This week marks one year since I was appointed Jersey’s Chief Minister.
The past year has been filled with challenges, accomplishments, and a resolute determination to lead Jersey towards a path of progress and prosperity.
At a recent viewing of art works that women had created to capture the island, one young artist, Rychelle Theron, described what it means to be Jerriais. She listed characteristics that were embodied by her own grandmother – hard working, resourceful, fiercely independent, and with a brilliant sense of humour. That description chimed with me as I see those values in so many islanders and understand their desire to see a government that draws on them when taking decisions on their behalf.
When I stood as a candidate both for Deputy and Chief Minister, I made a promise to deliver change, to listen to the voices of the public and to engage on the topics that matter to you. In fact, one of my greatest pleasures in this role is in meeting Islanders to listen to their stories and better understand their thoughts, ideas, and issues.
Over the past year, we have made significant strides in fulfilling this promise. We have sought to establish more face-to-face engagement opportunities, ensuring that your voices are not only heard but also actively shape the decisions that impact your lives. From town hall meetings to community forums, we have made it a priority to foster dialogue and build bridges between our government and our people.
We understand that true progress can only be achieved by involving everyone in the decision-making process. No-one understands the needs and aspirations of our community better than the people who call Jersey home. That is why we have embarked on an ambitious programme of public consultations, seeking your input on critical issues such as education, healthcare, and environmental sustainability. Your ideas, your concerns, and your ambitions are at the heart of our decision-making.
As we reflect on the past year, it is important to acknowledge the challenges that we have faced and those that lie ahead.
Over the past year, we have faced many unforeseen challenges, notably the tragic events of the Haut du Mont explosion, the L’Ecume II maritime disaster, and the Grand Vaux flooding. These have all been heart-breaking incidents where, as Chief Minister, I did my best to reach out and help people in whatever way I could, including making a surprise delivery of Christmas trees to displaced residents of Haut du Mont. I hope I have been a visible and supporting presence during these distressing times. Moreover, I sincerely hope we don’t find ourselves facing similar circumstances for many years to come. I wish, once again, to sincerely thank our emergency services personnel, healthcare workers, and wider public sector staff for their unwavering commitment in responding to these incidents. As Chief Minister, it is a privilege to witness and work with so many dedicated public servants.
I am now more determined than ever to push forward with immediate plans to tackle the issues we’re facing, particularly concerning the rising cost of living, affordable housing crisis, and recruitment and retention challenges in both the public and private sectors. We have made good progress over the past year but recognise there is more to be done.
It is, of course, disappointing that our teachers have not accepted our 2023 pay offer and have chosen to take formal action. We are committed to continuing our dialogue in order to reach a settlement. We do consider the 7.9% offer to be reasonable both to our employees and all Islanders, and we must find an appropriate balance as we seek to play our part in reducing inflation. We recognise the wider concerns of our teaching professionals, which is why we are now addressing terms and conditions – a commitment which the previous Government failed to meet. The newly created Delivery Unit has developed improvements to the way we recruit people into key roles in education and health, and this in turn helps to reduce our need for costly temporary staff. They have also improved access and reduced the cost of accommodation. This alone improves the experience of working for Jersey’s government, as well as saving £80,000 every month.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to serving the people of Jersey and upholding the principles of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity. We must continue to listen, learn, and adapt to the evolving needs of our community. Together, we can build a future that is prosperous, sustainable, and equitable for all, as we strive to meet our overarching goal for Jersey to be a community where everyone can thrive.
Finally, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the Islanders who have placed their trust in me and in our government. Together, we are rewriting the narrative of Jersey’s future. Let us continue this journey of change together, as we work tirelessly to create a better tomorrow for our Island and its people.