Good afternoon. And, if it’s not too late in the month to say it, a very happy new year and new decade to you all.
I always welcome the invitation to speak at the first Chamber Lunch of the year. It gives me an opportunity to focus on the crucial work that Government will undertake across the coming months and to share my thoughts with you.
I promised, when I was elected as Chief Minister, that this Government would find solutions to longstanding issues.
In 2018 we created the Common Strategic Policy to give focus to the ambitions of the Council of Ministers. It was passed unanimously by the States Assembly.
In 2019, in the first Government Plan, we provided the details about how we intended to implement the Common Strategic Policy – bringing together income, funding, policies, initiatives and strategic outcomes for the first time. The plan was passed at the end of last year by a significant majority of the Assembly – 43 of the 49 Members.
Now, in 2020, we can put that plan into action. I’d like to take some time today, to talk about how we are going to do that.
Seizing global opportunities
Globally, 2020 promises to be a year of continued international significance, with the US Presidential election in November, increased OECD requirements under Pillar 2, and the Brexit transition period beginning this month and ending on the 31st of December.
2020 will likely see countries worldwide continue committing to meet stringent environmental standards, with the aim of combating the ongoing climate emergency.
And this is one area where Jersey is already ahead, with the States Assembly voting in May 2019 to declare a climate emergency and aiming to achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2030.
When it comes to exploring global opportunities, some here might still feel unease when I mention ‘Brexit’. Chamber members will be aware of the extensive preparations made across Government during 2019 to prepare for the potential impacts on Jersey of a disruptive no deal exit. We worked closely with local retailers, logistics providers and Chamber to build the resilience necessary to ensure the continuity of our supply chains.
Now, with the risk of a no deal significantly reduced, we must look to the opportunities that Brexit provides – to enhance our relationships with the UK, EU Member States and global international markets. And that includes building on the significant work already taking place alongside organisations like Jersey Finance in Hong Kong and their new offices in New York which we opened in October.
We have already ensured that extension of the UK’s WTO membership will be the default position in the event a comprehensive trade agreement is not reached – that policy has been an ambition of Government for over 20 years – and we’ve renewed our vital customs relationship with the UK.
The Brexit Unit in Government will evolve with a renewed focus on International Trade and this week will publish the results of the Let’s Talk Trade Consultation, launched in October 2019, to understand industry needs and to shape our approach to external trade.
One of the key findings was overwhelming support for Jersey to take a principles-based approach to our ongoing engagement with the UK Government.
Those principles – including building on our Brexit and Global Markets objectives, and promoting and protecting Jersey’s international identity and reputation – have informed the creation of a negotiating mandate that will guide Ministers and officials in the delicate discussions about Jersey’s future.
That mandate, which will shortly be shared with the UK government, will build on our extensive engagement across Whitehall and ensure Jersey’s voice is heard during the UK’s pursuit of a future economic partnership with the EU.
Putting the Government Plan in action
While our future trade policy is fundamental to the long-term prosperity of the Island, it does not exist in isolation. Instead, it is an integral aspect of the Government Plan, which provides the overarching blueprint for meeting the priorities set out in the Common Strategic Policy.
The work to implement the Government Plan is already well underway, to meet our commitments across all five priority areas. Under our aim of Putting Children First, we will see significant progress made this year on delivering the Children’s Plan. In particular, in driving forward our significant operational improvement programme for Children’s Services:
- continuing to bring the legislative framework for children up to date
- laying the foundations for long-term reforms to pre and post-16 education
In addition, a thousand Islanders - to date - have committed to supporting the Children’s Pledge, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Critical to meeting our commitment to improving health and wellbeing, we launched the Jersey Care Model in November. This had unprecedented public engagement, with more than 600 Islanders attending the public meetings held before Christmas.
The central tenet of the Care Model is that we recognise that, as a health and social care provider, we can and must do more to safely offer more of our health services in the community, not just in the hospital, for the convenience of islanders. And we will achieve more by working closely with Primary Care providers, such as GPs, community pharmacists and dentists, as well as experts who work for Jersey’s thriving and vibrant community and voluntary sector.
In addition we are making steady progress in improving Mental Health services, with the opening of the Listening Lounge at the end of last year.
And in 2020 I’m absolutely committed to concluding the debate on the new hospital location and construction. I am happy to report that the Political Oversight Board is on schedule to meet our agreed timeline, and significant work is taking place in the background. The Deputy Chief Minister, Senator Farnham, will make a Statement to the Assembly next week, alongside his regular report on the Board’s progress.
Last week, he and I were involved in productive talks with potential design and delivery partners, as part of a comprehensive tendering exercise. Our intention is to appoint a partner before Summer. This work will ensure that in the important matter of construction, we get the right partner for Jersey.
I am confident that the project has the real momentum it needs, and that, subject always to the States Assembly, the hospital will be contractually committed by 2022.
As part of our commitment to improve social inclusion, from this month we will be introducing Closer to Home roadshow events in each Parish, bringing free health checks, emotional wellbeing support, and a range of other activities to local facilities across the Island. Most critically to this audience, we will be making substantial progress on the initiatives set out to nurture and grow our economy.
2020 will see the production and publication of the draft Economic Framework – which will benefit from an additional expenditure of £4.7million. And there will be additional £1.5million to strengthen financial services, and £5million in 2020 to strengthen our international profile and promote our Island identity, as well as money for other industries including tourism.
And by the end of the year it is my belief that we will have an effective migration policy agreed. I’m glad to say the Migration Policy Development Board now contains two members of Chamber – Murray Norton and John Shenton – so I’m expecting no difficult questions in that area! But I do thank all members, particularly lay members, for their time on this very important piece of work.
The Board published its interim report on 24 October 2019 and consulted with a number of stakeholders, including Chamber, throughout October and November. The final report and recommendations will be presented to me at the end of this month, with the aim that a policy debate on the proposed migration controls will take place this summer.
I don’t deny that this will be the most difficult policy decision faced by an Island Government in recent years and will likely be controversial. But, for the sake of our economy and long-term sustainability, it is critical that we get it right.
Mobility and Sustainability
That word ‘sustainability’ is central to how this Government will formulate policy and measure its success in future. Last year, the States Assembly passed the renewed Public Finances Law, which sets the direction and rules on how public funds are spent.
It contains a clause that requires every Council of Ministers to take into account the sustainable wellbeing of current and future generations, when developing the annual Government Plan. This is a significant development, and places sustainable wellbeing as central to our Government purpose.
This week, the Minister for Infrastructure set out how we will pursue the new Sustainable Transport Policy. That policy sets the objective that by 2030 the way we travel in the Island will be cleaner, more efficient, and make our Island greener. And in the last month we published the Carbon Neutral Strategy with the aim of achieving the Assembly’s goal of Carbon Neutrality by 2030.
That strategy is still a high-level document setting out the principles and issues. There is a lot of work to come, but £5 million is already in place for some initiatives to begin this year, as a result of decisions we took as Ministers in 2019.
Measuring Government performance
2020 will also see us improve how we report on the performance of Government, through the Annual Report and Accounts, and the wellbeing of the Island as a whole. On Friday, I will be launching the Jersey Performance Framework.
That Framework will act as the barometer for Jersey’s sustainable wellbeing aims and will provide an accessible tool for Islanders to see how well Jersey is doing as a society across a wide range of social, economic and environmental benchmarks. I want the Framework to provide the clarity and transparency that has long been called for by Islanders, the media and States Members alike.
And I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the team who are delivering the Performance Framework. It is a first and is being watched with great interest by global organisations.
Modernising Government and achieving savings
When you compare January 2019 to January 2020, I believe Government is in a far more confident position.
In January 2019 we had disputes across almost all pay groups within the public sector, a number of which had begun before the election. In the last twelve months we have reached settlement or resolved with all pay groups for 2018, 2019 and 2020, and are now on the front foot to begin negotiations on the 2021 pay awards. This means we are ahead of the game, rather than being two years behind.
Just before Christmas we announced our Office Modernisation Strategy, setting out an ambitious plan to vacate 14 offices and move 1,600 public servants into a new, permanent building – providing them with the modern facilities they need and deserve. We have already sought expressions of interest and intend to identify a preferred developer within the coming months, followed by an announcement on our pathway to construction.
As well as meeting our responsibilities to our staff, it will create sites for affordable housing and potentially save up to £7 million a year in running costs – as well as potentially £30 million in capital costs over the next 30 years.
In 2018 I was told we faced huge exposure to certain legal cases of hundreds of millions of pounds. In 2019, we introduced the Damages Law, reducing our risk to exposure to such lawsuits, while continuing to safeguard the needs of people who have suffered injury. In the first six months of operation, we have seen one claim reduce from approximately £19million to £8million, and another from £49million to £15million. That is about £45million in total, so far.
And our Efficiencies Programme has committed to achieving £100 million in efficiencies over the next four years, with the aim to redirect the money saved into paying for Government Plan initiatives.
We already identified £40 million of savings in 2020, and have begun to take the action to implement the necessary changes, making sustainable improvements by joining up services, being more commercial and cutting waste. Using Health as an example, that Department – which historically was held out as not being able to make savings – has already delivered over £2 million of efficiencies in 2019, in advance of the Government Plan, through rationalising and reducing suppliers, reducing the need for hospital admissions and deploying e-rostering services. The target for Health alone in 2020 in £9million.
On financial matters, the Government Plan outlined a number of pieces of work for this year. To focus on just two:
- we are examining the refinancing of our pension debt, with options being explored that would potentially achieve significant (and I do not use that word lightly) long-term cost savings by repaying the debts by other methods.
- we have made a commitment to introduce Zero Base Budgeting across the organisation; something that was not done properly or thoroughly before. That work commenced four weeks ago.
So, we are shifting from plans to action, to achieving our longer-term goal of improving services, and then providing them effectively and efficiently to the Islanders of Jersey.
Celebrating our Island identity
I want 2020 to be a year when we not only tackle head-on the policy and modernisation challenges that have dogged successive Governments, but where we take the time to reflect on how we identify as an Island, and as a community.
The Minister for International Development has been leading the Island Identity Policy Development Board and, following an extensive period of research and community engagement, will submit her first report later this year. I hope that Board’s work will help create a unifying message that will reignite pride and passion in our Island.
It is their ambition to help Government and our partners tell the Island’s story, and to galvanise Islanders to get behind that identity and share it globally.
I’m also pleased to announce that this Summer we will also hold the first Showcase Jersey event in London, supplementing the successful parliamentary and Ministerial engagement that already takes place throughout the year.
Work is ongoing to bring arms-length organisations, businesses and partners - including Chamber - together to demonstrate the diversity and excellence of our economy, not only in financial and professional services, but in all areas in which we excel: heritage, the arts, food, technology, conservation and agriculture.
I want to conclude by reflecting on one of the most import aspects of our cultural identity. The 75th Anniversary of Liberation this year provides us with an important opportunity for reflection and is perhaps the last significant opportunity to celebrate with the Islanders who spent a part of their lives under German rule. I hope that many of you, and the organisations you represent, will be supporting Jersey Week and the wider Liberation 75 celebrations that have been organised by the Bailiff’s Chambers.
I also hope that you will lend your image and your voice to the wonderful project by ArtHouse Jersey to create ‘The People’s Picture’ – a substantial community art piece that will be revealed in April.
The Government, of course, will be supporting Liberation 75 and will shortly announce plans to help all Island schoolchildren and those who lived through occupation to commemorate the anniversary. And, as Chief Minister, I will also be launching a series of challenges for young Islanders, as part of the wider programme of education and celebration to engage the next generation in the importance of this Anniversary.
The coming year will be crucial to the future prosperity of Jersey. It is one where domestically we will tackle the issues that have hampered successive Governments and provide the decisions and action that will generate results, instil confidence, and benefit all Islanders.
It is also a year when our national identity will be evermore important, as we play our role in meeting global responsibilities to the environment and achieving a more sustainable society.
And it will be a year when our well-established relationships with colleagues in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and partners worldwide will be of considerable importance, as we look to work closely to reach agreement on a wide range of areas.
I hope, from hearing about the programme of work that I’ve briefly outlined this lunchtime, that you share my confidence that we can meet the emerging challenges of the new decade, and that Jersey will prosper in the coming years.
Yes, we have taken the time necessary to get the right plans in place. But now they are in place, I expect to see action and real successes coming in 2020. I have made clear to the Chief Executive and his senior leadership team that 2020 is a year of delivery. I and my colleagues in the Council of Ministers will be looking to see significant progress on the initiatives contained within the Government Plan, and a realisation of the vision within the Common Strategic Policy.
2020 is a year of action. I look forward to returning later this year to share the results with you.