Hospital, housing and school meals on St Clement agenda

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TWO knighted Islanders who want to become Jersey’s next Chief Minister were among the seven election candidates who faced St Clement voters on Thursday night.

Sir Philip Bailhache, leader of Jersey Liberal Conservatives, and Jersey Alliance leader Sir Mark Boleat were among those at the parish hall for the hustings.

The other candidates were Ken Addison, of Reform Jersey, Deputy Lindsay Ash, of Jersey Alliance, and independents Alex Curtis, Barbara Ward and Karen Wilson.

The hall was full to capacity, with around 150 people seated, another 30 standing and yet more listening from the foyer outside.

The candidates were drawn in a random order and the first to speak was Sir Mark.

He said that although he had lived in London for much of his life, his allegiances still lay with the Island where he was born and went to school.

He stressed the importance of his experience as a director in London but added: ‘I never really left Jersey. When people ask me where I’m from, it’s always Jersey.’

Of Jersey Alliance policies, he said: ‘We want to preserve anything that’s good about Jersey. We’ve got a thriving economy and low taxes. But the health system is not working effectively. Education is okay but it could be better.’

Ms Wilson was next. She said she had grown up in a poor area but added: ‘The community looked after one another. And I see that in St Clement, with the amount of voluntary work done. What I want to see is that sense of community replicated in the Assembly.’

Having served in leadership roles and as a former director of nursing, she said: ‘I know how governments work, I know how big organisations work. I want to generate opportunities for all.’

She was followed by another nurse, Barbara Ward, who worked on the Covid vaccination programme at Fort Regent.

She said: ‘I feel that the States has become much more dictatorial and secretive. I want more open, transparent and accountable government.’

She believed the primary concerns for people in St Clement were traffic, recycling and the need to preserve green spaces. And she said: ‘I would like to see government departments open for face-to-face appointments again.’

Mr Addison has lived in St Clement for 39 years and been involved in initiatives such as delivering food parcels to vulnerable people and driving patients to hospital and doctor appointments.

He believed more development in St Clement was ‘simply not viable’ and said that Reform Jersey’s policy was to remove GST from food and essential items, and introduce free school meals.

He said: ‘Free school meals would cost £500,000. If that amount sounds familiar, it’s the same amount that we paid Charlie Parker.’

Alex Curtis, who works for Microsoft, said that the best part of working in IT was ‘finding solutions’. He said: ‘We need a government that is responsive to solutions.’

He argued that it was important to provide housing but also to protect the environment and said: ‘I guarantee I will oppose any new development in St Clement.’

Money should be spent carefully, he added, saying: ‘We can’t burden later generations, or my generation, with long-term debts.’

Deputy Ash said the previous government, of which he was a part, had ‘covered a lot of the long yards’, and that it was up to the next government to carry on the work.

He singled out the ‘spend local’ card, saying: ‘That was tremendous success for the Island.’

A future project he wanted to see was the development of the swimming pool and sports hub at Le Rocquier.

‘It’s all gone west. It’s time it came east,’ he said.

Former Bailiff Sir Philip, who spent his life in public service in Jersey and previously served as a Senator, said that he was standing for election again ‘because I’m hugely frustrated with what has happened to government in Jersey in the last four years’.

He said: ‘If I’m elected, I hope to do something about it. We have 800 more officers than we did many years ago an at additional cost of £100 million. That’s just not sustainable.’

He predicted: ‘If the structure of government is put right, then I’m confident that most things will then fall into place.’

All the candidates agreed that there should be no further building on green spaces in St Clement. And they all expressed misgivings about the new hospital plans.

Ms Wilson said: ‘I wouldn’t support progressing with this development as it is.’

Ms Ward said: ‘It’s the wrong building on the wrong site, and it’s far, far too expensive.’

Mr Bailhache criticised ‘the decision to build a new hospital on top of an inaccessible hill’, while Mr Curtis said: ‘I don’t think it sounds like value for money for £800 million.’

Mr Addison said: ‘The need for a new hospital is self-evident.’ But he argued that the cost of the building should be capped at £350m, with the rest of the budget going towards providing free treatment there.

However, the two Jersey Alliance candidates said that whatever previous concerns there had been, the project now had to progress. Sir Mark said: ‘It’s a pretty unsatisfactory situation, but we are where we are.’

Deputy Ash added: ‘If we go back again, it will cost further millions and we will struggle to find anyone willing to build it.’

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