A Ministerial group tasked with setting policies to deal with inflation has not come together or made any specific policy decisions since 2019, despite islanders facing unprecedented cost of living pressures, Express has learned.
Chaired by Deputy Chief Minister Senator Lyndon Farnham, the Inflation Strategy Group was formed in February 2019 and met four times that year.
A report was produced in January 2020 setting out six actions, which included a pledge to consider the impact of "indirect taxes", an aim to keep changes to Government charges to less than 2.5% per year, and providing support to the Consumer Council and competition watchdog.
But, despite the report warning that Government “must remain vigilant at all times to ensure that inflation can be kept relatively low”, a request by Express made under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law has revealed that the group has not carried out any work since then.
The group did not hold any specific meetings to discuss inflationary pressures arising from Brexit in January 2020, the pandemic, which led to a lockdown in Jersey at the end of March 2020, and the war in Ukraine, and has not produced any new policies or reports for more than two years.
Pictured: The membership of the group, according to a request under the Freedom of Information Law.
They were, however, said to have discussed the topic of inflation with the wider Council of Ministers once in 2020 and once in 2021.
The FOI request also showed that none of the Group's meetings had been minuted, limiting islanders’ and politicians’ ability to scrutinise their discussions and decision-making.
The next meeting of the Inflation Strategy Group will not be until 28 March.
It comes as islanders face unprecedented cost of living pressures, which experts believe are set to worsen.
Pictured: A breakdown of the changes in everyday item prices islanders experienced between 2020 and 2021. (Statistics Jersey)
Products such as bread and sunflower oil are also predicted to rise as a result of Putin’s war in ‘breadbasket of Europe’ Ukraine, which accounts for more than 10% of the global wheat market, and is the world's largest exporter of sunflower oil.
Fuel prices have also risen by up to 75% in some cases, and islanders are bracing for higher energy bills as a result of the conflict.
Amid these pressures, the Jersey Consumer Council has urged the Chief Minister to implement emergency measures to help islanders, including: cutting 9p per litre from fuel at the till and giving every household £100 towards their chosen energy bill.
They also called on supermarkets to protect ‘essential’ food items from price increases and bolster their food bank donation point visibility and support.
Pictured: The Consumer Council wrote an open letter to the Chief Minister asking for urgent action to help islanders deal with rises in the cost of living.
In an open letter to Senator John Le Fondré sent on Friday but made public yesterday, the Council warned that, “if left unchallenged”, the current rate at which prices are rising “will see more islanders cross the bread line", relying on food banks, charities and food waste apps to get by.
A Government statement approved by Senator Farnham said the Council of Ministers thanked the Consumer Council for their suggestions, which will be “considered by the relevant departments.”
“The Government is acutely aware of the inflationary pressures facing islanders and is reconstituting the Inflation Strategy Group to monitor changes and any steps the Government can take to assist Islanders,” the statement continued.
“Many of the recommendations of the Inflation Strategy Report of 2020 remain relevant. However, the causes of current inflationary pressures are largely global in nature and are outside the island's control.
“We will work with the Consumer Council and other key partners to ensure that islanders are supported.”
The Government, however, failed to respond to questions from Express about why the Inflation Strategy Group had not held specific meetings during 2020 and 2021, or why previous meetings had not been minuted.
The Government also declined to respond to a query over whether they would be supporting a bid by Senator Kristina Moore to increase the Community Costs Bonus by 8% – a payment to support islanders who do not earn enough to pay income tax but do not qualify for Income Support with food and cold weather expenses – and extend eligibility, including to middle-earners.
The bonus, which has not been increased since 2019, currently stands at £258.25.
In a report outlining her proposal, she quoted UK thinktank The Resolution Foundation, which as warned that “the least well-off households could see their cost-of-living jump by as much as 10%or more by this autumn if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leads to a prolonged conflict.”
Pictured: Senator Moore is asking States Members to support a proposal to increase the Community Costs Bonus.
She continued: “In Jersey, we already know that the Retail Price Index, rose by 3.8%, with the price of food rising by 1.9% in 2021. And the Consumer Council are calling for action to support islanders.
“It is clear that the States cannot wait until the next scheduled uplifts and furthermore not to adopt a reactive ‘wait and see’ strategy to see what the precise level of inflation will be before acting.
“It is clear that government should be moving quickly and now seek mitigate in some meaningful way the oncoming increases.
“Not to do so would mean that benefits would only be made after prices have already risen and people have felt the impact.”
The Jersey Consumer Council has created the following price comparison tools to help islanders compare the costs of different essentials...
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