncertainty over the project continues to be affected by Brexit and future relationships with the European Union.

The Visitor Economy holds great potential for Alderney and the Bailiwick. Alderney's tourism industry once thrived on the back of reliable and affordable air links to Guernsey and the UK. The loss in the past of direct air links to Bournemouth, Jersey and other places has had a long term detrimental impact. And more recently, an absence of flexibility in providing additional peak demand services has constrained the visitor economy. A decline in visitor numbers has followed on from these changes and improving our air links continues to be our number one priority. The number of hotel and guest house rooms in Alderney still lags behind comparably sized island communities. There is economic potential in tourism which needs to be backed by public and private investment.

The bright spots for tourism include a very successful summer, aided by some fantastic weather. We saw record numbers of yacht and motor boat visitors to Alderney, bringing a welcome boost to the visitor economy. The introduction of the subsidised Little Ferry service in the summer was very popular, generating over 4,000 passenger movements without impacting on air transport movements. A significant number of Guernsey residents made the trip to Alderney, many of whom had never visited before or had not been for many decades.

The Fort Tourgis development has taken another step forward. I would not wish to tempt fate by implying this is a done deal, but the chances of this project progressing in the next year look higher than at any time in the past. This would be a game changer for Alderney and the Bailiwick as a whole. It would bring a new dimension to our collective tourism offer, much needed employment and tax income. It would help to make our air links and airport more financially sustainable. It's an investment I hope everyone can support.

Related to this has been the change in our demographics. Our population is no longer in decline. We experienced a population increase of 1.3% between 2014 and 2017. And in 2017 we saw a welcome increase in the 30-39 age group and the 0-9 age group. These are signs that it is possible for Alderney to become more sustainable in the future. Our economic performance is an important part of that future sustainability and over the last two years we have seen a growth of 2% in the numbers employed on the island and a 3% growth in the number of employers. All of this helps Alderney and the Bailiwick as a whole. More tax and social security income. More users of our vital air services. More confidence in the future.

There were many positive developments in 2018 for Alderney. But what of the future? We have just had our biennial election and a by-election and there are now four new States Members serving the States of Alderney. They will bring energy to the challenges we face. Those challenges are well known and numerous. So I just want to focus on a few of the critical issues.

Firstly, the challenges emerging around the implications of a 'No Deal Brexit' are significant for Alderney and the Bailiwick as a whole. So let me put on record the sincere and profound thanks we owe to the States of Guernsey - its leading politicians and civil servants - for the way they are dealing with this range of very difficult issues. The States of Alderney will continue to work with you, following your lead for the Bailiwick as a whole in ensuring that the potentially damaging effects of a 'No Deal Brexit' are mitigated. We will continue to support your efforts to extend the territorial waters of the Bailiwick jurisdictions and to develop our own aspirations around the future management of Alderney's territorial waters.

Air Links impact on every part of life in Alderney. Not least when people suffer a critical illness or accident. The deterioration in Medevac services for urgent cases is a big concern for the States of Alderney and our population. The reduction in 'out of hours' cover by Aurigny means greater reliance on HM Coastguard and in some cases the RNLI. This is not a sustainable position. The States of Alderney is grateful to the Committee for Health and Social Care for the way it has worked with Alderney to address an unsatisfactory situation which is not of its making. For example, the midwifery service has introduced new processes to support women during pregnancy which recognise Alderney's specific needs and ensure that Medevac authorisation processes operate quickly if needed.

Health is our third big challenge and we are delighted that work has begun to look at priorities for transforming the care of older people through the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. This is another example where we are working with the Committee for Health and Social Care to look at ways of re-designing services to fit with Alderney's scale and make services better and cheaper. During their recent workshop the Committee for Health and Social Care focus on bespoke solutions for Alderney's elderly was particularly welcome

There are, of course, more health and wellbeing challenges that need to be addressed. We are progressing an extension to the New Connaught Care Home which will help to ensure that we have sufficient care home provision for the island's needs. We are keen to understand how primary care is going to evolve, in particular in its relationship to the Mignot Memorial Hospital. And there is a strong appetite to explore the role that new technology can play in improving the speed and quality of access to specialist medical supervision and in reducing the amount of travel for patients and their carers.

We are aware of a number of deficiencies in our domestic governance structure. Our main problem here is agreeing the right way forward. We are, nonetheless, continuing to find a way forward so that we have stronger and more efficient processes.

The final issue I want to cover is the proposed review of the 1948 Agreement. The relationship which the 1948 Agreement began after the Second World War is one which we value, not only because of the provision of the transferred services, but also because it recognises our shared heritage. If we're going to change that relationship, the change will have to be made in Guernsey and Alderney. It will have to be sensitive to our history, traditions and economic needs. And it will have to address our future needs as Alderney, Guernsey and the Bailiwick as a whole.

This is not a simple task. A quick fix will fix nothing. And if it turns into a Punch and Judy show, we'll achieve nothing. So it's time to open a dialogue with purpose, talk about what works well and what doesn't. Understand each other's perspectives and ambitions. And build on common ground. If we can make progress on this, 2019 will have been a good year.

Thank you, Sir.

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