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Sark considers calling in the military if its electricity supply is cut

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SARK has considered calling on military assistance to fly in mobile generators should its sole electricity provider carry out a threat to cut the power.

Sark is experiencing political turmoil and the possibility that its electricity supply will be turned off on 30 November. (23189134)

The drastic measure was mentioned in a letter to Lord Keen, the UK minister with responsibility for the Crown Dependencies, written in response to his call for the island to demonstrate good governance following the rejection of its 2019 Budget, subsequent resignation of the only civil servant, and failure to hold a contested election in six years.

With the deadline for General Election declarations today, only seven names have been proposed for nine seats.

The letter was sent on 26 October, before Chief Pleas passed a revised Budget.

It reveals that Sark has had to dig into its reserves to cover £150,000 in legal fees in support of the electricity price commissioner, whose ruling to cut the price from 66p per unit to 52p is being challenged by Sark Electricity, which says it would lose £20,000 a month.

It is feared those legal costs will double if a five-day court case goes ahead in Guernsey next month.

‘We are... as a matter of urgency, altering the emergency plans so that we can manage an interruption to the supply, on island, provided that the generating machinery remains operational,’ the letter obtained by the Guernsey Press said.

‘In the event that the plant is damaged then we would need to import generating capacity to maintain island essential services.

‘We believe that we will need your assistance to identify suitable support in that extreme situation, perhaps from the military under Military Aid to the Civil Authorities and this could include flying in mobile generators to provide electricity to the island.’

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This week, generators were shipped in.

Lord Keen has said that Sark needs a small, professional civil service to provide objective advice.

‘Steps to compile a new job description and contract for the senior administrator were at a very advanced stage, literally final point adjustments only, but at the last meeting of the Policy Development Group (on 25 September 2018) it was pulled from the agenda without notice,’ the response says.

All members of Chief Pleas sit on Policy Development.

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‘A final agreed version will be used to recruit a replacement.

‘We accept that we need a form of paid support for conseillers, despite our size as, if for no other reason, it ensures administrative continuity.’

Funding for the post was included in the revised budget.

‘It may be that some of the soon to be surplus civil servants in Guernsey might find Sark attractive.’

The letter, sent on behalf of Policy & Finance, said they shared disappointment over the lack of candidates in recent elections.

‘There is perhaps little that we can now do to encourage participation if the relevant generation are unwilling to join in the administration and governance of the island that they are happy to share.’

Two sitting conseillers were planning to invite a ‘selection of their contemporaries’ to small workshops to encourage them to stand.

Nick Mann

By Nick Mann
author

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