The Progress Party launched in January, but has been relatively quiet since then...until now.
As Jersey hits the one-year mark before the election, Express will be regularly sharing profiles and explainers to help islanders make sense of the people, policies and processes ahead of the big day.
Today, we start with one of the newest additions to Jersey's political scene, the Progress Party, which was founded by Senator Steve Pallett and Deputy Steve Luce.
Launched in January this year, the "grassroots party" with a "sustainable agenda" has former Infrastructure Minister and Deputy, Eddie Noel, as its Treasurer.
Pictured: Former Infrastructure Minister Eddie Noel, who left the States Assembly in 2018, is the Progress Party's Treasurer.
Also among its backers were well-known islanders dairy farmer and Instagram star Rebecca Houzé, former Town Centre Manager Daphne East, Les Amis MD Shaun Findlay, mental health champions James Le Feuvre and Andrew Le Seelleur.
Former Chamber of Commerce President Eliot Lincoln is also a supporter, and the first man to swim from Guernsey to Jersey, Neil Faudemer.
But the party went noticeably quiet after that.
Pictured: Rebecca Houzé, James Le Feuvre, Neil Faudemer and Daphne East are among the well-known islanders on the list of signatories.
The party is now ready to dial up efforts again. So far their membership is in "three figures", but the party won't disclose the exact number.
As well as being Secretary, Deputy Luce is Party Whip – the individual tasked with keeping members in line, and ensuring they vote a certain way on key issues.
Senator Pallett previously told Express this would be “soft” approach to discipline at first, but that this may be strengthened if necessary.
Both Senator Pallett and Deputy Luce have been in Government – the former as Assistant Minister under Senator John Le Fondré’s leadership and the latter as Environment Minister under Senator Ian Gorst – and said their time in politics has left them deeply frustrated.
As an example of the “unresponsive” Government system, Deputy Luce explained how a St. Martin field he had ensured was rezoned in 2012 to deliver affordable housing only ended up welcoming families to a new development there last Christmas.
Senator Pallett, who had previously overseen the Fort Regent project, said he was particularly frustrated about the latest plans released, describing them as a “regurgitation” of what had come before.
Pictured: Senator Pallett was particularly frustrated about the 'Future Fort' plans - a "regurgitation" of many previous reports.
He explained that the iconic leisure centre had been left to decay “to a degree where it’s a crying shame”, adding that the Government doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel every four years.”
The pair also bemoaned the island’s lack of population policy, saying it “should be the first thing you do when you walk in the door” and would be a priority for them.
Explaining how the party would take a different approach, Deputy Luce said: “’Just get things done’ is one of our mottos. We see reviews, consultations, further reviews, further consultations, and we get very little done [in the current Government].”
Despite this comment, the party say one of the first things they’d do in Government would be to launch several reviews – but this, they said, would be with the purpose of enabling action.
Specifically, they want a Jersey expert to look into “planning barriers” and how to remove them to speed up residential construction.
Pictured: Progress wants a review of the planning system and regulations.
Deputy Luce said that he believed one of the key issues at the moment to be resource, with many staff having moved out of the department to assist with other covid-related projects. This, he said, meant that smaller planning applications were no longer meeting their usual turnaround times.
They also want to carry out a "comprehensive review of all public-owned property" with the goal of finding out what plots could make way for housing - even areas that could accommodate just six to 10 homes, as they are "valuable" too.
Progress also want to carry out a review of the Government's policy requiring Andium Homes' rents to be set at 90% of the market rate. "The present contribution level means that many hard-working low-income families struggle to keep up," they said.
Progress say they consider it their "duty to make sure that every islander's need for a home is accounted for" - something high prices are currently standing in the way of.
Senator Pallett said that Progress would define “affordable” as in the range of £300,000-350,000 for a first-time buyer. Currently, the ‘average’ three-bed family home is selling for more than half-a-million.
Pictured: Mean prices for different properties in Jersey 2010 to 2020. (Statistics Jersey)
As well as unblocking planning and identifying more sites for building, they said they wanted to ensure more homes are delivered in Jersey to address demand and therefore bring down prices by:
Senator Pallett and Deputy Luce said that solving the housing crisis wasn’t just about building more, but bringing down construction costs.
Pictured: 'Flatpack' housing could help bring down construction costs.
Using such materials would allow the island to build “quicker and cheaper”, they argued. They noted that, although this could have some impact on the construction industry, it should be remembered that they would likely be “gainfully employed” due to the island’s other major capital projects in the pipeline, such as the new hospital.
But bringing prices down wouldn’t involve making other sacrifices – the pair said ensuring new homes have “amenity space” would be crucial, with Deputy Luce also confirming that the “new homes we’re talking about would have to be carbon neutral at the very least.”
Within the first six months of the 2022 election, they said they want to commission a Jersey expert to carry out a feasibility study into developing the land to the east of Fort Regent and Pier Road car park for affordable homes.
In response to questions from Express, they also hinted they might put forward an amendment to the proposed short-term Island Plan to ensure opportunities they see for development aren't lost by waiting.
They felt it was time to be “bold” with Andium – whose work they described as “incredible” – and push-back some of the £30m dividend it gives back to the Government each year in favour of that money being reinvested in housing.
They also outlined a hope to bring down rents to 75% of market rates after their review of its current levels.
A "strategic analysis element" would be added to the work permit system in order to deal with the island's rising population - described as "unacceptable and unsustainable" with increases of around 1,000 a year - under Progress's leadership to ensure that migration is targeted "to the areas that have a proven requirement."
Pictured: Progress thinks the population rises of around 1,000 people per year are "unacceptable and unsustainable."
They also plan to introduce "a points-based system to reflect the economic need and industry specific requirements but with flexibility to react to innovation", adding: "It will be objective, transparent and quick to adapt, where required. It will cover the full spectrum of persons seeking to migrate to Jersey for whatever reason."
While Senator Pallett acknowledged that Jersey will always "need to some degree to import skills", to reduce reliance on inward migration, Progress wants to introduce incentives for part-time and term-time workers and those who wish to extend their careers beyond usual retirement age.
Making this happen, they say, could be "encouraged through government-sponsored incentives to recruit from this valuable potential resource whilst also incentivising these workers to consider where they can contribute further to the island’s economy."
The party also say they want to "nurture a conducive environment to keep or draw more people back into the labour market to safeguard our future socio-economic development being impeded by insufficient workforce within Jersey" and believe making more training and upskilling opportunities available will help with this.
"Through government incentivisation, employers both private and public will be encouraged to ‘train local’ i.e. to have succession planning policies and not just rely on bringing in employees from overseas. We will work and develop strategy with Jersey’s higher and further education providers to further improve access to education and training."
The pair were clear that, in their Government, balancing a budget "would not necessarily be a priority" and that the Government "may need to run a deficit for a couple of years" to fund the plans they have in mind.
They emphasised that the island still had the Rainy Day Fund, which had performed very well recently with investments paying "good dividends", with Deputy Luce noting it was at least "drizzling".
Pictured: Progress pointed out that Jersey's investments had performed well despite global pressures.
They were both clear that "raising taxes is not an option" when it comes to paying for future projects.
Shared for the first time last week, the housing and population policies were intended at giving the public a "flavour" of what the party is all about.
They declined to let anything else "out of the bag" at this "early stage", but teased that some policies on health and education would be coming soon. Like the ones released so far, those ideas would be decided on following meetings with their membership, who they pledged would always have a say in their "shape and direction of policies".
"Please work with us and tell us if we're moving in the right direction," said Senator Pallett.
Their full manifesto, however, won't be released until six to eight weeks before the election.
Progress said it has three to four election candidates in mind so far, but wants to contest as many seats as possible.
They also said they saw "no reason" why Constables couldn't become part of the party.
Pictured: The pair acknowledged that standing for election can be "daunting" but that they would offer support.
Acknowledging that standing for election is a "daunting prospect", they said they would be on hand to help anyone interested learn more about the island's political system and navigate the election process.
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