Guernsey Press

Tackling housing top of Work Plan's priorities

A HUGE culture change in the way the States operates with a promise to ‘do things differently’ was made by Deputy Heidi Soulsby as she set out to the Assembly the over-arching Government Work Plan.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby. (Picture by Cassidy Jones, 29785812)

The vice-president of Policy & Resources said challenges such as the pandemic, Brexit, climate change, the ageing demographic and growing inequalities, meant that the States had to adopt a new style of working.

‘It’s very clear that doing things the same old way we’ve been doing them won’t be the answer,’ she said.

‘Islanders know that, they’ve been saying so for years, it was an election issue and appeared in many manifestos, and we as members of the Assembly need to act now to remedy this.

‘The plan calls for us to do things differently with greater vision, innovation, and collaboration, new ways of working.’

There are four government priorities set out in the plan and 10 recovery actions.

Top of the list of recovery actions is tackling housing pressures.

‘We all know how urgent our housing issue is right now, demand is up and supply isn’t matching it, with consequent increased house and rental prices.

‘Our young people, already disproportionately impacted by Covid, are again bearing the brunt of this and we are struggling to recruit key workers in public and private sector roles because the housing market is over-heated.

‘Government is going to have to intervene, and the plan will deliver the urgent measures necessary to address the housing pressures.’

The environment got a mention when Deputy Soulsby said that there would be initiatives to assess the marine environment, and there was an intention to secure the extension of the Paris Agreement on climate change to Guernsey. A new Nature Commission for environmental protection is also in the pipeline, ‘as a flagship example of our forthcoming commissioning strategy to make government more effective and efficient’.

On health, there will be a new mental health centre and occupational health schemes.

More money is still planned for promotional agency Guernsey Finance, there will be a new plan to revive tourism, and, more controversially, £200m. of extra government borrowing will be used to pay for it.

Summing up an uplifting address, Deputy Soulsby referred to what she called ‘the Gollop rule’ – ‘you can’t have the penny and the bun’.

The word ‘priority’ and its derivatives had been used 16 times.

In asking States members to support the Government Work Plan, she concluded that it was vital that they worked together effectively.

‘We owe it to all our islanders to come together and deliver what they need. The committee is confident that we have collectively arrived at the right plan for Guernsey at this moment in time, it takes action, it will boost islanders and the island itself, and it lays the groundwork for our collective bright future.’