Client Weekly Update – 16 December

Nine now confirmed dead in St Helier explosion

Nine Islanders have been confirmed to have died in the explosion at the Haut du Mont flats. Police chief Robin Smith said on Thursday that ‘one further fatality’ had been confirmed at the site on Pier Road yesterday. Mr Smith said emergency services believed there were ‘no more residents that remain unaccounted for’ but that the search operation would continue until the site had been fully cleared.

Mr Smith said: ‘The families have been made aware of this announcement before the public and media and continue to be supported by our specially trained family liaison officers.’ He added: ‘The fatalities have not yet been formally identified. The Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) process will be carefully considered and managed in a dignified and compassionate way. ‘The thoughts of all of us at States of Jersey Police are with everyone affected, in particular those who lost loved ones in what has been a tragic incident for our Island and our community. ‘May I continue to ask that the privacy of the families is respected.’

Tributes paid at Town Church vigil to victims of two ‘unprecedented’ tragedies

Tributes have been paid to the victims of two ‘unprecedented and tragic events’ during a vigil at the Town Church on Wednesday evening. The Dean of Jersey – the Very Rev Mike Keirle – said he hoped the service would offer ‘some solace’ to mourning Islanders. He paid tribute to the victims of the Pier Road explosion and the three fishermen who died when their boat sank after colliding with Condor’s Commodore Goodwill.

The names of the 12 victims of the two tragedies were read out by Mr Keirle, with a candle lit for each of those Islanders to remember the ‘unprecedented and tragic events’. ‘It is difficult to find words that speak adequately all that has happened in Jersey last week,’ said Mr Keirle. The Island’s Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, praised the ‘extraordinary actions of emergency services as first responders’. ‘It must be some comfort when such dreadful incidents happen, they are always there for us,’ he added. Vice-Admiral Kyd said Jersey had ‘rallied across the community’. Addressing those who had received the ‘worst possible news’ over the last few days, Vice-Admiral Kyd said: ‘I want to say to you now – we are here for you. We will stand by you in the difficult days ahead.’

Outside experts to examine cause of Pier Road tragedy

An investigation into the cause of Saturday’s fatal explosion in Pier Road will be carried out by independent experts for ‘transparency’ reasons. Chief fire officer Paul Brown told a press conference yesterday afternoon that outside experts were also being called in due to the local service’s small size. He said: ‘The most important reason is independence and transparency. The States of Jersey Fire and Rescue Service attended the scene on Friday evening; that has been part of the conversation so far. ‘I think it is important – because my priority is on those who have been lost and people left behind – that everyone is absolutely assured about the openness and transparency and the relentless drive for the truth through facts, and that is why I am determined that we will have an independent view of the cause of the explosion.’

He added: ‘Secondly, it is more practical. This is a large, complex event. It would be large for anyone but for a small service like the States of Jersey Fire and Rescue Service, you can imagine all of our resources have been drawn into the response.‘So, there is a resourcing issue there as well. We need to reach out in further phases as we have done to partners in the first phase.’

Concerning the Friday call-out, Mr Brown said: ‘There are two statements of fact: one, the States of Jersey Fire and Rescue Service were called and attended the scene at 8.36pm; the other is that the Service handed over to Island Energy at 9.01pm.’ He added that the most appropriate way to convey more information about what happened on Friday evening would be through the investigative process. ‘Island Energy yesterday indicated that the type of explosion often indicates gas, but we do not know that, and I don’t know that either. The Chief Fire Officer said that the investigation, which the service would fully contribute to, would be ‘complex and long’.

Bank of England raises rates by half a point to curb inflation

The Bank of England raised interest rates by half a percentage point on Thursday, moderating the pace of increases while Britain braces for a prolonged recession with inflation eating away at household budgets. The action pushes the benchmark rate to its highest since 2008, but the central bank moderated the pace of increases as Britain braces for a prolonged recession. The central bank predicted that the British economy is already in a recession and that inflation had peaked.  The Consumer prices index rose by 10.7% in November from a year earlier, data published on Wednesday showed. That was down slightly from 11.1 percent in October, the highest annual rate since 1981. Even as Britain faces a challenging economic outlook, most of the bank’s nine-person rate-setting committee said that they expected more increases in interest rates will be needed to bring inflation back to the bank’s 2 percent target.

The Bank of England started raising rates a year ago and over the course of nine consecutive policy meetings the bank has lifted rates from 0.1 percent to 3.5 percent. “There were considerable uncertainties” around the economic outlook, according to the minutes of the bank’s meeting. “If the outlook suggested more persistent inflationary pressures” the committee that sets interest rates would “respond forcefully.” Higher energy prices, especially since Russia’s war in Ukraine began earlier this year, have been heavily responsibly for the sharp increase in inflation in Britain. But the central bank has grown more concerned at the extent to which high prices have seeped into the British economy, with service businesses setting higher prices and wages rising quickly.

The bank said that the labour market remained tight and inflationary pressures in the British economy could make large price increases more persistent, as it continued to raise interest rates despite the grim economic outlook. In particular, service price inflation and wage growth in the private sector have been rising faster than the central bank expected. Before adjusting for inflation, private-sector pay rose at an annual rate of 6.9 percent in the three months to October, data published on Tuesday showed.

“Inflation may be coming down but it would be premature” for the Bank of England “to claim victory in the fight over inflation,” Karen Ward, a strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, wrote in a note. She added that she expects the bank to raise rates by at least another percentage point before stopping, arguing that the bank “needs to be extremely vigilant that a new high-inflation mentality does not take hold.”

The bank’s decision came a day after The Federal reserve raised interest rates by 0.5% on Wednesday but the Fed chair, Jerome Powell, said that rates would climb higher than previously expected next year as inflation proves difficult to temper. Yesterday the European Central Bank followed both the Fed and Bank of England in moderating its pace of rate increases to half a point, from three-quarters of a point.

Jersey government’s chief executive: We mustn’t waste money

Jersey’s public services need to become ‘less bureaucratic’ and ‘more outward-facing’ while achieving value for money for Islanders, according to the government’s chief executive. In the latest Leadership Jersey supplement, printed in today’s JEP, Suzanne Wylie said that her role was to ensure ministerial plans were enacted and that government departments worked ‘tirelessly to make sure that money is not wasted’. She said: ‘The government has now launched its Government Plan, the Common Strategic Policy and the individual ministerial plans for each department. ‘My job is to ensure that the public service is set up to deliver the desired outcomes, and that requires effective resource planning, leadership, an effective performance management system and a positive culture where public servants can give their best.’

Ms Wylie, who took up her role in February, revealed that a ‘delivery unit’ had been set up within her department to tackle the ‘staff shortages and recruitment issues, digitise how government works and roll out a government-wide core improvement programme to create a public service which is more responsive, flexible, collaborative and capable of meeting these high expectations’. ‘I want to lead the public service in becoming more innovative, less bureaucratic, more outward-facing and willing and able to work in partnership. ‘Importantly, the public service should also be one which can take measured risks and will not settle for second best as it strives to provide great services for Jersey which do not cost the earth. This is a realistic goal for Jersey’s public service,’ she added.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Kristina Moore said she hoped to spend time speaking to Islanders, charities and businesses in order to meet their needs. ‘It was clear at the election that government must rebuild trust with the community we represent and serve.‘As Chief Minister, I will continue to be open, transparent and communicate regularly and clearly with Islanders. It is important for leaders to listen, and I hope to spend as much time in the community as possible,’ she said.

Chief Minister defends Wealthy Immigrant vetting process

The current panel of politicians responsible for vetting high-value residency applications are “rather more assiduous” than their predecessors, the Chief Minister has claimed after the former Housing Minister shared strong concerns over how the process had operated previously. Deputy Kristina Moore’s defence came in response to allegations made by Deputy Sam Mézec, as he argued that the ‘2(1)E’ scheme should be suspended while the Government reviews the scheme. His proposal, an amendment to the Government Plan – was this week voted down by 33 votes to 15.

While serving on the Housing and Advisory Group (HAWAG) for two years during the term of the last Government, Deputy Mézec said he had encountered applications presented without police checks, and that Google searches of some applicants had unearthed reputational concerns relating to their spouses. The Reform Jersey leader also alleged that he had encountered attempts to use the high-value residency scheme as a way of avoiding the usual employment licensing process. Responding, Deputy Moore assured the Assembly that the current HAWAG did not shy away from asking questions of applicants – something she said had “led to disgruntlement from some quarters”.

She emphasised that her Government had made a “clear commitment” to bring forward new rules in 2023, but said that she didn’t agree the scheme should be suspended in the interim over concerns that it would not be fair to the approximately seven people whose applications are currently pending. Speaking against the motion, External Relations and Finance Minister Deputy Philip Ozouf claimed that among the current applicants were individuals ready to open “green funds” and other “innovative” financial products, which could potentially generate “hundreds of millions of pounds” for the island. Economic Development Minister Deputy Kirsten Morel spoke of 2(1)Es’ contribution to arts and culture, while Assistant Minister for Sport, Deputy Lucy Stephenson, relayed concerns from the sports community about any potential scheme suspension owing to the “large financial contributions” they said were made by wealthy immigrants.

Deputy Rob Ward said he was concerned that a more “sustainable” funding solution couldn’t be found for sport, as he argued that suspending the scheme would be the “prudent” thing to do before Ministers decide on a new and improved version. In a short speech, Deputy Moz Scott said she did not think “now is the time to kick away one of the legs of Jersey’s economy.

Jersey’s Henry Cavill dropped as Superman

Jersey-born actor Henry Cavill has been dropped as Superman – just weeks after being told he would be reprising his role as the superhero. The star said the reversed decision ‘isn’t the easiest’ but that he respected the decision of newly instated DC bosses James Gunn and Peter Safran. It comes as Gunn announced that a new Superman film was in the works, more details of which are due to be announced in 2023.

Mr Cavill played the legendary role in the 2013 Man Of Steel film and again in 2016 for Batman Vs Superman, alongside Ben Affleck. His return to the character was revealed less than two months ago in a post-credits scene of Dwayne Johnson’s anti-hero film Black Adam, with Mr Cavill posting a video on Instagram confirming the news. But writing on Instagram yesterday, he said: ‘I have just had a meeting with James Gunn and Peter Safran and it’s sad news, everyone. I will, after all, not be returning as Superman. ‘After being told by the studio to announce my return back in October, prior to their hire, this news isn’t the easiest, but that’s life.’ He continued: ‘The changing of the guard is something that happens. I respect that.

‘James and Peter have a universe to build. I wish them and all involved with the new universe the best of luck, and the happiest of fortunes.’ Addressing his fans, he added: ‘For those who have been by my side through the years we can mourn for a bit, but then we must remember…. Superman is still around. ‘Everything he stands for still exists, and the examples he sets for us are still there! My turn to wear the cape has passed, but what Superman stands for never will. ‘It’s been a fun ride with you all, onwards and upwards.’

Ex-farmer who has ‘never left the Island’ celebrates her 100th birthday

One of the first Island recipients of a birthday card signed by King Charles III has celebrated her 100th birthday. Doreen Coutanche turned 100 on Saturday and was joined by family and friends to mark the occasion. She was also presented with the King’s card by the Lieutenant-Governor, Vice-Admiral Jerry Kyd, at Silver Springs care home, where she lives. Mrs Coutanche, who married during the Occupation, can claim to be one of those rare Jersey folk who have never left the Island and she does not possess a passport. She has also never drunk alcohol, smoked or held a driving licence – which may be some of the reasons for her longevity.

Born to Arthur and Ada Prouten, Mrs Coutanche grew up on the family farm, Mosgill, in St Ouen. ‘Life on the farm was good. My mother had sewing lessons, so we were always well clothed,’ said Mrs Coutanche. ‘I remember my father going out with a gun in his hand and coming back with a rabbit or two and the stews were often smelt cooking in the kitchen.’ She also has fond memories of her time at Les Landes School, where she remembers enjoying cooking and being in the netball team. When she was married, she enjoyed making Victoria sponges, which were, according to a friend, the best in the Island. When Mrs Coutanche was 20, her parents welcomed a surprising new addition to the family in June 1943. ‘My mother had been convinced she had an ulcer, but the doctor put her straight. She was having a baby – there were 20 years between me and my sister,’ she said.

Market Update

European markets are mixed. The DAX is higher by 0.04%, while the CAC 40 is leading the FTSE 100 lower. They are down 0.27% and 0.19% respectively.

Yesterday, the S&P 500 slid 2.5%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed more than 750 points, or 2.3%, logging its worst day in three months. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.2%.

Asian markets finished mixed as of the most recent closing prices. The Hang Seng gained 0.51%, while the Nikkei 225 led the Shanghai Composite lower. They fell 1.87% and 0.02% respectively.