Deputy queries timeliness and ‘thoroughness’ of States work
A BACKBENCH politician who successfully persuaded the States to make changes to the guidelines used to grant high-net-worth residency has raised concerns about how and if the work is being done.
More than two weeks after the six-month deadline for the work to be completed passed on 31 March, Deputy Jess Perchard said she had been informed a draft of the changes was in progress but that there had been no consultation with statisticians about how to make the specific criteria of social benefit measurable or defined.
Without such research, the Deputy – whose proposition also meant that high-value-residency decisions are now made by a panel rather than a single politician – believes the exercise will not improve the system.
Deputy Perchard, who has been invited to a meeting about the matter with the Chief Minister’s Department, also raised concerns about why she was having to chase the work, past the deadline, when the States had agreed to it.
‘My proposition stated that the Chief Minister had to update the policy guidance notes and any legislation that is relevant by 31 March. Specifically, to define the measurable criteria for social and economic benefit.
‘They have told me they have a draft and it will be released shortly but that is after a written question, [answered last month] which said they had done no consultation. So how thorough is that draft going to be?’
She added: ‘My view is quite simple: people with relevant mathematical or sociological skills need to be given the task of identifying what is and what isn’t possible when it comes to measuring economic and social benefit and “best interests of the community”, and, having done that, to advise government on how such criteria could be measured. Criteria that can’t be defined or tracked shouldn’t be used. How can we justify decisions we make to the public if we cannot define or monitor the criteria against which such decisions are made?’
Deputy Perchard said she believed the political will to make the changes was there among senior ministers but that had not translated into action.
‘It may be an oversight or just not a priority but the Assembly agreed. To me, you can’t just not do something the Assembly voted on. And I gave them six months to do it – it is like an eighth of this political term,’ she said.
Members rejected part of the Deputy’s proposition to prevent high-net-worth status being granted to public sector employees, as it controversially emerged had been done for States chief executive Charlie Parker when he took on the job in 2017.
However, another part of her proposition to define the criteria used in assessing applications was adopted, as was a move to put the Housing and Work Advisory Group in charge of high-net-worth decisions rather than a single politician.
Social benefit was one of the criteria used to defend the decision to give Mr Parker full residential qualifications.
However, the guidelines do not currently provide a clear definition.
Instead applicants are advised that factors such as voluntary work or business contribution to the local community, training or sporting initiatives, particularly aimed at youth or educational organisations, cultural interests or skills that have benefited a local community which could benefit Jersey may also be taken into account, along with income and meeting the minimum tax payment of £145,000 a year.
Similarly, undesirable social factors are also taken into account, such as criminal records.
Asked for comment on the matter, Assistant Chief Minister Chris Taylor said: ‘All applications for 2(1)(e) [high-net-worth] status are now considered by the full Housing and Work Advisory Group, supporting the decision of the Assembly, including ensuring that a clear and defined financial contribution of £145,000 is delivered every year.
‘As to revisions in policy, clearer guidance is being reviewed by ministers now, and will be released later this month.’