Gavin St Pier

The future can be different
The future can be different: a goal for Guernsey
The community want to know in which direction our island is headed. Government should not only provide public services; it needs also to provide aspirational leadership. My goal is that in the next 10 years Guernsey aims to become the healthiest and happiest community in the world, with a sustainable environment and a secure, successful and stable economy.

This ambitious, achievable and measurable goal is simply saying that as a community, we can and should have the same aspirations as most of us do for ourselves and our families: to be as healthy and fulfilled as we can be. Economic poverty in Guernsey is normally an indicator of other social problems, often deriving from the poverty of opportunity, aspiration and hope. If we are going to address the issues that matter most to people and if we are going to build the Guernsey that will offer the same quality of life that we have today for our children and our grandchildren, we must consider social development. Social policy is not about social problems that impact other people, but it is about all of us and what kind of community we want to live in.

A thriving private sector performing its primary role as wealth creator in the economy remains critically important, as only a successful private sector can create sufficient wealth to fund high quality public services. But economic growth should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Having a simple, clear goal for the island will give us the framework we currently lack – one which enables us to make choices and prioritise the use of limited public finances. This is essential if we are to control government spending.

To achieve this goal will require unequivocal leadership, fast track delivery of the reform of public services which has now begun and more effective working between the government, business and non-business sectors.

For more information, read my full speech to the Institute of Directors in February 2016 : click here or listen at audioBoom link

Social policy
The 2012-16 States has made some huge progressive changes in social policy – particularly by comparison to its predecessors – with the passage of the Disability and Inclusion Strategy, the Mental Health and Well Being Strategy, the Children and Young People’s Plan, the Supported Living and Aging Well Strategy and same-sex marriage.  Speech on same-sex marriage

However, for the moment, all these fine words remain largely just that – fine words.  So in the next States, we need to up the pace of implementation and ensure that all these policies are appropriately resourced and prioritised.  This will be challenging given all the competing demands on resources – both in time and money.  But these really are the things that will change people’s lives and help them to realise their ambitions and aspirations.  And once we have done those, we should not forget that there is more to do in terms of ensuring equal rights irrespective of gender, colour or sexuality – as well as supporting families with family-friendly policies.

We must be realistic in terms of what can be achieved in a four year political term – but that should not prevent us taking any action at all, especially as these are the things will help take Guernsey towards a goal of being the healthiest and happiest community in the world, with a sustainable environment and a secure, successful and stable economy.

Economic policy
A thriving private sector performing its primary role as wealth creator in the economy remains critically important, as only a successful private sector can create sufficient wealth to fund high quality public services.  Government’s main contribution to this should be to keep the regulatory barriers and other costs of doing business as low as possible.

The States have been supportive of the island’s primary sector – financial services – by creating the right legal and regulatory frameworks that have enabled that industry to thrive.  Funding has also been provided to help market the finance sector and island through Guernsey Finance and the new initiative, Locate Guernsey.  Traditional industries – farming and hospitality – also receive some support, including the additional funding given to Visit Guernsey.  New digital businesses have been supported and encouraged with the funding invested to launch Digital Greenhouse.

In the next term, if possible, I would like to see some support for small business – whether that is protecting local tradesmen from unfair competition from off island or trying to find a suitable location for some small light industrial-type units.

Tax
In 2012, I opposed the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax (GST) as an additional tax. In 2015, I supported the recommendation of the Personal Tax, Pensions and Benefits Review that we should continue to consider GST, provided it enabled us to reduce individuals’ income tax burden by diversifying our sources of income. That recommendation was resoundingly defeated in the States – and I accept that decision.

When the ‘zero-ten’ corporate tax regime was introduced in 2008, the only companies taxed were banks – and then only in respect of part of their business. The previous States (2008-2012) made no changes to this regime. In three of the four budgets I have presented as Treasury and Resources Minister, I have led the extension of corporate tax to large retailers, general insurers, bank custodians, trust and fund administrators. This brings in an extra £15m a year in tax from companies.

As we see with global companies such as Google, Facebook and Starbucks almost daily in the news, corporate tax is a hot and contentious topic everywhere, not just in Guernsey. However popular it might be to promise you that there are better alternatives, it is in fact a complex and evolving area. It is essential for our economic success that Guernsey continues to offer business a stable, competitive corporate tax regime.  In the meantime, the zero-ten regime remains the least worst option for Guernsey.

My track record for determinedly but quietly achieving successful corporate tax reform is unrivalled – and if re-elected, I will continue to seek opportunities for further reform.

The Personal Tax, Pensions and Benefits Review agreed to reduce tax allowances for high earners, moving us towards a personal income tax system where ‘20% means 20%’ for those in our community with the highest incomes. I support this decision and if re-elected will work to implement it as quickly as practicable.  It is also important that we deliver on the commitment in the Personal Tax, Pensions and Benefits Review to consider in detail the interaction between the tax and social security contribution systems, ensuring greater alignment in the way income is treated in both systems.  We must not forget that for some, especially the self-employed, the marginal rate of taxation is around 30% on every extra pound earned up to the social security upper earnings limit. During my term as Treasury Minister, we have also begun the process of bringing together the collection of tax and social security contributions into one system.  This is a massive project which will take some time to deliver but it is something which has been necessary for some time.

Spending
In the last 4 years, this States has had success in controlling public expenditure through the delivery of the Financial Transformation Programme, which has produced savings of £28.7m each year.  Government spending has fallen 3% in real terms. The public sector pension scheme has also been reformed.

But we can and must do more in order to live within our means. With ever increasing pressures as our population changes, this is much easier said than done. We will only be able to do so by relentlessly identifying and focusing on our priorities and delivering public service reform (which has now begun.) This reform must also include the transformation in the way we provide health and social services – our single largest area of spending. Following the 2015 work jointly commissioned by the Health and Social Services and Treasury and Resources Departments, this process has also started. It is critical that momentum is maintained in the next States’ term.

Assets
The States has considerable assets under its control: £500m of financial assets in our reserves; trading assets, like Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Post; and a very large property portfolio.

Our financial assets are well invested and managed. This was strengthened in 2014, when for the first time we placed £142.5m into the island’s own sovereign wealth fund, the long-term Core Investment Reserve – invested for future generations.

We now need to apply the same rigour and discipline to our trading and property assets to ensure that islanders, as the owners, receive an appropriate return.  Income from these assets will then help relieve pressure on all of us in our capacity as taxpayers.  For example, Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Water customers are common to both and this provides an opportunity to improve the efficiency of both organisations, without increasing prices, by ensuring they share their billing process.

Environment
Guernsey is a very small community in a global context – but that does not absolve us from being responsible global citizens.

I supported the Integrated Transport Strategy.  It was bold and ambitious – but clearly met significant opposition.  In view of this experience, we must recognise that if the community is to adopt more environmentally friendly practices (e.g. for transport or energy use) they must be cost effective and practical.  For example, I support: the idea of States’ low cost loans for use by householders to improve their energy efficiency; our size may make us an ideal test bed for technologies – and if so, this should be encouraged and facilitated by government.

Housing
The high cost of housing in Guernsey has been a persistent problem for many years. This problem has been compounded by changes in the mortgage market since the global financial crisis in 2008, and the two issues combined have made it particularly hard for first-time buyers to get onto the housing ladder.

In the 2014 Budget, we tried to help by temporarily reducing document duty on lower value properties, although this, in fact, had little impact. In 2015, the States directed that a wide ranging review of the housing market should be undertaken as this will help us better understand the supply and demand for housing. However, pending this work being completed, I would like us to look urgently at two further initiatives:

Assisting first-time buyers with deposits by a States-backed loan scheme;
• Establishing a States-owned bank to offer islanders’ savings and loans products appropriate for local needs.  (NB I have already begun this work with the Commerce and Employment Department.)

Education
During the March 2016 debate on the future of secondary education in the island, I voted in favour of:

  • ending selection by means of the 11+ (I no longer see the rationale for educating children in all ability primary and post-16 schools, but separating them between 11-16 for them to study broadly the same curriculum.)
  • setting by academic ability;
  • ensuring that a policy is developed for gifted and talented children;
  • ensuring that a policy is developed for managing disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

I also supported a three secondary school model.  I did so because, based on input from the local teaching profession, I believe that having 3 slightly larger (i.e. around 600-750 students) will produce a broader curriculum choice and better educational outcomes for all students than having 4 smaller, emptier schools (because we don’t have the pupil numbers to fill them.)  There would be no change to either class sizes or the policy on the pupil:teacher ratio.  This would also produce a much better use of resources.  I believe that financial support for the 3 Colleges should be used to fund bursaries for those unable to afford the fees – it should not be used to give scholarships to those who can.  Finally, I believe that the College of Further Education requires greater recognition for the important role it plays in our education system.

For my full speech on this issue, go to: Education – 3 schools or listen at audioBoom link

Population policy
I am delighted that the 20012-16 States decided to enshrine and secure the future of the open market in law, so finally closing a deeply unsettled period for that market.  I am pleased too that the rules around the new population management regime are now also agreed – giving a stable framework in which everyone can plan and operate.  Finally, I also welcome the removal of the artificial so-called ‘population cap.’   Firstly, it implied that we are capable of controlling our population which, patently, we cannot.  (As we have seen in the last few years, the condition of our economy is the prime driver of population numbers, not the population policy itself.)

Secondly – and more importantly – the policy has sent out all the wrong signals: it has signalled to the population that there must be lots of people who want to come and settle in Guernsey – otherwise why else would you need a policy to limit numbers?  The reality is that the cost of housing has historically – and will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be – the most effective barrier to hordes of people wanting to settle in Guernsey.  The population cap has also signalled to business – albeit implicitly – that we do not want growth or, in other words, we are not ‘open for business.’  That runs counter to strategies to diversify and grow our economy – including, of course, the establishment of Locate Guernsey.

I endorse the new population policy driven as it is by the number of economically active in our population, balancing our economic, social and environmental objectives.

By providing stability in our tax system and instilling flexibility into our population regime, we can demonstrate that Guernsey is truly open for business.

Accountability
Most areas of public service are rightly subject to political accountability on behalf of islanders. However, the law officers at St.James’ Chambers and the Ecclesiastical Court currently have little political scrutiny. I think that it is in the public interest that we now undertake a review of their management and oversight to ensure that their structures are fit for purpose in the 21st century.

Island Wide Voting
In February 2016, I supported the introduction of Island Wide Voting for all Deputies at the next general election in 2020.  I believe that in practice this will require future candidates to adopt common platforms of policies. This will make it easier for voters to have their voice heard regarding the future policy decisions they wish the island to adopt.

St. Sampson’s parish matters
I am pleased that Leale’s Yard may finally be progressing.

It will be important to ensure that the parish’s interests are protected and not overlooked in the new Island Development Plan due to be agreed later this year. I am aware that many parishioners made representations to the planning Inspectors to protect the character of the parish.  If re-elected, I would look to represent the parish’s interests when the Island Development Plan comes before the States for approval.

Preferred role in the next States
If re-elected, I will seek to become the President of the Policy and Resources Committee.  This is the closest role to the one I currently undertake as Minister of Treasury & Resources.

As its name suggests, this new senior committee will be responsible for coordinating policy and resource allocation across the whole of the States.  To avoid it – and government – becoming dysfunctional, it is important that this Committee comprises a balanced political team capable of working together in a collaborative and collegiate manner.

As President, I believe I would be best placed to help deliver the island’s goals including, if adopted by the States, the one I have set out above that in the next 10 years Guernsey aims to become the healthiest and happiest community in the world, with a sustainable environment and a secure, successful and stable economy. I want to use my experience and successes in the last four years to provide leadership and help deliver an ambitious goal for Guernsey, ensuring that the future can be different.

It is not possible to cover every topic that may be of interest to every voter.  So if you would like to know my views on other matters of interest to you, please contact me using details below.

Contact

Email:
gavinstpier@gmail.com
Phone:
715057
Mobile:
07839 240167

Twitter Feed
Messages of Support
  • "Having spent the last four years as a non-States member on the board of the Social Security Department, I have had the opportunity to observe Gavin at close quarters. I have found him clear thinking, decisive, pragmatic and most important, highly principled. I have no hesitation in recommending Gavin and confirm he will have both my support and vote in the forthcoming election."

    Mike Brown, Non-States Member, Social Security Department

  • "I have known Gavin for about 13 years in a working and social capacity. I know him to be a man of great integrity, honesty and passion for things he believes in. I will be voting for him and will encourage everyone I know to do the same as I believe Gavin will work tirelessly for the people of Guernsey and will undoubtedly make a difference for us all."

    Paul Spruce

  • "With his experience - of what represents the cornerstone of our economy - if he is prepared to serve in the States, he should be welcomed. We have no other significant industry, and no prospect of one, and if the finance industry fails, people are going to be very hard up and we will probably lose our independence.”

    Advocate William Simpson, Ogier

  • "I will vote for Gavin. Gavin is unafraid to challenge and debate the difficult decisions that must be made to secure Guernsey's long term future. His opinions and thinking is well considered and rationale. Gavin continues to demonstrate he has the interest of the island and the community at heart.I will vote for Gavin. Gavin is unafraid to challenge and debate the difficult decisions that must be made to secure Guernsey's long term future. His opinions and thinking is well considered and rationale. Gavin continues to demonstrate he has the interest of the island and the community at heart."

    Anne Ewing, Company director

  • "I voted for Gavin in the last election, and I will be voting for him again in this election.The last few years have had their ups and downs for Gavin, both politically and personally, but throughout he has maintained accountability, transparency, dignity and humour, despite some very personal attacks on social media. He is a genuinely good guy, who has to make some very difficult decisions which he knows may make him unpopular. But he is not afraid to make those decisions, because he believes that they will make Guernsey a better place for all of us. Which is why he has my vote. Guernsey needs to make big changes in order to progress and thrive. Gavin is driven by his love of his family and his love of Guernsey. Happiness and health are at the core of Gavin’s vision for the future of the Island. There will be ups and downs along the way, but I have the up most faith that Gavin is the right person to change Guernsey for the better."

    Ali Martin, part time fitness coach, full time mum

  • "I have found Gavin to be a straight talking, honest and principled individual. Well intentioned and genuine in his desire to make Guernsey a better place. Whilst I may not agree with all of his views (and in particular his recent stance in the Education debate,) I have found him to be intelligent and articulate when putting forward his opinions. Guernsey needs more talented individuals of this calibre to stand for election, and I would suggest that Gavin’s integrity stands in stark contrast to the muddled thinking and populist dogma peddled by some."

    Tim Robins, Commercial Pilot