Uncategorized

THE Confederation of Guernsey Industry has urged the States to take positive steps and focus on population, connectivity and growth as enablers of the economy.

This follows the current debate into the proposed extension of the airport runway and demands to spend taxpayers’ money on external consultants when, in the view of the CGi, the island itself should determine the priorities for the future.

In a letter sent to all Deputies today, Clive McMinn, CGi Chairman, believes the States needs to tackle the key issues of population, growth and connectivity.

‘We all share a common goal to see the island prosper, particularly at a time when facing considerable economic challenges. The States needs to focus on how the island should look in the future, how many people do we expect to live here and from there set realistic objectives and create the conditions for encouraging business.’

‘We cannot ask consultants to come in at great cost, time and effort without having our own firm ideas of where we are going. It is not just a question of money, it is a question of priorities,’ Mr McMinn added.

The CGi also distanced itself from calls to extend the airport runway and queried why other, more immediate options had not been taken.

‘It does seem odd that Guernsey will not support an inter-island ferry trial which would have brought visitors to the island and revenue to a struggling visitor economy straightaway, but is to consider spending a similar or greater amount on consultants to establish the viability of lengthening the airport runway with no guarantee of any future income.’

‘We are very much aligned with the views of Deputies Peter Roffey and Heidi Soulsby in that we should not be talking about a runway as the solution in isolation before we determine the problem and try to understand and solve it,’ he said.

GUERNSEY is in grave danger of damaging its way of life unless it changes the proposed population management legislation.

The stark warning comes from the Confederation of Guernsey Industry, which says that the new law on short-term employment permits will open a ‘skills drain’, leaving island businesses chronically short of trained and experienced staff.

And that will impact all those employers offering cleaning, catering, care, hospitality and other vital services to islanders, says CGi chairman Clive McMinn.

He is seeking an urgent meeting with Committee for Economic Development president Deputy Peter Ferbrache to press for a fresh look at elements of the new law and believes other business associations support the CGi’s concerns.

‘The people who are affected by this are classed as unskilled, but they are not. They are absolutely essential to Guernsey’s economy,’ said Clive. Unless the law is amended, the infrastructure and the way of life of the island is in peril.’

That is because so many businesses rely on the skill and knowledge of seasonal staff who work here for nine months, leave for three and then return for a further nine months.

Many have been doing so for years and that level of training and experience cannot be replaced by recruiting new people ‘off the street’, even if they could be found. The new population management regime allows for a fresh annual application for the same individual up to a maximum of five years, after which they cannot return, and the CGi says some staff have already received letters warning they have reached their five-year limit.

As a result, many other employees are already approaching the end of their five-year maximum, or else part-way through it, and are questioning whether there is any point working here at all, said Clive.

This uncertainty is compounded by the Brexit-linked fall in the value of sterling, making wages here less attractive for guest workers making it even harder for Guernsey to recruit the staff it needed.

He rejects suggestions that the CGi was consulted on the proposed population changes. ‘Individual members may have been, but we as a body were not,’ he said, ‘and in any event, we now see that the views of industry have been ignored.

‘We only realised that when the proposals were published, hence the urgency to address this potentially catastrophic draining of skills from the Guernsey economy.’

The CGi, which says the hospitality sector raised these concerns last year but was also ignored, has written to all deputies outlining the difficulties and urging a delay in implementing the regime for further consideration of the five-year rule.

‘We had just five responses,’ said Clive, ‘which is why we are looking to take this up with Deputy Ferbrache and Economic Development because the risk to the island’s economy is so widespread and risks turning the restaurant and hotel sector into a second class industry.’

These fears also reflect feedback from care homes, the care industry generally, growers, light industry, construction, retail and the financial and general service sector.

‘We have even lost the safety net of the open market,’ said Mr McMinn, because the five-year rule also applies to short-term staff living there.

He also rejects claims that amending the five-year rule will increase the size of Guernsey’s population. ‘We are talking about people who want to work here, not settle here, he said.

THE Confederation of Guernsey Industry has called on the States to consider changes to the new Population Management Law being introduced in the spring of 2017 to prevent an outflow of skilled, seasonal workers from the island.

In a letter written to all Deputies, new CGi Chairman, Clive McMinn, urges them to reconsider the decision to restrict staff from outside the island to a maximum stay of five years.

‘In our discussions with member firms, it is clear that in many sectors of industry employers are greatly concerned the consequences this Law will have on the recruitment and retention of employees on short term licences.’

‘Many businesses have established a stable workforce of staff whose repeated returns to the island over many years have enabled them to become skilled and valued workers. Recruitment from other jurisdictions is becoming increasingly difficult and it is important we do not prevent the continued return of those who have been coming here to work and make a positive contribution to the economy.’

Mr McMinn added that particular sectors could be hit particularly hard.

‘Businesses that employ care-home staff, HGV drivers, the hospitality and tourist industry and horticulture for example, rely on a workforce that now faces an uncertain future to the detriment of our economy at a time when Guernsey is facing considerable economic challenges.’

‘We are therefore asking for the States to support our proposal to reconsider that relevant part of the law or at least delay its implementation.’

WHEN I sat down to write this, my last Chairman’s Report, I was under the impression 2016 had been relatively quiet year with the exception of course of the election in April.

However looking at many items of correspondence it became clear that the Confederation of Guernsey industry had been busy representing the interests of its members and the Island in general in many different forms.

Early in 2016 The States of Guernsey had formed what was known as Economic Engagement Forum. This consists of a group of representative from many of the Island's business sectors and through this forum we are continuously updated on the performance of the island’s economy and all the factors which affect it.

Obviously in June one of the key topics was the U.K.’s decision to withdraw from the EU. Guernsey was well prepared in advance for which ever outcome resulted from the referendum.

With the new assembly came ideas and suggestions from some of the new committees. One of these was the suggestion that GST should be introduced on the cost of legal services. Due to pressure exerted by the G4 of which the CGI is a member, this suggestion was withdrawn by the Minister for Economic Development.

The CGI have attended a number of meetings with Blue Islands, Aurigny, and consumer meetings with Condor. Each company has endeavoured to address its shortcomings but connectivity with the other islands and with the UK still falls short of the requirements of business, tourist and domestic travellers.

Work on CSR initiatives continued to progress with computer coding clubs being formed at St Martin’s and Castel Primary Schools. We thank Fultura Ltd for providing technical support that enabled these clubs to be formed. The computer clubs in the high schools continue to flourish and we shall continue to support them as appropriate.

The Guernsey School of Popular Music approached the CGI in early 2016 for support to provide after-school tuition services for students wishing to learn to play stringed and keyboard instruments. With help from the Confederation of Guernsey Industry, various obstacles have been overcome and clubs are now flourishing in two High schools.

The Confederation of Guernsey Industry mentored a sixth form student from the Grammar School in connection with his technology project.

This was very successful and Jack Taylor, the student, is now enjoying a five year apprenticeship with Jaguar Landrover Ltd in the UK.

Guernsey faces many challenges to meet the aspirations of P and R's ’happy and more economically viable island.’ The CGI will continue to represent the interests of its members wherever possible now and in the future.

This is my last report as Chairman of the CGi and I would like to thank all of you for the advice and support that I have received over the last three years.

Larry Granger

OUR AGM takes place at 6.30pm on Monday 20th February, and the venue is the top floor of the Digital Greenhouse in St Peter Port.

The agenda will comprise the chairman's report for the year, the financial report, re-election of committee members and any other matters arising. Details of current and future initiatives will also form part of the discussion.

Copies of the financial statements will be available at the AGM.

cgi-business-forum-geoff-miller-and-larry1
Geoff Miller of Finance for Guernsey was the guest speaker at the CGi business forum on Wednesday evening at Les Cotils.

Geoff outlined his plans for a Guernsey-owned and run high-street bank to an audience of CGi members and new and re-elected States’ Deputies.

He said the results of an on-line survey currently being undertaken would determine whether or not the new venture would be viable, but the initial responses from both individuals and companies were very positive.

Geoff explained that more than £100million in finance is required in order to start the new bank, which would offer secured lending, i.e. mortgages and asset–based finance. Its aim is to make it easier than at present for home buyers and small businesses to secure capital and investors would see a reasonable return.

He estimated that in mortgages alone, £50-60 million each year is being refused locally due to draconian compliance rules and regulations.

The meeting format then switched to an open forum, at which Larry Granger quizzed Deputies with questions posed by members r a number of topics of interest. These included the possibility of an Open Skies licensing regime, the need for extending Guernsey’s Airport runway, whether there was room for a second sea operator between the islands and the newly announced health agreement with the UK.

The CGi has rescheduled its business forum, originally pencilled in for July, to Wednesday 14th September at Les Cotils.

This provides an opportunity for CGi firms, members of the new States assembly, and senior civil servants to discuss topics that are important not only for us as a federation, but also for Guernsey in general.

Geoff Miller, the CEO of Finance for Guernsey, has also kindly agreed to join us and outline his plans for setting up a local high street bank that will offer a range of services ‘over the counter.’

The CGi strongly supports the future generation of entrepreneurs and works in partnership with a number of agencies to promote business in the Island. We are also keen to engage and continue to develop a proactive dialogue with the States.

The forum, whilst informal, is likely to be lively and productive, and takes place from 5:30pm through to 7:00pm, with light refreshments served.

Larry Granger's comments followed a meeting with the Economic Development Committee (EDC) earlier this month, at which Blue Islands’ representatives and other local bodies were present.

Prior to the meeting, Larry sought views from CGi members over the state of inter-island travel links following a sustained period of disruption.

‘The emails I am getting from CGi members paint a very negative picture. I think Economic Development realise we are in a critical situation.

When we are trying to promote businesses within Guernsey, we are not helping ourselves,’ he said.