Unlike some previous years, this has not merely been a year of consolidation in readiness for another period of discussion and debate. This year has been different, very time consuming but positive. We have achieved two major goals –
- Chamber now has the largest membership it has ever had
- We enjoy direct representation on several States Committees and Groups
This does take a lot of time outside working hours and I would like to thank the Council for the effort that each puts in. Without this constant effort, Chamber would not be making positive inroads into our infrastructure and economy. The States itself has had quite a shake out with four new States Members at the last elections and two new Guernsey Reps.
Our relationship with the States
To focus on this important positive relationship:-
- I now am a member of two States committees – The Governance Group and Tourism & Economic Development
- Ann Hodgson (joint vice-president) is also a member of Tourism & Economic Development. We have both been actively working with States Members and Civil Service to help put in place a forum to help strengthen our Tourism & Economic Development strategies
- Nigel Lawrence (joint vice-president) is a member of the Sea Transport Action Group
- Malcolm Matthews is a member of the Air Transport Action Group
This relationship would have been unheard of some years ago and we acknowledge we wouldn’t be this far ahead if we did not all have the same focus and end result – and that is simply for the future well being and prosperity of the island that we are all a part of.
I find it a most fascinating and rewarding collective being involved within our three primary groups – Chamber, Politics and Civil Service.
2. Air Transport
Meanwhile life bumps along the runway very precariously with the most important facet that affects every single one of us.
It would make a very welcome change for one of my President’s report not to include the subject of Air Transport. Yet, almost regrettably, I find that I must. The recent PSO (Public Service Obligation) ended like a damp squib at a very wet fireworks party. An applauded effort but with most disappointing results from those companies that entered the tendering process.
For Aurigny to offer flying the Southampton and Guernsey sectors with just two aircraft and request a subsidy in excess of £3 million a year was, of course, unacceptable.
The present situation must be resolved as fast as possible. The entire infrastructure of our island relies so heavily on air transport. We are not in favour of the charter model, we simply require a reliable scheduled service from a company that is committed to the island.
Let us see whether the revised PSO document, due out at any time, will be more acceptable to interested parties. I would suggest we have wasted too many months already – we can’t keep waiting and clutching at hollow hopes.
On a slight tangent to an airline is the runway itself. The inordinate amount of time to start the initial process of reinstating the width to 23 metres defies all logic. The only certainty being is that it remains to the detriment of our island in absolutely every respect. The Policy & Finance Committee is well aware of our deep concerns.
Following on from some positive economic statistics compiled by the Civil Service, we decided the ideal way to gauge the current economic position was quite simply to gain comment from the ground which we recognise had not been undertaken. As you are aware from a recent email to Chamber members, the results were not all glowing.
While much of the finance sector remains bullish along with some smaller niche businesses, the two major island sectors of tourism and retail commented the opposite siting lack of footfall and lower bookings for the coming season.
The results of this survey are being forwarded to both States tourism and economic development.
Infrastructure – Child Care Provision
Some months ago when discussing the subject of attracting new businesses to set up or relocate to the island, we stumbled across a basic problem that has seemingly remained below the radar. Child Care Provision. Businesses were telling us of full time employees having no option other than to go part time as full time child care provision was non-existent.
Chamber has now set up sub-group on this working closely – and very positively – with the school. As we learn more we will report back.
3. Tourism and Economic Development
Concerns with Alderney Tourism and Marketing continue to be highlighted by Members. We do, however, recognise that the Visit Alderney continues to work in a challenging environment that is magnified by the restrictions presented by our weak transport links.
As mentioned earlier, we are now a part of the Committee for Tourism & Economic Development (CfTED). One part of this is to spotlight the importance of growth for our business sector. This steering group is in its embryonic stage and is now mandated by the Policy & Finance Committee with three States Members along with Ann and myself.
The ultimate aim is to strengthen the economic roadmap to bring about a rejuvenation of our economy.
Younger Members for Chamber
Another important topic that looks to the future is our wish to bring younger people into Chamber. We have noticed an “anomaly” whereas while it is the business itself that is the Chamber member, it seems only to be the employer who is the contact.
We would like to see the younger employees take an active role. Council is working towards this – and, again, we will report back to you as this progresses. This will not cost a penny extra as it is the business itself that is the member!! Do you have employees who may be interested? Please help us with this.
Other meetings and items carried out within Council –
Sure’s ‘super fast broadband’ (members’ survey followed),
Civil Service passenger stats etc (members’ survey followed),
Meeting with Ministry of Justice,
Two fascinating presentations by David Earl on Small Island Economies and the 1948 Agreement
Occasional meetings with CEO Andrew Muter and Chairman of P & F James Dent
Meeting with States re this season’s tourism including closure of Fort Clonque & Adventurer’s Rest
Discussion with States re the critical need to sort out our runway
Our survey to those standing in last States Elections
ARE and Fablink remain as a current issue
Need for more robust marketing from the States to attract businesses etc.
To offer negative views is so easy. To offer positive views takes more time and thought. Let us put more emphasis onto the time and thought option. I am not referring to the Chamber, but to the island in general. How simple it is to write emails, texts and Facebook comment, from behind a faceless keyboard.
The same goes for certain anonymous articles in our local press. When we try to talk the island up expanding on the benefits of the great life we all enjoy here, it can be quite galling and unnecessary to read someone’s personal rant – many times written without substance.
4. And finally……
My wish list for the coming year expands further than air transport and true open government. The debacle surrounding the swimming pool – or lack of – must be resolved. The Trustees, the States of Alderney and the States of Guernsey must settle this issue. It has now been four or five years since this facility was taken away from the school children. It really is unacceptable.
I would especially like to thank all Council Members and those Co-opted Members for the time they have put in during the year. I also continue to enjoy the fact that we do work together as a single team for one basic reason – we all want to better our businesses which can only result in a more vibrant, optimistic and confident island.
We are simply lucky to be here.
My best wishes,