Moore v Mézec: The Chief Minister candidates' visions for Jersey

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THE jockeying for the Chief Minister job began well before Wednesday night’s vote.

Incumbent Senator John Le Fondré stood for re-election but had already said he had no intention of seeking a return to the States Assembly’s top job.

Now, following Jersey Alliance leader Sir Mark Boleat failing to secure a seat in the Chamber and Jersey Liberal Conservatives’ front man Sir Philip Bailhache withdrawing from the race owing to a lack of support from fellow politicians, two remain in the race.

Deputy Kristina Moore would appear to be the overwhelming favourite, having secured the backing of almost two-thirds of the newly sworn-in Assembly on her nomination paper. Her bid to become the first female Chief Minister is boosted by her topping the poll in the hotly contested St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter district and securing the most votes of any Deputy candidate.

However, Reform Jersey leader Deputy Sam Mézec can point to the surge in support enjoyed by his party which doubled its membership in the States from five to ten. Like Deputy Moore, he topped the poll in his district, St Helier South.

Ahead of next Tuesday’s States vote on who takes over as Chief Minister, both candidates had to submit a vision statement outlining what their targets would be.

Deputy Kristina Moore

Deputy Kristina Moore Picture: ROB CURRIE. (33669486)

OUTLINING her vision statement, Deputy Moore said her ambition was to lead a government that would ‘unite the Assembly and rebuild trust with Islanders by promoting trust and transparency’.

She said that the shared objective of the new Assembly must be to ‘become the best small island in the world to live, work, raise a family, start a business, enjoy life and grow old with dignity’.

Deputy Moore, who served as Home Affairs Minister between 2014 and 2018 during the premiership of Deputy Ian Gorst, added that the challenge of Brexit, Covid and the war in Ukraine had ‘exacerbated fissures that already existed’ and said that a large number of the new Members were in agreement over the major issues Jersey faced over the next four years.

These are, according to Deputy Moore, house prices, the cost of living, the pressure on mental-health services and the number of Islanders waiting for outpatient appointments.

Within an 18-point plan for the first 100 days of office if she was successful, Deputy Moore commits to a mini-budget to bring a series of measures designed to support Islanders struggling with the cost of living, establishing a public service ombudsman, and to appoint an assistant minister to conduct an ‘evidence-based review’ on whether changes can be made to the future-hospital project to ‘deliver a more affordable and appropriate alternative’.

She added: ‘I recognise the responsibility that this election has placed on me and on this Assembly. I accept that responsibility with humility, but also with determination.

‘People have high expectations of us. They are right to do so. Over recent years, government has not done enough to show that it is on the side of ordinary people.

‘The great thing about Jersey is that we are in control of what happens here. We have all the levers we need. Our problems are solvable problems.

‘So I pledge that we WILL make a difference. What kind of island do I want to see at the end of four years? A greener, more prosperous, less divided and happier island. A community more at ease with itself.’

On the cost of living

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The cost of living crisis was ‘one of the single biggest issues’ raised during the election campaign, according to the St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter Deputy.

Outlining her plan for a mini-budget, Deputy Moore said: ‘We need to

immediately address this before the winter brings fresh increases in fuel and food prices.

‘Many of the costs are driven by external factors, but that only increases pressure on us to help those who need support to weather the worst of this. In the longer term we need to find ways to introduce more competition in food and fuel markets.

‘The Treasury Minister will put forward a set of proposals in the autumn to explore how we can deliver targeted support for Islanders.’

Her 100-day action plan also includes provision to lift the minimum wage to £10 per hour (up from the current rate of £9.22) – a measure which Deputy Mézec has already lodged a proposition for – and to ‘hasten our progress towards a living wage for all’.

She added: ‘We need to recognise that the Island must remain competitive in international markets, for example agriculture.’

On education and children

Investing in early years education is essential to allowing children to ‘have the best chance to learn and succeed’, according to Deputy Moore.

‘Offering a good-quality education to our young people is particularly important in our community as we need people to cover a wide range of skills, from care to construction and commerce,’ she said.

Deputy Moore’s 100-day plan confirms proposals to introduce legislation and funding to ensure that school children have access to one meal a day in school.

She added: ‘We should also look at extending the school day to allow more time for physical activity, arts, music and one-to-one extra tuition.

‘The proposals put forward by Reform Jersey in relation to free school meals need to be worked on, to find a deliverable and affordable way to introduce healthy and hot meals in schools.

‘Most importantly, we must invest in children’s and young people’s mental-health services and complete the process of responding to the findings of the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry.’

On the environment

Deputy Moore’s vision statement says that the government would ‘protect our natural heritage’ and improve water, air and soil quality by minimising the use of pollutants.

‘We will continue our drive to reduce carbon emissions in line with our Carbon Neutral Strategy. This will involve securing investment in renewable energy as a power source, replacing the government fleet with electric vehicles.

‘We will set up a grant scheme to get homes insulated. This will also reduce energy bills,’ she said, adding: ‘We need to accelerate our move to carbon-free transport by legislating to phase out vehicles that burn fossil fuel and to replace the government fleet with electric vehicles, or where practical, use car-sharing schemes and bicycles instead.’

On housing

The housing crisis has been a major election issue, with Deputy Moore pledging to redevelop the old Les Quennevais School site for affordable housing, while also limiting the number of homes that can be built over 3,000sq-ft for a limited period.

‘Too many people are leaving our island due to lack of housing. We need to ensure that our children and grandchildren have a place they can call their own. We must have more affordable houses built across the Island,’ she said.

Deputy Moore added: ‘We do not need to concrete over Jersey to do this. Instead a suite of measures can help us increase the level of housing. These measures include allowing the partial development of derelict glasshouse sites to create affordable housing, with 50% of the area being turned into either community gardens or returned to agriculture.’

Deputy Moore also calls for the reintroduction of the loan deposit scheme to help people enter the property market and provide stamp-duty breaks for first-time buyers and last-time buyers alongside higher rates for buy-to-let properties.

Deputy Sam Mézec

Deputy Sam Mézec Picture: ROB CURRIE. (33669490)

REFORM Jersey candidates stood for election under a shared manifesto outlining the party’s pledges should they be able to form a government.

Deputy Mézec’s vision statement leans heavily on that 26-page manifesto which is described as ‘our contract with the public’.

The Reform Jersey leader, in his vision statement, said: ‘If elected as Jersey’s Chief Minister, I will seek to form a government committed to principles of social and economic justice. We will propose a Common Strategic Policy with the following key priorities – Create a More Equal Society, Prepare Jersey for the Challenges of the Future and to Restore Government Accountability and Democracy.’

He said that he would seek to run a ‘cohesive government which is effective and decisive’ and one which will be ‘driven by values of social and economic justice’.

The party manifesto sets out nine ‘key pledges’ – some of which are similar to those laid out by Deputy Moore. These include raising the minimum wage to £10 per hour by October and eventually in line with the living wage – which Deputy Mézec has already lodged for States debate.

Other manifesto pledges include reforming the tax system to ‘ensure taxes are progressive and fair’, removing GST from food and essential items by 2023 and to declare a housing crisis in the first week of office and implement the party’s Housing Crisis Action Plan.

The manifesto also has similarities with elements of Deputy Moore’s 100-day action plan, including the commitment to set up a public services ombudsman and ensuring that all primary school students have a hot meal each day by September 2023.

Deputy Mézec said: ‘My style of leadership is collaborative. By virtue of the fact that I helped form a political party at the start of my political career, I have demonstrated my unshakable commitment to teamwork. I recognise that I do not possess all the answers and that I learn from others. I have always consulted with colleagues before pursuing political actions and have benefited immensely from their feedback. As Chief Minister, I will extend that approach to independent members who are not part of my political party.’

On the cost of living

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Reform Jersey makes a series of pledges in its manifesto designed to combat the cost of living crisis.

The manifesto states: ‘Under successive governments, Jersey has become a more unequal society. Whilst the number of millionaires has multiplied, the number of Islanders living in relative poverty has increased. Foodbank usage has gone up. Real-terms earnings have been frozen for a decade. Many Islanders are considering leaving Jersey because the cost of living has left them without hope that they will ever see their standard of living improve.’

Describing the current minimum wage of £9.22 per hour as a ‘poverty wage’, the party’s manifesto also states: ‘Reform Jersey will end poverty pay by bringing the minimum wage up to the living wage. We will start by increasing the minimum wage to £10 an hour on 1 October and commit to matching it to the living wage soon after.’

This will be one of the first propositions debated by the new Assembly after Deputy Mézec lodged these proposals within hours of being sworn in as a States Member.

‘We pledge to remove GST from food and essential items. Reform Jersey has always held the view that GST is a regressive tax which hurts those on the lowest incomes the most. Whilst the cost of living has been rising and the use of foodbanks has increased, there can be no moral case for retaining this tax on food.

‘Lastly, we will instigate a full review of the Income Support system. We have grave concerns about the way support is provided to those on the lowest incomes, including how frequent bureaucratic mistakes are leading to people being pushed into poverty,’ the manifesto continues.

On education and children

Jersey still has ‘much to do’ to implement the commitments made following the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry, Reform Jersey say.

‘Progress appears to have stalled and shocking stories are frequently being told in the media about cases where children are not having their rights upheld by the government,’ the party manifesto reads.

Among the Reform Jersey pledges are a commitment to replace Greenfields residential care unit as an ‘urgent priority’ and to work with the police, Children’s Services, the Youth Service and the Children’s Commissioner to prevent young people ‘encountering law enforcement, when other services would be much more appropriate’.

‘Jersey’s Youth Service provides an amazing provision for children and young people across the Island. However, the service is not enshrined in law. Previous reviews have recommended making the Youth Service a statutory provision, which would include protecting its funding. Reform Jersey supports this,’ the manifesto states, adding: ‘Lastly, in order to address the worrying levels of food poverty among children, we pledge to expand the school meals programme into every States primary school by September 2023.’

On tax

Reform Jersey have regularly brought propositions to the States Assembly to overhaul the Island’s tax system, but have been knocked back on each attempt.

The manifesto makes a renewed pledge to remove the ‘20 means 20’ tax system and instead move all Islanders to the marginal rate and eligible for tax breaks.

‘This will enable us to reduce the marginal rate from 26% to 25%, providing a tax cut for middle earners, whilst asking the highest earners to contribute more. The majority of taxpayers will be better off under these proposals. We will also abolish the caps on Social Security Contributions and the Long Term Care Tax which currently allow those earning above £250,000 a year to pay a lower effective rate than everyone else. This will provide extra revenue which we will direct into our health service,’ the party state.

On housing

The Island faces a ‘serious housing crisis’ which threatens Jersey’s ‘future prosperity’, Reform Jersey’s manifesto states.

‘Other political parties have stated their intention to solve the crisis by merely building more homes. But the cause of the crisis is more complex than simply the number of homes in Jersey. The government must adopt a much bolder approach and be prepared to challenge vested interests,’ the manifesto states.

The party said it would introduce ‘greater control on the affordability of rental homes’ by introducing a rent tribunal and introducing legislation for open-ended tenancies. Reform Jersey also adds that it will increase the number of homes reserved for first-time buyers in private developments and ensure that homes built on public land must be for ‘affordable or sheltered housing instead of buy-to-let’.

‘We will legislate to require landlords who choose to sell their properties to offer them to the sitting tenant in the first instance. For those tenants who wish to buy their home but cannot secure a mortgage for the full value of the property, we will set up a fund to allow them to secure it through shared equity with Andium Homes. This fund can be topped up through the proceeds of an Empty Homes Tax and higher rates of Stamp Duty for investment properties,’ it adds.

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