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Britannia arrives in Guernsey

Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

P&O's flagship cruise liner, the Britannia, has arrived in Guernsey this morning as part of the busiest weekend of cruise liners in the island so far this year.

The colossal ship docked at 8am this morning with a host of people making their way ashore to make the most of the beautiful island.

It's hoped the visit will provide a huge boost to the local economy with a number of special events put on including 'Taste Guernsey’s Seafront Sunday'.

The Britannia was officially named by the Queen in March this year and carries 4,372 passengers who are looked after by nearly 1,400 crew.

Those huge numbers are a sign of things to come with up to 130,000 passengers expected to come ashore on 110 cruise liner visits between mid-March and the beginning of October, local operators are gearing up for a record-breaking season.

When you consider that only in 2012 we had just 55,000 visiting cruise liner tourists it demonstrates how far we’ve come in a few years to double that number and become the leading cruise liner tender port in Europe.

– Sally Diamond, Leisure Manager at Guernsey Harbours

I have spoken to a lot of cruise passengers. A lot of them come because it’s such a picturesque island as you enter the harbour.

They like the steepness of the town, that you can see the different levels.

They like the charm of the island and the fact that the locals are so helpful and friendly.

– David Wilcox, marketing manager at Island Taxis

More than £1 million invested in Locate Guernsey

£1.2 million will be spent on attracting high net worth individuals to relocate to Guernsey.

The money will be used over a three year period to create new income for island businesses as part of the new Locate Guernsey scheme.

The island's Commerce and Employment Department have secured the funding from the Economic Development Fund to work alongside the local industry in generating fresh investment.

It is hoped that the initiative will pay for itself inside two years and will quickly become an income generator for the government, with even greater returns for many parts of the wider economy.

This is a really exciting development and the support from the Policy Council and Treasury and Resources shows that the States of Guernsey is fully committed to this initiative.

The creation of Locate Guernsey, alongside that of the Guernsey Digital Greenhouse, shows that the States is determined to be proactive in terms of business generation.

We have had great support for the concept from stakeholders in industry and are very much looking forward to working together with them, which we regard as key to the success of the venture.

– Deputy Kevin Stewart, Commerce and Employment Department Minister

A similar scheme was set up in Jersey in 2010 and has been enticing new business to the island for the last five years.

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Voluntary redundancy scheme for public sector workers

A voluntary redundancy programme will be available for public sector workers in Jersey from next month.

Ministers are reprioritising spending within the public sector to help them achieve their strategic priorities of investing in health, education and economic growth.

As part of the reshuffle they will be ceasing to provide some services, redesigning others and merging departments.

Staff salaries account for 50% of current spending in the public sector.

The States Employment Board (SEB) has confirmed the voluntary redundancy scheme will begin from 1st June 2015.

It will be open to applications from all staff and the SEB will continue to work with public sector unions about the details of the programme.

This voluntary redundancy programme is the first stage in a comprehensive delayering of management and administration.

Each application will be considered carefully and will only be accepted if it supports the redesign of our services and our continuing drive to streamline the organisation and reduce costs.

Our reform programme is intended to make services more efficient and effective and applications for voluntary redundancy need to be considered in that context, to ensure that we achieve the best long term result for the public sector.

We will also be managing job vacancies. Around 550 employees leave the public sector every year, either through retirement or changing jobs. We will only be filling these vacant posts where absolutely necessary.

– Senator Ian Gorst, Chairman of the SEB,

Information about the redundancy programme, together with advice and support, will be available to all States employees from 1 June.

No living wage for Jersey

Jersey's Chief Minister has said he won't be backing the introduction of a living wage.

The announcement comes following government research which concluded that the island's minimum wage, coupled with income support, is already sufficient.

A living wage is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet basic living needs.

Jersey’s minimum wage is currently £6.78 per hour. A person working for the minimum wage is also entitled to claim income support.

However, workers must be resident on the island for at least five years in order to claim any benefits, which means some islanders are living on the minimum wage alone.

Campaigners argue Jersey's current system means hundreds are living in poverty.

The Chief Minister, Ian Gorst, says the government must strike a difficult balance between ensuring the welfare of the people while discouraging benefits tourism.

Guernsey house prices fall, and so do number changing hands

Homes in Guernsey have fallen in price over the past year.

That's according to figures released from the Policy Council.

They show that the average Local Market property was £445,923 in the first three months of 2015. That is 3.5% lower than the last quarter of 2014, and 1.6% lower than the same three months of last year.

At the same time, the lowest number of properties changed hands since figures were first reported, with just 116 Local Market transactions between January and March compared to 131 in the same time last year.

26 of those properties sold for between £600,000 and £999,999 and six of them cost more than £1 million.

The Policy Council say the figures need to be taken in context.

As a note of caution, it should be remembered that these figures only represent one point in time, and not too many firm conclusions should be drawn from them alone. As an economic indicator these figures should be looked at in context with other indicators which show more positive outlook for the economy. For example median earnings increased by 1% more than inflation in 2014 and the number of unemployed people in Guernsey has been decreasing for the last twelve months.”

– Policy Council Spokesperson

Changes to Income Support for parents of young children

Jersey's Minister for Social Security has proposed a package of changes to the financial and practical support available to low income parents with young children.

At present, the parent of a child up to 5 years old can claim Income Support without any requirement to seek work.

Under the new proposals the parent will have an obligation to engage with Back to Work from the start of the year before the child’s first year of school.

This is the same point at which they are old enough to join the ESC Nursery scheme.

The minister believes the changes will support more parents into employment and to help their families towards financial independence.

The Minister will ask the States to approve:

  • A change so that jobseeking activities for a parent begin in the year before their child first begins school. This brings the timing in line with the date on which the child becomes eligible for the nursery scheme run by Education, Sport & Culture
  • An increase in the rate of funding for child care paid through Income Support
  • A broader definition of childcare that can be supported through Income Support
  • Flexibility in actively seeking work responsibilities to allow both parents to share the care of a young child.
Susie Pinel, Minister for Social Security

I firmly believe that helping parents move back into employment leads to a range of economic and social benefits for the family.

It makes no sense to continue to allow low-income parents to remain outside the workforce for long periods of time now that support is available to help them return to a suitable part-time job and secure a greater likelihood of economic independence.

– Susie Pinel, Minister for Social Security

If approved, these changes will lead to around 100 parents a year being required to engage with specialist Back to Work services aimed specifically at parents.

A successful pilot scheme has already been providing support to parents of school age children.

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Watch: Islanders react to taxpayer funded pensions

Jersey's politicians could be given a taxpayer funded pension.

If the scheme is introduced, States members would be able to pay up to £4,000 a year into the retirement pot, with the public matching it pound-for-pound.

It comes as the government embarks on a massive cost-cutting drive, which would see public sector pay frozen and possible tax hikes.

Islanders have reacted angrily to the news. Our Political Correspondent Leah Ferguson reports.

States pension 'a slap-in-the-face' for the public

At least two of Jersey's politicians have told ITV News they do not support the call for a pension scheme.

It comes as States members have been sent a letter asking if they would pay up to £4,000 into a retirement pot, which would then be matched pound-for-pound from the public purse.

My initial reaction was 'absolutely no way!'

It would be a real slap-in-the-face for the public if States members agreed to take basically £4,000 each from the taxpayer into a contributory pension scheme, so I'm totally against it - as I believe the majority of States members are as well.

– Deputy Jackie Hilton

Deputy Macon: 'we all need to make provision for our old age'

Credit: Twitter: @DeputyMacon

Deputy Jeremy Macon has told ITV News that he does support the introduction of a pension for States Members.

It comes as all members have been sent a letter asking whether they would pay up to £4,000 a year into a retirement pot, which would be matched pound-for-pound by the public.

Just to remind people that during the elections on the radio, I stated publicly that I did support the introduction of pensions for States Members, but only at the same as work-based pension schemes like those in the UK are introduced. As we all need to make provision for our old age.

– Deputy Jeremy Maçon, St Savior

States members asked if they want pension

Credit: PA stills

It has been recommended that pension arrangements, including matched contributions from the States, should be introduced for States members from 1st January 2016.

The basic recommendation was that members should be able to enter into private pension arrangements with an approved provider and that their contributions would then be matched by the States on a pound-for-pound bases up to a maximum of a possible £4,000.

To enable the Privileges and Procedures Committee to judge the likely cost of implementing the idea, they have sent a letter to all States members.

What States members were asked:

  • Would you be likely to avail yourself of a voluntary matched pension scheme if it was introduced?
  • If so, how much would you intend to personally contribute per annum up to a maximum of £4,000? (This sum would then be matched by the States on a £-for-£ basis).

The letter states that answers would be treated “in the strictest of confidence” and collated without reference to individual financial circumstances.

States members have been asked to answer by Friday.

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