Weekly Client Update – 10th November

Market update

UK markets: The FTSE 100 index opened down 38.88 points, 0.5%, at 7,416.79. The FTSE 250, widely considered to be the ‘domestic barometer’ in the UK, sank 442.09 points, 2.5%, at 17,595.76. Official data revealed the UK economy flatlined in the third quarter, though the print was better than market expectations of a slight contraction.

European markets: In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.5%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was down 0.4%.

US markets: S&P 500 futures inched higher by 0.09%, while Nasdaq 100 futures slid nearly 0.07%. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 57 points higher or 0.17% up.

Asian markets: In Asia on Friday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo closed down 0.2%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.5%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong closed down 1.9%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed down 0.6%.

Emerging markets: Hindalco Industries, a prominent Indian aluminium and copper manufacturer, disclosed a quarterly profit lower than anticipated, influenced by sluggish aluminium prices and demand. The company, owned by the Aditya Birla Group and operating in ten countries, reported a consolidated net profit of 21.96 billion rupees ($263.33 million) for the three months ending on Sept. 30, compared to 22.05 billion rupees in the previous year.

‘Tree council and rainy day funding needed’ after Storm Ciarán causes worst devastation to Jersey’s countryside since the Great Storm

Environmentalists are calling for the biggest tree-planting programme since the Great Storm – using government and private-sector funding – after Storm Ciarán caused widespread destruction across the countryside.

Experts want ministers to set up a tree council – similar to the one which led the restoration project following the 1987 storm – and consider releasing money from the Strategic Reserve, known as the rainy day fund, which contains nearly £1bn.Guernsey’s government announced yesterday that it would put £15,000 towards restoring its public woodland and green spaces, after around 350 trees fell in the 70mph winds.

The number lost in Jersey – which suffered far greater damage than the other islands – is expected to be much higher and could even eclipse that of the Great Storm, when an estimated 20,000 were brought down. Conrad Evans, an arboriculturist who works with the National Trust for Jersey, said that the government’s tree map would help to calculate the number of fallen trees.

However, it Mr Evans said: “I expect the government will fund some of the replanting phase, once the dust has had a chance to settle, after roads are opened and properties are as safe as they can be. The replanting happened last time due to the Tree Council. It will be interesting now to see if the government does the same thing. I think it should be considered. We also have a rainy day fund, and perhaps the government will put some money from that into tree-planting, care and management.”

The rainy day fund is valued at around £922 million. Mr Evans continued: “It would be useful if the replanting was done at a parish level as well, because people know their areas and vicinities best. Alex Morel, chief executive of Jersey Trees for Life, said that she believed the Crown and the Lieutenant-Governor’s office was very keen to support our efforts to restore the canopy and the trees that have been lost”.

She added: “It is early days, but we know the King loves trees. And Val de la Mare is part of the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, which is a network of forest conservation programmes. Funding from the government is always greatly appreciated. However, I know that there are people who have lost their homes. I also imagine that the Bailiff’s Fund will cover things like tree replanting. We will need to have some funding, because it’s not just the cost of trees to cover but also the manpower needed to plant and maintain them.”

Bob Tompkins, an environmentalist who writes for the JEP’s nature pages, said that a “wide array” of species, including firs, oaks, chestnut and ash, had been devastated by the hurricane-strength winds.

“We’re going to rapidly need to put our heads together and start thinking about this in a serious way,” he said. “There’s going to have to be a really major tree-planting programme again, as there was in 1987, and consideration is going to have to be made as to what is planted. We’re in a situation where we have a major climatic change, and we have to look at the species of trees to be planted to ensure that, with the coming changes in climate, they will be more suited to the environment.”

Storm: ‘No one will be made homeless,’ promises minister

The Housing Minister has vowed that no Islanders will be made homeless because of the devastation wreaked by Storm Ciarán. Deputy David Warr added that displaced residents in need of financial support would be treated on a “case-by-case basis”.

He made these comments in response to a question in the States Assembly from Deputy Rob Ward. The Reform Jersey politician asked Deputy Warr what financial and other support was available to private tenants should their homes be damaged and become uninhabitable or partially uninhabitable.

More than 150 Islanders remain displaced, many of them from St Clement and St Martin after a tornado – believed to be the most powerful recorded in the British Isles for almost 70 years – paved a trail of destruction through the east of the Island.

Deputy Warr said: “The residential tenancy law has provisions in place to cover the sort of scenario where a unit becomes uninhabitable and tenants are not required to pay rent when it is uninhabitable.”

He continued: “The Council of Ministers have paid for temporary hotel accommodation for those displaced until this point, and any further financial support will be on a case-by-case basis. We are ready to support tenants on their housing needs and are already working hard to support residents.”

Mike Jackson, Constable of St Brelade, said he had been “made aware” of some St Clement residents displaced from an Andium property who were “forced to squeeze in with their parents” and asked about the responsibility of States housing providers in these scenarios.

Deputy Warr said: “Andium Homes endeavour to rehouse its residents, but are struggling with the amount of additional accommodation available to rehouse individuals, and hotel accommodation is Plan B.”

Reform Jersey leader Deputy Sam Mézec challenged the Housing Minister to commit to ensuring that Islanders who had already paid a month in rent (the storm hit on 2 November, and rent is often due on the first of the month) would be refunded.

Deputy Warr said he had no knowledge of the procedure in that scenario but reiterated that his government would “step in” to assist with their financial arrangements on a case-by-case basis.

“We are adamant that no one will be made homeless in this process,” he continued.

He further reminded Islanders to “make sure they are properly insured” rather than treating the government as a “backstop”. Deputy Warr further confirmed that there was no timeline yet for the reconstruction of St Clement properties.

Jersey’s Chief Minister praises ‘great resolve’ in face of the storm

The Chief Minister has praised the Island’s response to Storm Ciarán – from the forecasters who predicted it to the emergency services, public employees, parish services, local businesses, community groups, charities and individuals who responded when it struck.

Giving a statement in the States Assembly, Deputy Kristina Moore said that her heart went out to those Islanders and families who had been impacted by the effects of the storm. She said that, at the peak of the response, 180 Islanders were being supported by the government in hotel accommodation and, as of Tuesday, that number had fallen to 50.

However, she added that many more were being supported in the homes of friends and family.

“I recognise that, in many cases, the effects of the hurricane-force winds will outlast a few days of clearing up,” she said.

“In addition to damaged properties, we have seen extensive damage to local sports facilities, schools, and our natural environment, with I expect thousands of trees lost. I doubt there are many Islanders who haven’t been impacted in at least some way, and the commitment to re-building will need to last beyond the past few days and the coming few weeks. It will be a long-term job.”

Deputy Moore said that a ‘Recovery Coordination Group’ was meeting for the first time on Tuesday to plan the ongoing clear-up. She added that it was too soon to say whether extra funding will be needed, on top of existing budgets and the recently launched Bailiff’s Fund.

In her statement, the Chief Minister also praised the government’s communications team for sharing key messages promptly and effectively, and echoed Members’ praise for farmers, volunteers and others who had helped to clear fallen trees and debris.

“I hope Members will join me in offering gratitude for a job well done,” she said, adding:

“My final note of thanks goes to the community itself, for listening to the advice, and adhering to what was asked of us by the emergency services. Being asked to stay at home isn’t easy, and it brings back awful memories, but the space and time this allowed was crucial to the response and recovery efforts. As a democratic Island, we govern and police by consent – the existence and practice of this consent in a time of need again shows what a mature and responsible community we are fortunate to live in. As the police chief said at the weekend in an interview, Islanders have shown remarkable resilience.”

She added that the Island had showed “great resolve” and “once again, in adversity we have seen the very best of Jersey”.

School strikes called off as ‘goodwill gesture’ after Storm Ciarán disruption

Three days of strike action planned by members of a teaching union next week have been cancelled.

The National Education Union has confirmed that while it remains in dispute with the government over pay, members had voted to postpone strikes planned for 14 to 16 November as a gesture of goodwill following the disruption to schooling caused by Storm Ciarán.

The NEU’s senior regional officer Caryn Symons said: “It is the right thing to do to acknowledge the affect of Storm Ciarán at this time on the Island – however this will be a postponement, as a gesture of goodwill, and not a withdrawal of action.”

Ms Symons said teachers still faced major difficulties caused by the cost of living and the government declining to offer a pay rise that matched the rate of inflation. The current offer from the States Employment Board is for a pay rise of 7.9%, effective from January of this year.

In a statement, the NEU stated: “We remain committed to trying to resolve the dispute on pay for 2023 and we continue to be available to discuss pay for both 2023 and proposals for 2024 – we remain focused on getting the best deal possible for our teachers in Jersey.”

NEU members have already staged three days of strike action so far this term.

Farming and fishing funding boost backed by Jersey States

Jersey’s farming and fishing industries are likely to get at least £6.7m in government support in 2024. Funding would increase in subsequent years by RPI-X, an inflation measure which excludes mortgage interest payments. A total of 43 states members backed the motion, while one abstained.

The Council of Ministers will now have to amend the Government Island plan which will be subject to a final vote in December. Deputy Steve Luce had initially hoped for 1% of all government spending to be directed to the two traditional sectors but came to an agreement with ministers following talks involving industry representatives.

Mr Luce, the former Environment Minister, said that farming and fishing businesses had been struggling with increased costs – including for fuel, fertiliser and wages. He told politicians that the government had spent £32 per head on the two industries in 2022, while the UK had spent £55 and the EU had spent £118.

He said: “Without the right level of support our own farmers and fishermen are just not competing on a level playing field and this has to be addressed quickly. Indeed, if it isn’t addressed now, they will not be able to compete ever again. Without this commitment we will surely be looking at a different future – one, potentially, without those commercial farmers or fishers.”

Mr Luce said the “oldest industries are on a proverbial knife-edge”.

Despite supporting the proposals, the Council of Ministers said that £3m would need to be found from within departmental budgets to fund the additional expenditure .

It said that further details would be confirmed ahead of the debate on the Government Plan which is scheduled to be held in the week beginning Monday 11 December.

Environment Minister defends assistant’s decision to reject major St Helier development

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf has backed his assistant minister following her rejection of a £120m plan for more than 200 homes and an aparthotel in town.

Last month, Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune threw out an appeal by property company Le Masurier for its Les Sablons project, which would have built on mostly cleared land between Broad Street and Commercial Street.

This prompted St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft, who had publicly supported the scheme, to criticise what he said was Deputy Jeune’s “inexperience”.

After news broke of the rejection, Chief Minister Kristina Moore issued a statement saying she was “extremely disappointed” to learn that the project has been rejected at the appeal stage, “particularly given that it has been recommended for approval by an independent planning inspector” .

This itself prompted criticism, with some backbench politicians raising questions about the level of unity within the Council of Ministers. In the States Assembly yesterday, Deputy Renouf took the opportunity to publicly express his support for his assistant.

Answering a question from St Brelade Constable Mike Jackson on whether he intended to review Deputy Jeune’s decision, Deputy Renouf said the planning application was still live and could still be appealed in the Royal Court.

However, he added: “I wish to make it clear that Deputy Jeune acted with complete probity, carefully, with great diligence. She did nothing wrong and she has my full support.”

Deputy Renouf said that while there was no formal training for ministers when making planning decisions, “full and comprehensive” advice from officers was available. However, he added that, ultimately, the decision came down to the minister’s judgment or that of his or her deputy.

Later, Deputy Moore also faced a question on what advice she had considered regarding the ministerial code of conduct before she had made her comments, after she was accused of breaking the code by former Planning Committee chairman Alastair Layzell, who helped introduce it.

Responding to the States question, Deputy Moore said: “I always seek to ensure that I act in accordance with the code of conduct. My officials would advise me if I was to take any action in breach of that. I do not consider that I had breached the code of conduct and practice and I do not believe any advice to the contrary.”

She added: “It’s quite clear that I was disappointed by the decision as the leader of this government. My job is to ensure that the team, which operates within government, takes decisions and shares priorities of the entire government.”

Jersey households spend £359 more a week than UK counterparts

Jersey households are spending £359 more than their UK counterparts each week on average, a new report has revealed. The data, which has recently been published by Statistics Jersey, is the result of an Island-wide survey that takes place every five years.

The most recent study involved around 1,300 randomly selected households and was cut short in March 2020 owing to the Covid-19 outbreak. However, a new survey started in October 2021, and ran until November 2022.

It shows how rises in housing, transport and food costs have pushed households’ average weekly expenditure to £901 per week, compared to the UK figure of £542. The biggest difference was for expenditure on housing, fuel and power; with Jersey households spending £98 per week (59%) more, on average, than those in the UK.

Housing, fuel and power accounted for the greatest proportion of spending in both jurisdictions, at almost a third of total expenditure, which in Jersey averaged £266 per week. Households in the UK spent a greater proportion on transport (14%) compared to Jersey (12%), while Islanders spent a greater proportion of total expenditure on health and education.

Average total household expenditure in Jersey has also risen from a figure of £761 recorded in 2015. After housing, fuel and power, transport and food and non-alcoholic drinks were the next highest categories at £112 and £101 per week respectively.

By tenure, households living in social rental accommodation spent the least (£436 per week) and owner-occupier households with a mortgage spent the most (£1,457 per week). Average household expenditure ranged from £423 per week for single pensioners to £1,365 per week for couple households with at least one dependent child. After adjusting for inflation, average household spending in 2022 was 3% lower than in 2015.

Islanders lose over £2.5 million to scams

Islanders have lost over £2.5 million to scams in recent months. Jersey Fraud Prevention Forum said there were 91 incidences of fraud between April and August this year, with Islanders over 70 making up a quarter of victims.

The most lucrative schemes used by fraudsters include banking and WhatsApp impersonation scams, as well as invoice scams, with four local businesses among the dozens of victims. And the true extent of the losses could be much greater, as the UK’s National Crime Agency estimates that some 86% of fraud goes unreported.

Ahead of Fraud Prevention Week – which starts on Sunday – the JFPF warned Islanders to remain vigilant, especially in the run-up to Christmas, and they urge anyone who thinks they may have been targeted by fraudsters, or fallen victim to a scam, to report it to the States police on 612 612.

In its latest newsletter, it offers a range of tips and useful guidance for Islanders to protect themselves and avoid being scammed, especially when shopping online. This includes being mindful of how much information is shared with people who are not already known, and being wary of offers which appear too good to be true.

Particular care should be taken to lookout for fraudsters posing as bank representatives, seeking to verify identity or confirm a purchase or transaction, the JFPF advises.

To reinforce these messages, JFPF members will be at Charing Cross on Wednesday 15 November between 11am and 3pm to raise awareness of the methods fraudsters use, and to offer advice on how to avoid being scammed.