Financiers upping sticks to Jersey – is it a flood or trickle?

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The UK government’s pre-budget report sparked off a blast of speculation about how many wealthy financiers are going to move from the mainland to places where their fat pay cheques won’t be taxed a staggering 50 per cent.

Even the Daily Star got in on the act, with a Tycoons Fleeing to the Channel Islands headline and the suggestion that the ‘mega-rich’ are leaving at the rate of ten a week. They even quoted a bloke from hedge fund firm Altis Partners, who have been in Jersey at least three years already, to my knowledge.

Granted, 50 per cent off your pay packet is a lot of money, but of course it only applies to people who are earning above a high ceiling in the first place. The rest of the population only pay around 40 per cent.

Having worked in the UK for some years, I do recall what a bind it is to have nearly half of your earnings swiped away before you even start to pay the mortgage. However, costs are considerably lower, particularly housing, unless you need to live in Inner London.

But I can understand why people who feel they are unfairly targeted might want to head for a lower-tax zone like Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man. Some, like Guernsey-based financier Guy Hands – whose company acquired EMI last year, and might now be regretting it – have already bedded down in the islands.

Whether we will get a noticeable influx of wealthy residents next year is difficult to say. So far the slow trickle could be counted on two hands, with a couple of smallish investment companies setting up shop here in recent months.

They’re the ones gradually helping to fill up the new office blocks around the back of the Esplanade and some of those country houses with gold-plated gates and enough outdoor lighting to attract people from outer space (and Santa Claus).

At any rate, it gives the national journalists something to talk about that features rich people and tax havens and, thank heavens, doesn’t feature anything to do with X Factor.

Where will retailers come from?

IT is indeed good news that at least one Channel Island retailer has decided to take the risk of moving into the newly-refurbished abattoir building.

No doubt a new Marks and Sparks selling home wares will attract most of us at some point, if only to suss out the changes that have been made to a building which, historically, has little to recommend it.

Some sort of accolade must also be given to the developers who, at long last, have managed to put into practice the redevelopment of a ‘site of special interest’ that has been handed down through successive Planning departments over at least a decade, if not two.

So now that the meat hooks have been removed from the stained walls, will this new shopping mall prove to be a ‘diamond’ in the Island’s retail offer – as Sandpiper’s chief executive suggests – or yet another white elephant?

Fort Regent, I do believe, could have made a pretty good indoor shopping mall without going to all the expense and trouble exerted on this glorified pile of crumbling stones.

And even if M&S franchisees Sandpiper have taken the largest shop in the complex, and two more beside, a quick look at the website of property agents Buckley and Co reveals that there are plenty more empty shops still waiting to be filled there.

The website includes 29 empty spaces on offer at Liberty Wharf, with a total of more than 50,000 square feet still to find takers for.

Where are these retailers going to come from? Surely not all will be new names from the mainland? And if they are local, will they be moving from the town precinct? In which case, what will happen to the gaps they leave behind? I shall watch the development of our new covered shopping mall with a good degree of interest – and more than a soupçon of scepticism.

Bravo, the Fête dé Noué

AS this is the season for giving out bouquets, I can’t let the year go out without congratulating the organisers of the Fête dé Noué.

This year seems to have featured more events than ever and, although I haven’t managed to get to every one, it really cheers me to know that even if the Island is still in a recession people are prepared to put on a show which is free for anyone prepared to make an effort to take part.

The candlelight parade, the winter Battle of Flowers and the Christmas markets all help to create an atmosphere in town which is sorely needed, at a time when the small independent retailer is facing increasing costs and our high street is in danger of becoming no different from a UK town.

Although I can understand the Colomberie retailers’ complaints about the wisdom of allowing French traders to take over the Weighbridge, from a punter’s point of view the influx of some different goodies to buy is more than welcome. The French market is also an added attraction which brings people like me into town when they might otherwise not bother – and therefore should be good news for the other traders, too.

And while I am certainly not a fan of Sunday trading per se, I do believe that the Constable of St Helier is right to allow shops to open on Sundays immediately before Christmas, as well as the Thursday late-night opening. For those of us who work – and who generally spend our Saturdays catching up with the zillion chores required to keep us clean and healthy – these extra opportunities are invaluable.

Bravo, also, to those who have been out in the street for charitable purposes (with a special mention for the students from Jersey College for Girls who have been selling goods on behalf of Jersey Hospice Care) as well as the buskers, street entertainers, morris dancers et al. You have helped to put a smile on our faces and a Christmas song or two in our hearts.

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