Wednesday 24 March 2021
Status of workstreams
We have hit the ground running. A lot of work has been started, a lot of work has been accelerated, but there is much to complete. We said we would get on with things and I believe we are, and we are grateful for the support of this Assembly.
I said in November that my vision of this Policy & Resources Committee and of this States was one of action. We need to be focused on priorities as time, money and people are all valuable resources and limited. The Government Work Plan will enable that. We can focus on the actions that will matter.
I said that we intended to hold monthly meetings with Presidents of the various States Committees. They are held and they are productive, and they enable us to look across all mandates, not to think in silos.
None of us own any particular idea. The Committee is open to the public. We've already held a Drop-In before Christmas, and there will be more when we leave lockdown.
One of the key issues in the first few months of this Assembly has been Brexit. We were very well served by our External Relations Team, and by the person who has political responsibility in that regard, Deputy Le Tocq. When he had his temporary absence through illness I stepped into that gap and realised (a) how important his work was, and (b) what considerable benefits we were getting from the groundwork that he had laid over a number of years.
I said in November that our main industry was that of the Finance Sector. We need to promote our world-class Finance Sector, and are in discussions with Guernsey Finance on how they will do that, and how we support that financially. But it is not enough though just for Guernsey Finance to be responsible for our finance sector. The whole States must support it.
Important to support the sector's competitiveness is effective, proportionate regulation. One of my first meetings was with the GFSC, who advised that there were one or two critical pieces of the jigsaw missing which our predecessor Committee had not managed to resolve. One of these was the Credit & Finance Bill, which the new Committee for Economic Development pushed forward and this Assembly agreed. The other is the need for a Banking Resolution Authority, which this Committee is now finalising, working with the GFSC to bring to the States in July.
A major challenge has been Covid. I have commended the work of the previous Civil Contingencies Authority, and I also commend the very able Civil Servants, medical professionals and others, the inimitable Dr Brink, and my committed political colleagues on that Authority, both from Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. I say 'Thank You'. We had to put the Islands into the second Lockdown on 23 January, something that we neither wanted nor expected. Nevertheless, we are on our way out. Again, that has taken considerable resources and time. That is no excuse though for not attacking the other issues and we believe that we have been dealing with those. I commend unreservedly the citizens of our Bailiwick for their patience, diligence and contribution to us being able to emerge, from the effects of the Pandemic. Thank you.
I also express my gratitude to the political colleagues that we have in Alderney and Sark. We have established a good relationship with our political representatives in those Islands, who make an important contribution on the Civil Contingencies Authority. We are a Bailiwick. All the Islands are important and we all need to work together and I believe we are doing that, and strengthening those important relationships.
In respect of Alderney, I am pleased that we have unlocked the impasse of the PSO process, and that a new arrangement is in place between Guernsey, Alderney and Aurigny. This was left for too long in the previous term, and having said that we would resolve it quickly I am pleased that we have done so.
I turn now to Capital priorities and Capital projects which I mentioned in my previous statement. In the second Policy Letter i.e. the Government Work Plan Policy Letter in July, there will be details about the States Capital Projects, in line with agreed priorities.
This Committee is also committed to getting things done in relation to minor Capital projects. We have set aside a further seventeen million pounds in order to ensure that we can move projects at pace, and the Committee now has delegated authority of up to five million pounds to enable faster decision-making.
As Deputy Helyar made clear in his Statement on 24 February, we must invest in the economy and its recovery in order to generate the revenue that we need to continue to invest in our very important public services.
The current Policy & Resources Committee is very inclusive. In that regard, to support the development of the Government Work Plan we are establishing a Sub-Committee made up largely of Members of the States to assist prioritisation and ensure that the wider States is included in the thinking that leads to decisions. Deputy Soulsby will say more in due course.
With the possibility of our borders opening again, this has brought into focus an Air Policy Framework. We are close to finalising one that will support meeting our connectivity objectives and help set clear and deliverable objectives for Aurigny through its shareholder. It is important that Policy moves with the changes in the Aviation Sector over the last year due to Covid. The work has been delayed by a few weeks in order to assess the impact of Covid 19 on the Sector, and also because it is clear that the new management of Aurigny has a very positive view on how to take the business forward. We have wanted to give them some time to get their feet under the table. I believe a new approach to Aurigny is extremely welcome and once the Policy Framework is agreed we want that business to get on with it with no interference from Government.
Sea connectivity is also important and we remain in discussions with the new owners of Condor and our friends in Jersey on either a new operating agreement or something similar. I expect this to have progressed to a position where we can return to the States with a fuller update during the next Quarter of this year.
In line with this work, Deputy Inder and his team are now working closely with the Tourism Sector on the development of a plan for 2021 and a long-term plan for 2022 and onwards. This work includes taking practical action on unused hotels. I understand from Deputy Inder that unused hotels will be included within exemptions to provide an enhanced opportunity for beneficial alternative uses of those sites, and this is now being finalised with the Development & Planning Authority. Deputy Inder will update the Assembly in due course, but this is a welcome development.
Digital connectivity is critical to our competitiveness. In November I said we were establishing a broadband working group. That group is already at an advanced stage of the decision-making process for the accelerated roll-out superfast broadband. The aim remains for a Policy Letter to come to the Assembly in the next quarter.
I am also grateful for the update I received from Deputy Oliver on her Authority's work to streamline processes in order to support the revitalisation of St Peter Port and our island. We need Planning to be an enabler and not a blocker.
One of the big things we must move on from the previous term is the opportunity to regenerate the seafront. Last term there was bluster about spades in the ground by one Christmas or other - this term we will get things done. The first step is the establishment of a Seafront Regeneration Advisory Board, independent members reporting to the States, which will over time become a formal Regeneration Board. The Advisory Board will work with the community and the States to develop a vision for the seafront; will support the States in delivering the work that comes from the work of the Ports Board on future harbours which comes to the States this summer; and will work with investors to deliver a major infrastructure project with economic, logistical and no doubt environmental benefits. There will be announcements on next steps next month.
We must also assert our constitutional position. This week the Committee considered a paper on Royal Assent. Discussions are ongoing with the UK Government on a new system of Royal assent which will allow certain items to be granted Royal Assent by the Lt Governor on island, rather than at Privy Council meetings that take place in the UK. This will allow greater flexibility on timing and will better reflect how the constitutional relationship works in practice. It is in line with the recommendation of the Constitutional Investigation Committee approved by the States in 2016 but not completed last term. This Committee expects to bring a proposal to the States during 2021.
Deputy Le Tocq is leading the Committee's work on developing an approach to medical tourism. Now he is back, and fighting fit, that work is continuing and he and Deputy Brouard's Committee will meet soon to discuss this.
In November I advised the Assembly that the proposals on Insolvency and Bankruptcy Law should be a priority. An industry-led working group which included Citizen's Advice Guernsey has been leading this, and it intends to report its proposals on Debt Relief Orders to the Committee for Economic Development by the end of April.
Work will continue on individual voluntary arrangements and reform on the bankruptcy regime during Quarter 3 of this year. Following development of Policy proposals, Corporate Insolvency legislation was enacted in 2020 and is expected to come into force in Quarter 2 of this year.
I have already referred to Guernsey Finance. Policy & Resources and Economic Development have received a Funding Proposal from them. This is being considered. The experienced Chairman of Guernsey Finance, a Member of this Assembly, and Deputy Falla, Vice-President of Economic Development, is a Board Member, and they can provide further information at this stage if they wish to do so. I am grateful to them for their efforts.
In December I chaired a cross-Committee meeting with the Open Market Forum to begin the process of protecting and strengthening the Open Market. It was agreed that the work would be led by Deputy Vermeulen who is a member of both Economic Development and Home Affairs. I understand that progress is being made, both with the Open Market Forum and in engaging with Advocates and Estate Agents. I know Deputy Vermeulen is not a man to mess around. I understand the outputs of the work will be clearer by the end of June.
Missed opportunities from the previous Term included working with Jersey and the Isle of Man, better management of States' properties, and resolving the terms and conditions for public servants.
I have had regular meetings with my counterparts from the Crown Dependencies, and last week Deputy Helyar, Deputy Le Tocq, Deputy Roffey and officers met with counterparts in Jersey to specifically discuss shared working. This is now firmly back on the agenda having fallen off it last Term. It will be pursued.
I know from my time as President of the States Trading Supervisory Board that much more can be done with States property, a vital strategic asset. Little progress seems to have been made since the political oversight was transferred to the previous Policy & Resources Committee at their request, but I am delighted that in this Term Deputy Mahoney has picked up the baton and is running very quickly and in the right direction.
The States have a diverse estate comprised of thousands of properties. Whilst there is a central property management function called Property Services, not all States property is managed by it.
Following the 2018 Policy Letter, a review of the way property is being managed is nearing completion and we will consider the findings of this review in April. The review should identify areas of good practice, but also where there is significant variation in practice and approach. Twenty-three million pounds of external spend is typically commissioned by individual Committees and is split across a large number of suppliers, often with multiple contracts, each with the States. That has to change. We can make savings and we will.
Deputy Mahoney is also leading on the Committee's work in its role as an employer, in respect of terms and conditions. There have been meetings over the last few months with representatives from various trade unions across all fourteen pay groups within the Public Sector work force. Fourteen separate groups. That is too many. These meetings have provided opportunity for the parties to engage in dialogue and for employee representatives to understand further the reasons for the decision taken by the Committee on pay for 2021. It is clear that we must take action on addressing variations in terms and conditions - we are actively doing that.
The Committee is also working fully to understand the costs and implications of the proposals for the entire Public Sector workforce ahead of the Committee for Employment & Social Security's timetable for progressing discrimination work.
I said I would also like to see a more proactive and purposeful States. I believe we are on our way.
Time is limited so there is more I can and would like to say, and I will be writing more fully to the Media and to States Members in a short period of time.