Fellow residents of St Peter Port North
I am writing to ask for your vote at the General Election on 27 April. I was privileged to be re-elected to the States on 2 December last year, having previously served 8 years as a Deputy from 2004 to 2012. I was Deputy Minister of Treasury and Resources Department from 2004 to 2007, and Minister of that Department from 2008 to 2012. I am a Cambridge graduate, a Chartered Accountant and an English barrister. I co-founded and built up one of the largest independent fiduciary businesses on the island, between 1983 and 2004, and I continue to maintain links with the finance industry.
The backdrop to the next four years is a picture of turbulence and change. This summer, the UK will hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union, and if it votes to leave, our relationship with the EU (through Protocol 3 to the UK’s Treaty of Accession) will fall by the wayside. Rising nationalism, on both sides of the Atlantic, and increasing hostility to corporate tax planning could limit the economic opportunities for Guernsey.
We must therefore be nimble and active to secure our future. “Steady as she goes” is not a course for success in a fast changing world.
Diversify our Economy
We need to reduce our dependency on the finance industry to manage our risks and to make our economy more stable. To do this, we must grow other sectors, and we should start by investing in a new university in Guernsey and Alderney, as a centre of economic activity in itself, but also as a pole for the development of other industries, as well as a provider of educational opportunities for local people and a support for our air and sea links. The university should be a specialist institution (probably focused on renewable energy), with the goal of becoming world-class in its field.
Reform our Corporate Tax System
Zero-10 has left the island with a structural deficit, and has not produced the economic growth that its supporters predicted. It is absurd that most companies doing business in the domestic economy of Guernsey are contributing no Income Tax towards the cost of our public services. This is turn is throwing an unfair burden onto the shoulders of the individuals resident in these islands. The balance must be redressed, and I will not support other approaches to ‘diversifying our tax base’, if they merely tax the resident population in different ways (such as GST).
Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis
Many people earning an average income in Guernsey would be better off, after tax and social insurance, if they took a similarly paid job in the UK. And that is before the high cost of living in Guernsey is taken into account. While reform of our Corporate Tax system will enable us to address part of this problem, a major component of the cost of living is the cost of housing, which is much higher here than the UK average. This means that some young families are leaving the island, to gain the opportunity to buy a home. This trend not only exacerbates the demographic problem facing the island, it is a threat to the survival of our community. We have the lowest birth rate in the British Isles, and our policies need to me much more family-friendly.
Education I applaud the decision to introduce free pre-school education (from 2017), which is exactly the sort of family-friendly policy we should be supporting. However, the recent States decision to close one of the secondary schools (La Mare or the Grammar School) was a grave mistake. I strongly believe that children will perform better in four schools of 600 pupils than in three schools of 800 pupils. In smaller schools, teachers, students and parents have a greater sense of 'belonging'. There are no hiding places. Attendance and discipline are better, and the evidence shows that the best academic performance is achieved in schools of around 630. However, I have been persuaded that the system of selection at 11 needs replacing, and I propose that we should rebuild La Mare, and turn the four secondary schools into self-governing Academies. Each of these would teach the core curriculum, but each will also offer a distinctive range of options outside the core curriculum. For example they may specialise in science, arts, technology, sport, etc. Pupils and their parents, guided by their primary school teachers, could then select the secondary school that most suits the aptitudes and interests of the students. This would give real meaning to 'Your Schools; Your Choice'. The Academies would operate in a federation, to allow students access to courses at other sites, but by basing students at the schools that most closely match their interests, the need to bus them around the island would be greatly reduced.
HealthGuernsey has excellent health services, but we must contain the rising costs of medical treatment by improved use of information technology. We cannot afford on-island specialists in every field, and need to use video conferencing and external technical support to tap into resources elsewhere. We need to be more flexible with housing licences, to improve the recruitment and retention of health professionals, and we need to invest more in training our own nurses. The continued freeze on the States subsidy towards the cost of visits to the doctor has made the cost of primary care prohibitive for many people living on fixed incomes. This needs to be redressed, as part of the fiscal rebalancing referred to above.
Civil RightsGuernsey's protection of minorities is woefully out of date. At present, the only group protected from discrimination are women, and then only in the work place. It should be unlawful to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of race, religion, gender, gender identity, disability or sexuality. I believe this could best be achieved in one overarching law (like the one in Canada), but I will support the Disability Law when it comes before the States. We also need equal pay legislation for women, and the island needs to sign up to CEDAW (the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women). I am proud to have been a member of the Assembly that introduced equal marriage.
In my manifesto, I have confined my comments to the high-level issues that I regard as strategic priorities, but of course there are many other problems that confront us on a daily basis, and you will undoubtedly have concerns about areas of policy that I have not covered. I think these are better discussed on a one-to-one basis, and it is a strength of Guernsey's democracy that we all live in close proximity to each other. My contact details are set out below, so please do not hesitate to get in touch with me if there is something you wish to discuss.
In addition to appearing at the hustings, I will try to visit every home on the electoral roll. However, in the event that you may be out when I call, you can always make contact with me at the addresses below. I will be happy to discuss any issues that are of concern to you, and to try to answer any questions you may have about my policies. I will also maintain a blog on this website, where I will comment on any current issues that may develop during the campaign.
|2 Vue de Godfrey|
|Rue de Vega|
|St Peter Port|