'What has happened to the Future Jersey long-term vision and what has been achieved?'

Robert Surcouf

By Robert Surcouf

IN July 2017, Future Jersey 2017–2037 was an attempt to create a long-term vision for the Island community. It presented various facts and figures from that time and was the trigger for a public consultation and the feedback was shared in February 2018 with the final version of this vision for the Island launched in late March 2018. At the time the aim was to create a long-term vision to assist the development of ministerial priorities for their four-year terms to sit better within a long-term approach for 20 or 30 years which had been developed with meaningful consultation with the wider community.

At the time the vision was welcomed by a range of social, environmental and economic stakeholders from within the community with quotes such as “a catalyst for giving Islanders a better quality of life in the future”. The then President of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce pointed out that “Any organisation, big or small, must be able to measure itself and set the course it wants to take against those measurements, if it wants to achieve anything more than what chance throws at it”.

I thought it would be interesting to see what has happened to this vision and what has been achieved. The consultation commenced a year before an Islandwide election and the final vision was published fewer than two months before the May 2018 election, which brought a change in Chief Minister and many new ministers. We then faced a pandemic and several lockdowns, major geopolitical events, another election and, most recently, a successful vote of no confidence. So, nearly seven years – and how much of the vision has been achieved?

The pre-consultation version and the feedback from the consultation are still available on the States website but the final vision is no longer available and there is nothing to document when it was removed. Is that vision document still considered or was that an exercise that has been condemned to the bin? If it has been dropped when and why? Does that mean that there is no documented high-level vision, so we have to hope that every four years the new government plans consider the long-term aims for the Island in isolation?

Looking at what is still available on the government site there were ten main headings covering various areas of our society. The first was that we would be an Island where people feel safe and protected at home, work and in public. This will always be an ongoing project and much has been achieved but the recent recommendations on violence against women and girls is just one example of where more must still be achieved but it does provide a clear roadmap to be actioned.

Other stated aims were that we would be an Island where children enjoyed the best start in life and where people can enjoy living in a vibrant and inclusive community. Our education infrastructure is ageing and for many teenagers both the cost of living and the lack of both career and social options are making more and more consider leaving the Island when we already have an ageing population. This is an area where more action is still required.

When it comes to our health the aim was that we would be an Island where people enjoy long, healthy, active lives but the ongoing issues around how the health service has been run and delays on updating the health infrastructure does bring into question what has really been achieved since the consultation was completed.

When it came to our environment the stated vision was for us all to live in an attractive island where people value and enjoy their built and historic environment but where we also protected its unique natural environment for future generations and used and managed its natural resources responsibly. In this we seem to be doing a little better but there is growing division over how some of these conflicting aims are managed.

An area where we are falling behind the vision is that the Island would be a place where people can afford a decent standard of living. The cost-of-living crisis and higher accommodation and imported food costs have seen a huge increase in the use of food banks since the vision was drafted. Many are leaving the Island as a decent standard of living for those individuals and their families is not attainable. The trends seven years ago were all problematic and the situation has only got worse. This has to now be an area of urgent action to make Jersey an attractive place for all and not just the wealthy.

In terms of the economy the focus was on maintaining and enhancing the business environment and in turn creating jobs and growth. Much was done during the pandemic to support businesses, but many are still trying to recover and are still struggling. The growth in productivity that we need to support an ageing population is just not happening, in fact the real growth only seems to be in the public sector and our tax revenues cannot continue to meet that cost.

Overall, we do not seem to be doing very well against the long-term vision that was identified, which still seems relevant and credible. It might be worth dusting this off to be read by all the new ministers as they plan their next steps.

  • Robert Surcouf comes from a Jersey farming family, though his mother was Spanish and moved to Jersey in the 1960s. He became an accountant and now specialises in risk and enterprise management. A father of two school-age children, he still helps organise and participates in local motorsport events and was one of the founding members of Better Way 2022 before the last election. The views expressed are his own.

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