Guernsey Press

Going back to basics

Horace Camp has a novel solution to the housing crisis and our demographic time bomb...


WHAT is the purpose of Guernsey? Is Guernsey an earth-covered rock in the Channel dedicated to the finance industry, which is required to support the large public service, or, as Richard Digard phrased it, to pay civil servants?

Seemingly, the people clinging to the rock come and go as required by the economy. If skills are lacking here then it is easy, or perhaps not so easy, to ship them in. If the fertility rate is too low to grow the population, no bother – there are plenty of working age people out in the big world who require no expensive education who can be brought in to make up the numbers.

We seem to be very good at this when compared to the UK – 14.4% of residents were not born there while we have closer to 50% not born here. Which proves to me that Guernsey has no need for an indigenous population when nomadic migrants, fully trained and ready for work, are available an hour’s flight away.

In fact, if we could encourage Mrs Le Page from Torteval to sell her house to a civil service incomer and relocate to the Outer Hebrides, we get rid of a potential burden to our health service and help ease the housing crisis. In fact, if we could get more retired locals to sell up and leave, there wouldn’t be a housing crisis and our demographic time bomb would stop running quite so fast.

We could take this further and concentrate on the many who contribute to island life but pay less to support the States than they take out. I am willing to speculate that a high percentage of them will be what I define as ‘local’. I come to this conclusion on the basis that our immigration policy couldn’t be so stupid as to import people who put less in than they take out. That would be hilarious if it were true.

What if we encouraged the locals who do not contribute enough to the States to cover their costs to leave? If they are local and have three children then the cost of educating them will be in the region of £300,000-plus even taking the States’ own low costings, and closer to £500,000 using Deputy Trott’s. Wouldn’t it be sensible and cost-saving to offer them £100,000 to pack up and go? Deputy Dyke probably already has a list of the wrong type of Guernsey family.

Just by adopting the two policies above, the housing crisis would be solved and the island cleared to bring in higher skilled people trained at someone else’s expense. It’s a no-brainer really.

Think how much easier it would make life for BBC announcers who will no longer have to try to learn how to pronounce local names and road names for fear of Liz Walton, quite rightly, complaining. Once all us local old folk are shipped out, the Crown Pier will be just Crown Pier and it would be socially acceptable to go up to the Bridge and down to the airport.

Or we could take another path. The one favoured by our forebears in 1947 for fear that migrants with money coming into impoverished, Occupation-torn Guernsey would make it impossible for locals to even afford to buy a house. They therefore created a local housing market to protect the local community being priced out and forced to leave. It was accepted that locals would in the main be relatively low earning compared to rentiers coming here to live a lower tax life and therefore they needed a protected housing market with little access to outside cash and prices driven by the relative prosperity or not of locals.

Guernsey was a very poor place in 1947 and for at least 15 to 20 years after that. Therefore an Open Market was created for people with the money which could help Guernsey recover. Quite clearly the Open Market was intended for those who could support locals by paying more tax to benefit all. A necessary evil.

But somewhere it all went wrong and everything turned topsy-turvy. A very self-contained island, which pretty much could looks after itself without seeking help but for the lowest paid seasonal jobs, is now totally dependent on importing skills from the UK. And it would seem that locals and essential workers now serve the economy and the States of Guernsey, not vice versa as it should be.

Given that half of us were born here, what would the island be like if all the others went ‘home’. If our economy halved as well, the net result would be that the GDP per head would stay the same. Probably that GDP would be more fairly distributed as well, making us a bit better off?

Houses would be much cheaper given half would be empty. Bagsie me St George when the revolution begins!

For those of you who have got this far without starting to pen letters to the editor demanding to know why my racist and xenophobic views are given a platform, I say calm down. My tongue was firmly in my cheek when writing much of the above, with the intention of making you go back to basics and just try to remember just what Guernsey is for.

This is very important to understand before the great tax debate begins. The premise of the great tax debate is that the monster known as the States of Guernsey must be fed, even though feeding it makes it bigger and therefore need ever more food. In the eyes of the States, the purpose of Guernsey is to constantly keep the food flowing into its great mouth.

It doesn’t matter if you, the taxpayer, cannot afford to put food on your own table, metaphorically speaking, you must keep sacrificing more and more to the States. In return the States will try to control your life from cradle to grave and it will decide for you how best to spend your money, while all the time trying to ape the spending of the sixth largest economy on Earth. Not surprising really when half of the population comes from there.

It isn’t that we don’t pay enough tax, it is that the expectations of our government are too high and at least half the population was brought up in a welfare state.

We can’t afford that way of living and we need to dial back our expectations.

If you know what Guernsey’s purpose is, perhaps you will let me know?