Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Guernsey Watch

Guernsey Watch: An occasional review of the stories in our sister Island.

I’ve already commented on the general election, so the reader is referred there.


Guernsey press reports that Guernsey is the more popular Channel Island than Jersey:

“A ‘NATURAL charm and rich history’ make Guernsey the number one of the Channel Islands, holidaymakers have said, warning that the island should not change to be more like Jersey.”

It is true that St Peter Port is a very charming and picturesque town, and as one of the gateways to Guernsey via the Harbour, and for visitors shopping, it has more to commend it than St Helier. The Financial heart of Guernsey has shifted out of St Peter Port and straddles the road between St Peter Port and St Samson.

This means the main town is relatively free of large glass fronted buildings of the kind which are so invasive in St Helier. They do spoil that stretch of coastline, but the traveller will probably bus or drive past it relatively quickly, whereas in St Helier, they are all pervasive.

Panama Papers

The Panama papers have not really impacted on Guernsey yet. As the Guernsey Press reports:

It’s too soon to say, to be honest,’ said William Mason, director-general of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission. ‘But the evidence suggests that Guernsey’s hard work in the past has meant that we are in a better position than many other jurisdictions.’

Mr Mason said the commission would take up ‘very seriously’ any issues brought to its attention through the release of documents leaked from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca and admitted that he was ‘glad’ the firm had no local presence.

Jersey, of course, has offices of a local branch of Mossack Fonseca, although it is not licensed to carry on trust or company business. So what is it doing, It seems that it is acting as a conduit, facilitating links to its parent company, rather like an “introductions” agency. That does put Jersey potentially at more risk from collaretal damage than Guernsey.

Signs of the Times

Rebranding and reorganising departments is not just something which Jersey does alarmingly often – Guernsey’s change to committee government away from ministerial government also sees changes in the portfolios of those committees. Guernsey Press reporst this:

‘Civil servants will be more accountable’ under changes: GREATER civil servant accountability and responsibility will be a key feature under the restructure of government, the States’ chief executive has said, as work gets under way to bring about changes to the system. From 1 May the structure of government will change from the current system of 10 departments to a committee system made up of the Policy and Resources Committee plus six principal committees.

The structure of public service delivery will also change to reflect and support the new political system and there will also be greater distinction made between the strategic policy-making of the political committees and operational service delivery. As part of the changes, a great deal of work has gone into rebranding, including new logos, letterheads and new signage, at a cost of more than £45,000.

I find it deeply ironic that the main part of the change – described as “a great deal of work” – is all about new logos, letterheads, and signage. Changing the structure of a department, changing accountability and responsibility, are what is promised, but what do we see – changing the signs, letterheads and logos, at a cost of over £45,000. In this respect Guernsey is not so very different from Jersey, where similar cosmetic changes have been and are being made.

Guernsey press also reports on population. As with Jersey, vague generalities take the place of precision, and come to think of it, Jersey too has also avoided looking at how many people should be living on the Island. The Jersey mindset is focused on growing the population to replace elderly people while at the same time burying its head in the sand over the sustainability of this policy for infrastructure – water supply, schools, hospitals etc:

Many, many, many hours had gone into debating Guernsey’s new population management regime. There was just one thing missing – the policy to guide how many people should be living on the island. It had been an issue ducked throughout the management debate where it was insisted a focus on numbers would distract from the core issues of getting the right tools in the box. When it came to the big reveal, Policy Council attempted to shift the focus onto the ‘working population’ number, although buried within its report was indication that to achieve that the total population may need to hit some 70,000 people. The policy faced objections from those who felt it was too vague – members, though, rejected the opportunity to effectively cap the working population at its current level.


According to a report in the Guernsey press:

GUERNSEY is making ‘tremendous progress’ in China, according to the director of international business development at Guernsey Finance. After getting on for a decade of strong connections between China and the island, Kate Clouston said that Guernsey Finance and local firms were starting to see success in the region. Guernsey Finance will update on progress made at an event for industry on Tuesday 17 May.

It will be interesting to see how this is reported. Jersey, too, has (we are told) been making progress in China, so we are told, but facts and figures that are clear and unambiguous are hard to come by. What I'd like to hear both in the Guernsey report, and in any Jersey ones, are businesses saying that they have secured business worth £x thanks to the help given in making contracts by the Guernsey or Jersey teams working in China from their respective States. Good publicity for the firm, good publicity for the Islands - but will we ever have anything like this level of direct effect charted out?


Reg said...

Not surprised that the temperature is lower in Guernsey, the island slopes towards the North.

paul troalic said...

Very good synopsis by Tony. Guernsey has always followed a better route and implemented good well-thought out ideas. We could learn a little from them. Hope people don't put forward the usual glib insulting remarks because many of the politicians are not even home-grown Guernseymen.
Usual off the wall comment by Reg, to be totally ignored.