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Statement by the President of the Policy & Resources Committee

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Wednesday 04 November 2020

General Update

Sir,

I am grateful for the opportunity of making this speech.

I have a limited time and there will be much more to say when time and circumstances permit.

What I can say is that with a collaborative, cogent and purposeful States much can be achieved in the next four years and eight months.

What I also can say is that the Policy & Resources Committee intends to operate in a collaborative and transparent way throughout the whole of this term.

There has been much talk about visions and strategies.  My remarks are not meant to be dismissive of any of that.  The vision though of this Policy & Resources Committee, and we believe of this States, is action.  That is getting things done.

My colleague Deputy Helyar pointed out to me as recently as Friday afternoon that the P&R Committee shows as having 406 pending action points.  That is ridiculous.  That is unachievable.  That is spreading resources, money and effort far too thin.

We thus intend to concentrate on key issues and achievable objectives.

Before I turn to that, let me say what we intend to do to be transparent.

We intend to hold monthly meetings with the Presidents of the various States Committees.  We intend to ask the Presidents to come up with three key aims that they would wish to see achieved and fully effected in this States Term.

We would seek to break down any barriers.  For example, if something is strictly within the mandate of P & R but other Committees or other Presidents have contributions to make, they are welcome.  Equally, we do not expect them to be, and in fact are confident they will not be, territorial in respect of their own mandates.

We as a Committee also intend to be open to the public.  We intend to have periodic, open meetings with the public.  We would seek to have such meetings every six months or, if there were key issues that needed public consultation earlier than that such meetings would be called more frequently.  Our first meeting we are endeavouring to have before Christmas.

We also appreciate that in a Committee not everybody can do everything.  I am very fortunate in that I have four able colleagues in whom I repose complete confidence.  There are issues that we want to address in three months, six months, one year and throughout the Term.  Some matters will be able to be addressed more quickly than others.

One of the issues of prime importance is that of Civil Service reform/transformation.  That will be led at a political level by the Vice President/Deputy Chief Minister, Deputy Souslby.  She will revert back to the States with a Statement in three months' time.  Now we are not saying in relation to that issue or any of the others that I mention that all will be able to be achieved within a prescribed period.  What we can say with absolute conviction is that we will get on with things and achieve things and meet deadlines.  We will suffer no procrastination.  So reverting to that particular issue, Deputy Soulsby will take the lead and in three months' time and periodically thereafter until the issue has been resolved, she will go back to the States and inform both the States and the Islanders of the Bailiwick what progress has been made.  It is our avowed intent to achieve Civil Service reform and transformation.

Deputy Soulsby will also lead and be the contact with the Douzaines.  We want to empower the Douzaines.  We value their contribution.  Again, in three months time, and periodically, Deputy Soulsby will report back to the States.

We still have substantial funds available from the Bond.  We want to use those in a proactive and sensible way.  Those monies have already been "paid over" to the States of Guernsey.  We believe that medical tourism, once our border is opened, is something that should be a significant financial contributor.  That will undoubtedly involve capital expenditure. This may involve a change of rules by the States as to how the Bond monies can be used. It is a matter that has been talked about in the past but that now needs to move forward.  Deputy Le Tocq will lead on that and again will revert to the States in three months' time.

Also, whilst mentioning Deputy Le Tocq, he will continue to be our lead on external relations as he did before.  One thing though that he and I will do together is to liaise closely with Jersey and the Isle of Man to see where we can save costs, create synergies and pool resources.  In practical terms that is more likely to be orientated towards our colleagues in Jersey, but we do not exclude any such opportunities with the Isle of Man.  Again, we will report back periodically.

The States is the largest employer in the Island.  The employment terms and conditions and the representations in respect thereof are cumbersome, bureaucratic, duplicative and inefficient.  They need to be regularised.  Deputy Mahoney will lead on that and again will periodically revert to the States, with the first such statement being made in three months' time.

Deputy Mahoney will also lead in relation to States property.  We have much property.  It is not all well utilised.  It needs to be rationalised.  There needs to be a political lead to take that forward and he will be the person in respect thereof and again will report back periodically.

What we intend to do, and again within a period of three months, is draw up a list of practical capital projects that could be advanced in early course.  We would be careful not to overheat the construction industry.  At the moment we know it is very difficult to get a tradesperson, but that will pass and there are few long-term building contracts which will sustain our construction industry going forward.  We will come back with a Capital programme and that could well include matters some of which are already included in the Capital Programme, but which may be accelerated, such as Havelet Slip, Fermain wall and the Cows Horn steps, just to name a few.  We would have a proper, lawful emphasis in favour of Guernsey businesses.  We want the work to be carried out by Guernsey companies and a Guernsey workforce and for that money to recycle in our economy.

Our main industry is that of the Finance Sector which has rightly been said to compose so very many disparate and independent units. 

We have great confidence in Guernsey Finance and, despite it being so well led, it has been under-financed for a considerable period of time.  We will liaise with its Head and will report back in January 2021 with proposals as to how we can assist it in attracting business to this Island, and continue to work with the Guernsey Financial Services Commission, to ensure we bring good business to this Island.

I have now been back in the Island for some forty years or thereabouts.  I was surprised at how inadequate and old-fashioned our insolvency/bankruptcy laws were then.  There has been no improvement in that forty years.  There will be now.  Deputy Helyar will take control of that and will report back again within three months with concrete proposals.  This is both an aid to the Finance Sector and to those individuals in our society who have been struggling with financial debt which is unmanageable.

I should have said that Deputy Helyar will also be the lead in relation to Guernsey Finance and indeed Finance Sector matters generally, also, importantly, he will lead on our relationship with Alderney and Sark.

We will be announcing other initiatives in due course, but there is one that I can announce now.  We will seek to establish a Guernsey investment body (or such other suitable terminology) which will be focussed on implementing a sovereign wealth fund approach to our various investment portfolios.  In the first instance we will ask, as a sub-committee or body appointed by P & R, Deputy Gavin St Pier to chair the same.  He will have such resources as he needs.  The idea will be to create an Investment Authority.  I am very grateful to Deputy St Pier who has already indicated that he is willing to take on this task and lead this task.  It is a waste of his talents to not utilise the same to the full.  It is like having Gareth Bale on the substitutes' bench and not calling him on.  Deputy St Pier has confirmed that he believes he could bring something positive back to the States in the next three months.  This could be a real game changer.  It could be something that will stand us, the Bailiwick, in good stead for the next fifty years.

Deputy Helyar is going to be very busy.  He has agreed to lead, and I am sure he will in a purposeful way, the considerations for the development and enhancement of the Eastern Sea Front.

Affordable housing has been a difficulty in this Island for very many years.  Also Town needs to be revitalised.  There are too many empty spaces above shops where people can otherwise live.  We need to liaise with the Development & Planning Authority.  We need to consider developments at places such as Leale's Yard and others.  In our view the leader in respect of that should be the Guernsey Housing Association.  We will be making early contact with the Chief Executive and again we will be reporting back to the States in relation thereto as soon as possible.  We will liaise with Employment & Social Security.  I will lead on that.

We are also going to address the Open Market in a constructive way.  We value it.  We will bring proposals to repeal, amend or change some of the restrictions that have been put on that sector recently.  We would be reverting to the States with concrete proposals in the next two to three months. 

We also need an up to date Air and Sea connectivity strategy.  I will lead on that and I will be in active discussions with the Presidents of Economic Development and the States Trading and Supervisory Board.  Again I intend to come back to the States in three months.

I will also be leading, and that overlaps with the previous matter, in respect of a new Tourist Accommodation strategy.  There are too many empty hotels.  There are too many unused hotels that are never going to return to the industry.  I understand that Economic Development is accelerating an Accommodation Strategy that will support this. We will, therefore, work closely with the President of the Economic Development Committee and the Development & Planning Authority's President.  We need practical action.  I will take the lead on that and I will revert to the States in the next three months.

We also need to give other assistance to opening up our economy.  We will be looking at regulation.  What we will be doing is seeking an urgent review of the Population Management regime.  I will lead on that and I will be liaising with the President of the Committee for Home Affairs.  Again I intend to report back to the States in three months time.

I have not left Digital to the end on purpose.  What we can do in relation to Broadband/the Digital industry and beyond is very important.  We will be setting out a Broadband Working Group and again reverting to the States in the first quarter of 2021, and that will be headed by Deputy Helyar and the President of Economic Development

We also need to get our laws enacted, i.e. from start to finish, much quicker than has previously happened.  We will thus be seeking to have Royal Assent given by the Lieutenant Governor in Guernsey on the majority of our Projets.  That will be led by Deputy Le Tocq and again we will seek to come back to the States in the next few months.

We will be seeking a review of Guernsey's structure of Government.  That will be led by Deputy Soulsby.  Here we are not looking at revolution but evolution.  We are seeking to make Government more effective.  Deputy Soulsby would intend to revert to the States in the few months.

There are other matters that we intend to address and we will, as I say, be open and transparent and speaking regularly to this Assembly and to the people of the Bailiwick.

If I have omitted topics and items of undoubted importance that does not mean that they will not be considered.  This is our starting point.  We want to achieve things.

All of that said, we will be financially prudent.  We will ensure that our borders are safe.  We will protect the people of the Bailiwick and will seek to enhance and improve the quality of their lives.

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