Guernsey

Public review into Sark issues needed say 'concerned islanders'

Sark lane and signpost
Image caption The letter said despite the issues Sark continued to be "visually idyllic and a great place within which to relax"

A panel of inquiry is needed to provide a long-term solution to Sark's "economic and fiscal issues", according to a group of Channel Islanders.

The 22-strong group, which includes former senior politicians Stuart Falla and Frank Walker, has expressed its concerns in an open letter.

They have urged the governments of Guernsey, Jersey and the UK to work with Sark's government and people.

Sark's Seigneur Michael Beaumont said the move was unnecessary.

He told the BBC: "I don't think there's any need for the group or any economic problems in Sark at the moment."

A Chief Pleas statement said: "Sark, like every other democratic jurisdiction, faces challenges which the government of Sark continues to address."

It mentioned the island's lack of budget deficit, 80% election turnout, one politician per 15 residents, described the island's education, health and emergency services and ended with an invite for the 22 signatories to visit to "see all of Sark for themselves".

Image caption The group said they wanted a "positive resolution" to the island's "deep-rooted problems"

The open letter said: "The 'inconvenient truth' would seem to be that without some form of effective intervention from outside, the leaders, people and investors in Sark are unlikely to reach a sound and enduring set of solutions to the problems they face.

"The island appears now to be deficient in providing the economic, education, health, social security, community and democratic standards that virtually everyone else in Western Europe has taken for granted for many decades."

"As a consequence, the population is declining, the economy is weakening and Sark has become a community in which far too few of its sons and daughters now see as their future home."


The 22 signatories

  • Jay Aylmer
  • Wayne Bulpitt
  • Martin Bralsford
  • Sir Nigel Broomfield KCMG
  • Jonathan Creasey
  • Geoff Dorey
  • Rupert Dorey
  • Stuart Falla MBE
  • Advocate Sarah Fitz
  • Adrian Heyworth
  • Pierre Horsfall CBE
  • Philip le Brocq
  • Jurat Sally le Brocq OBE
  • Terry le Sueur OBE
  • Linda Le Vasseur
  • Dame Mary Perkins DBE
  • Jo Porritt
  • John Stares
  • Mark Thompson
  • Frank Walker OBE
  • Luke Wheadon
  • Julian Winser

Image caption A 2013 survey by Sark's Chamber of Commerce found 86% of business owners believed the island's economy was performing poorly

Currently four of the island's six hotels are closed, plans to build an undersea cable to secure the island's electricity supply collapsed earlier this year and a group called Sark First has applied to the European Court of Human Rights to push for electoral reform.

The letter questions whether the issues are "a direct result of recent tensions" or "built up over a generation or so" and suggests the current tensions "mask more fundamental problems".

"In our view, some form of Panel of Inquiry (perhaps a 'light touch Royal Commission') should be created to identify and put in place long-term solutions to many of the economic and fiscal issues afflicting Sark.

"Such a panel would be most effective if it was able to benefit from contributions and submissions from Sark, Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and the UK [and]... should be chaired by a genuinely independent person."

Image caption Frank Walker said the beautiful island should be an idyllic place to live

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We are aware of the open letter and are considering its contents.

"We continue to encourage all with an interest in Sark's economy to engage positively with Chief Pleas, which is responsible for Sark's economic strategy."

Alan Jackson, Sark Chamber of Commerce, said: "This open letter is timely and necessary and as an island community there is a genuine need for these issues to be resolved.

"I can't see a local solution now as it's been left too long. It's a shame it has come to this.

"There is no desire on the island to have this conversation and move things forward - but it needs to be had."

Image copyright Sark First
Image caption Sark First has lodged an appeal for electoral reform with the European Court of Human Rights

Tony Le Lievre, from Sark First, said: "The letter makes Sark First feel vindicated and it's reassuring and encouraging that another group can see there is a problem that needs sorting."

Guernsey's Chief Minister Jonathan Le Tocq said: "The issues that face Sark are not necessarily unique to Sark, and there is much that each island can learn from each other."

He said whether a panel of inquiry should be held was a "matter for Sark, working with the Crown".

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