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"It's time to be brave"

Friday 03 July 2020

"It's time to be brave"

Rebuilding Guernsey's economy post-corona virus has been likened to historic projects like the draining of the Braye du Valle and the creation of the Val de Terres, with Deputy Peter Roffey saying now is another time to be brave.

He was speaking during this week's States meeting which saw the 'revive and thrive' strategy approved.

It was put together following the Covid-19 lockdown which saw thousands of people stay off work for weeks on end.

Deputy Gavin St Pier set out the strategy earlier this week, with three action plans involved in the revive and thrive aims which will include attracting new business, new infrastructure frameworks and consideration for the environment. 

Overall the strategy aims, which can be read in full HERE, include a lofty plan to put Guernsey's economy in a stronger position by 2023 than it would have been if the pandemic had not happened.

Deputy Gavin St Pier

Pictured: Deputy Gavin St Pier presented the 'revive and thrive' Strategy, which the States have approved. 

Deputy Roffey outlined his support for the proposals saying he thinks Guernsey needs to be bold and innovative, and that the island should do things differently to ensure economic growth.

He warned we need to learn lessons from other jurisdictions though, including Jersey - recalling how St Helier's appearance changed dramatically after previous economic crashes as the island seemed to build its way out of recession.

Deputy Roffey said although Guernsey seemed to have been left behind, the island's finances show that wasn't the case. He said investment in the construction sector as an economic enabler can work now too, but he was curious as to which projects P&R have in mind. 

"These days, large scale construction projects just don't cut the mustard in terms of employing hundreds of people with no background in construction.

"Such projects these days are highly mechanised and require specialist labour, so the question is, what - if anything - in the modern world can we invest in in the short term to create much needed jobs until the normal economy is back firing on all cylinders and taking up that workforce.

"Now, I stand here and openly confess, I don't have an oven ready solution but I'd be very interested to hear what ideas P&R or CRAG have considered over recent months for taking up that slack in the short term. In a way, I am far more interested than hearing about the high level vision for Guernsey's recovery - important though that is."

school bus ct plus

Pictured: 'Active Travel' has been another key phrase used repeatedly since lockdown ended and people went back to school and work. 

Deputy Roffey said internal transport measures need to be addressed post lockdown with many people having rediscovered the slower pace of island life. 

"Guernsey was more beautiful than it had been for years. Why? Well, the glorious weather that seemed to accompany lockdown, fortunately, did certainly help, but so did  the quietude, the relative empty roads and lanes and the resurgence of nature, and it will be so so sad to lose all of that. But the signs are, unless we act really quickly it could become nothing more than a golden memory.

"This isn't the time or place to go into the detail about how one cuts through that Gordian knot but it should be done and it must be done, and the key ingredient I have no doubt about - that is a bit of political courage."

He suggested ideas like trying a free bus service to ensure more people use public transport rather than their own cars. He said if it doesn't work to reduce congestion then it can be stopped, but as the bus service is already subsidised by the tax payer anyway, a six month trial of entirely free travel could be tested.

Other Deputies raised issues within the current States, particularly over inaction and indecisiveness when it comes to major projects. 

Beaucamp La Mare De Carteret St Sampson Grammar High Schools Collage

Pictured: The brakes were already on the secondary school's transformation programme before the Covid-19 pandemic - now it's likely to face an even longer pause. 

Education, Sport & Culture President Matt Fallaize criticised the States' habit of not moving forward with major projects, such as the schools transformation, unless "every single person is happy". 

"[The States] moves at a pace that wouldn’t trouble an asthmatic tortoise," he said. "It must change, and it won’t change just by writing words on a page."

If the revive and thrive document was a colour, Deputy Andrea Dudley-Owen said it would be beige. 

"It’s missing the fire in the belly, it’s missing passion and drive," she said. "It is beige, when I wanted to see green - verdant Guernsey green."

Deputy Chris Green was disappointed by the report's lack of detail and real-world examples. 

"It is heavy on the vision, the big picture and idealism, but short of specific, detailed and practical costed measures."

"That is surprising," he added, "given that it has been worked on for several months."

tortoise slow States

Pictured: The States are often described as moving slowly, but is comparison to an "asthmatic tortoise" fair? Deputy Fallaize thinks so, but Deputy Soulsby said the government has moved quickly on its revive and thrive strategy.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby responded to some of that criticism, saying it would have taken a lot longer to create the kind of report that some Deputies were asking for, when what was needed was a swift and decisive response. 

"If you wanted War and Peace you wouldn’t have got it this side of the election," she told them.

Ultimately, no one asked for a recorded vote accepting the strategy, and it was voted through on the nod. 

Deputy St Pier said what happens next will ultimately be up to the next States, to be elected in October, and that relies on the people of Guernsey registering to vote, and then actually voting.

Pictured top: Deputy Peter Roffey.

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