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Statement by Alderney Representative Roberts on behalf of the States of Alderney

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Wednesday 26 January 2022

General Update

I am delighted and honoured to present the annual report from Alderney.

I have divided this report into two sections - firstly dealing with our work throughout 2021 and the current situation, and secondly our plans and expectations for 2022.

However, before proceeding to those matters, I am pleased to say that we welcomed our new Chief Executive, Kath Jones, at the beginning of the year and we also elevated Liz Maurice to the position of States Treasurer.

We are very proud of our Civil Service, States Works and Emergency Services teams who do a fantastic job, often under intense pressure, to keep our Island running.

We are also proud to be part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey and thank you for the support you have always given Alderney, never more so than in these challenging times.

1.         THE CURRENT SITUATION

Working Together

The blossoming relationship we have with Guernsey continued throughout 2021 not least with the expressions of support from new Guernsey States Members and the Civil Service. Testament to this is the smooth working relationship in the continuing Covid pandemic and support for Alderney's businesses and workforce, together with a successful vaccination programme and the supply of LFT kits distributed to everyone on our Island.

We have been pleased to welcome so many of our Guernsey committees and colleagues during the year - Economic Development, Health & Social Care, Education, Sport & Culture all visited to get a better understanding of our Island. Other highlights included the visit of Deputy Peter Ferbrache accompanied by Deputy Chris Blin who met with the States of Alderney and held a public engagement session, and a visit by the President of Overseas Aid & Development. Deputy Mark Helyar, Policy & Resources treasury lead, visited on several occasions to meet with States Members and the Chamber of Commerce.

Furthermore, the Alderney and Guernsey Joint Working Initiatives have been agreed to identify where support or shared services can be utilised by the Alderney Civil Service to improve efficiencies and avoid duplication. As a result, policy proposals will soon be forthcoming around health and social care as well as early years and nursery provision, to complement transferred services.

The Economy

There's good news and not so good on the financial front. The good news is that broadly we came in above budget in 2021 and revenues were bolstered by significant amounts from property taxes. Now that Alderney can retain the duties it collects, this excess will be held in a Reserve Fund which can be used to offset any future challenges.

On the downside, the Covid risks facing the Alderney Week team and insufficient volunteers meant that Alderney Week was cancelled last year and only some small side events happened. In addition, similar risks also meant that the Hill Climb and related events were also cancelled. Yet despite these challenges, our hospitality sector and local businesses remain upbeat about the Island's prospects for 2022, as do I.  Our Visit Alderney Team already have good working relations with Guernsey colleagues to make the most of our offering.

Connectivity

We welcomed Aurigny's CEO Nico Bezuidenhout last year and were pleased with his assurances to maintain Alderney service levels to both Guernsey and Southampton. Now that the PSO is in place for the next five years and the subsidy agreed we can focus fully on upgrading the airport not only with runway refurbishment but also future proofing with a longer runway and accompanying transformation of the terminal, should these be agreed by Policy & Resources.  

The Little Ferry, operated with a States of Alderney subsidy, provided a much-loved service between our islands in the summer season and a new privately-operated fast motorboat service was also launched to provide additional capacity. Meanwhile, the Economic Development Committee is considering expressions of interest for this year's ferry service.

The issue of transport links is of paramount importance to the people of Alderney and essential to our economy as you will see later in this report when I turn to future plans and aspirations.

Housing

In 2021, we formed a Housing Task Group to work with the civil service, the Alderney Housing Association and local businesses to draw up a fresh policy to address the many pressures on Alderney's housing supply. Our islands share a common need for enough homes of the right types for young families, key professionals, seasonal workers and the elderly and vulnerable. We are determined to resolve the issues we face in the provision of sheltered accommodation, social and essential worker housing, and affordable housing for young families.

Energy

As with all responsible jurisdictions, we are considering renewable energy options and ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint. Our energy production uses fossil fuel and is very expensive and unsustainable, while our local waters and our climate offer ideal alternatives. Therefore we have a special Energy Group tasked with coming up with the answers.

Employment Law

At the end of last year, we took the first step in in making the island more attractive to new young professionals as well as for the existing workforce. We enacted the Conditions of Employment (Alderney) Law which gives our workforce the right to a terms of employment statement in plain English. Until now, our employment law has been limited to work permits and employer liability which is not in line with other forward-looking jurisdictions. But it's only one small step and we intend to bring further legislation - including a statutory minimum wage - to enhance working relationships and thus promote Alderney as a great place to live and work.

Emergency Services

Two years ago we took the Alderney Ambulance Service under the wing of the States and placed it under an emergency services umbrella combined with the Fire & Rescue Service. It was agreed back then that the Ambulance Service would be subject to a full independent review after 18 months. However, pandemic restrictions both in the Bailiwick and the UK made it very difficult to arrange this review. It took place last Autumn when the UK Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE) made seven urgent recommendations which were immediately accepted by the General Services Committee. Important changes have been agreed but at the time of writing, full details have yet to be announced. However, part of the solution agreed following the report involves the employment of medical professionals and there will be a cost implication to be addressed by Treasury.

It is important to stress here that the AACE held nothing back in expressing praise for the paramedic in charge and the 11 volunteers themselves, who showed such enthusiasm and commitment above and beyond the call of duty.

Harbour

For two summer seasons in the pandemic, harbour staff have faced additional duties such as extended watch-keeping and manning an additional patrol vessel and were unable to carry out some of their normal harbour tasks. This and fewer visiting yachts caused an inevitable impact the harbour's balance sheet.

We unfortunately had two main problems at the harbour. Firstly, the States took possession of the new Sennebogen Crane in January 2021 but it was not commissioned for use for several weeks due to lockdown delays for the fitting engineers. Then it broke down and it took two weeks for the manufacturer and supplier to rectify the fault, forcing us to hire a substitute crane from Jersey to offload essential island supplies. The question of compensation is currently being discussed with the Crown Law Officers.

The second issue was with the dinghy pontoon. Due to issues with the pile structure, it was decided to shorten the pontoon but this, too, failed. We then successfully reinstalled the full pontoon system but in order to prevent a repeat of the problem, we have commissioned a full structural survey so that remedial work can be carried out in time for the 2022 season and an additional feasibility study will provide options and costs for a new pontoon system in 2023.

Connaught Care Home

Costs for the Connaught Care Home extension, originally budgeted at just under £1.3 million, escalated as a result of supply problems and materials costs. Both the pandemic and Brexit were to blame for increased costs of over £700,000. We are grateful to the Policy & Resources Committee for swiftly approving our decision to increase the budget because, as I have said before, the need for care accommodation is most pressing. The extension will create 13 additional residential rooms for long-term or respite care, together with clinic rooms and offices.

Tourism

It has been a delight to welcome so many friends and colleagues who have staycationed in Alderney and we hope you will continue to enjoy our first-rate hospitality for years to come. We also look forward to what we hope will be a resumption of tourism from the UK and elsewhere at the levels we once enjoyed.

With this in mind, the General Services Committee working with our Tourism Office and an army of volunteers has continued to upgrade our heritage sites as visitor attractions. Further improvements have been carried out at The Nunnery Roman Fort which attracts thousands of visitors and in 2021 opened the iconic Wartime Naval Direction-finding Tower, The Odeon, as an exhibition and educational attraction.

In addition, the Victorian Fort Doyle with additional German fortifications is also being refurbished as a heritage site with considerable help from Alderney Society volunteers.

We are also indebted to the excellent work of the Alderney Wildlife Trust whose volunteers help to conserve our renowned wildlife and environment as well as maintaining our RAMSAR site.

And now I would like to finish by polishing the States crystal ball to provide you with a glimpse into our plans for the rest of this year.

 

2.       THE FUTURE

Island Plan

We have had Island Plans before, but nothing quite like this one. We created a plan that mapped out some realistic goals for the coming years and then asked Islanders to say what their priorities were. Around a quarter of Islanders duly responded and their recommendations were then collated and accepted by the States in January.

Within the six key themes of the economy, energy, connectivity, community development, the environment and governance, Alderney placed improving transport and connectivity at the top of its agenda along with developing renewable energy resources and creating a meaningful housing policy.

Right up there as well were a community strategy that delivers improved primary health care, sports facilities, mental health services and provision for an ageing population, as well as identifying the key drivers that attract new business to the island and implementing change to encourage inward investment.

What's different this time is that each aspect of the plan is the responsibility of a committee, sub-committee or working group which must report progress back to the States for ongoing review. It's a 'Living Document' that remains open to public input and regular updating. Hopefully, in time, it will have plenty of big 'done that' ticks against each section. And it will work alongside the States of Guernsey Work Plan to ensure we are coordinated where we need to be.

There are exciting projects that will emerge as this plan is brought to fruition, including facilities that will warm the hearts of Islanders and visitors alike, and the early stages of a harbour development plan, otherwise known as the Braye Opportunity Area.

And finally, we are also progressing our Governance Review which will make the process of governing more efficient and more transparent.

I hope you can see from this report that despite challenges and difficulties, Alderney has enormous potential and the will to drive progressive policies through to fruition to the benefit of the whole Bailiwick.

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