A Guernsey politician has described Jersey’s government as “a bunch of bumbling idiots”, suggesting businesses might “regret” settling here due to the covid-19 response.
The comments from Deputy Peter Ferbrache (pictured top) came during a States debate about setting up a political body with wider membership than the current Civil Contingencies Authority, which is guiding Guernsey’s approach to lockdown exit.
Jersey is currently pursuing a strategy of ‘delay, contain and shield’ in relation to the virus, while Guernsey is working towards elimination.
Jersey is also exploring easing travel restrictions by offering testing at the ports as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine to re-stimulate tourism, while Guernsey does not expect to reopen routes into the island until much later in the year.
But in yesterday’s debate, some suggested that consideration of the economic effects of the elimination approach had been neglected by Guernsey health officials.
Deputy Mark Dorey, who brought the plan for the new body, warned that Guernsey will "pay the price" for being too cautious in its release from lockdown.
Pictured: Deputy Dorey said there has not been enough focus on the business impact of the island's lockdown strategy.
He said that he did "not understand" why, when there has been no community seeding since 21 April, that the island was not considering "releasing all of lockdown apart from our borders".
"I do not understand why we allow commercial kitchens to operate for takeaways, we allow people to work inside offices, but we don’t allow people to eat inside at restaurants or al fresco dining outside restaurants.
"I was surprised when the phase three proposals were announced at the end of last week, because I expected all non-essential retail to be able to trade with restrictions, but only bicycle shops, sport shops, sale of clothes and shoes, kitchens, and garden centres were allowed."
He said he was yet to hear any "justifiable explanation" for this from Guernsey's authorities.
"I do not believe that a balanced committee that considered the health, economics, physical, social and environmental matters would have made such a decision to only allow so few non-essential retailers to trade at this point in time.
"The only conclusion I can reach is that the very cautious HSC with its health mandate has not balanced the benefits for our economy, the States’ finances, the benefits for people’s mental health and to people’s jobs and livelihoods in those jobs and industries which are not able to trade, and also to give people the freedom in our community."
Pictured: Deputy Dorey argued the island should be resuming business as usual, but keeping borders closed.
But that view was not shared by all.
Issuing a strong rebuttal, lawyer-by-trade Deputy Peter Ferbrache went on to praise Guernsey’s approach as “not even in the Premier League division”.
“…We are in the international division, we are in the World Cup for the way we have dealt with this dispute so far.”
Blasting Jersey, he continued: “Compare it with our neighbours 20 miles away, where people In have been speaking to on legal matters and other matters that I’m involved in call them a bunch of bumbling idiots compared with us.
“They compare our Chief Minister with theirs, and ours wins quite favourably. They compare our Health President with theirs, and she compares admirably.”
Turning to the economy, Deputy Ferbrache added: “…I hope when people are seeking to do business in the various Bailiwicks, because we do compete with each other, going forward, they can see that we are a much, much, much better run Bailiwick than they are and we can actually get things done.
“The fact they are bigger and have attracted more business is a matter of fact, but it is perhaps now for those doing business there a matter of regret.”
The proposal to create a new political body eventually fell, 16 votes to 23.
Discussions about what impact Guernsey's lockdown may have had on the economy comes in the wake of a warning from Specsavers Guernsey that there would be up to 70 redundancies for staff working at its support office amid far-reaching changes at the company as it looks to “rebuild the business” in the wake of the pandemic.
Specsavers is the island's largest private employer with more than 500 staff usually based at its Headquarters in La Villiaze.
The potential redundancies will affect colleagues at all levels of seniority and span all business support functions.
CEO John Perkins said: "Discussing potential redundancies on this scale is the toughest step we’ve ever had to consider. My heart goes out to each and every one of our colleagues who could lose their jobs.
"We’ve done everything we possibly could to avoid this situation, including implementing salary cuts and the introduction of part-time working arrangements.
Like many other companies, the downturn in business that we have experienced has been dramatic and, coupled with a challenging outlook for the economy, we have had no option but to stop many of our major programmes, halt significant capital investment initiatives and carry out an exercise to streamline our organisational structure.
"Moving forward, our unwavering focus is on rebuilding the business to protect remaining jobs here in Guernsey and the interests of our joint venture partners and their store teams – giving them the opportunity to grow and thrive as they continue to best-serve our customers in the UK and around the world."
The move comes following a warning from the island's largest private employer last month that some Guernsey-based staff were facing the prospect of redundancy "in order to protect the future of Specsavers."
As a result, Specsavers temporarily changed the working hours of many of its staff at its La Villiaze support office, where more than 500 staff are usually based.
However, those staff have now been told that further measures are set to be taken and that employees across all levels of the company will be affected.
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