Client Weekly Update – 3 March

Market update

European markets are broadly higher today with shares in Germany leading the region. The DAX is up 1.03% while France’s CAC 40 is up 0.80% and London’s FTSE 100 is up 0.18%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average popped 341.73 points, or 1.05%, to close at 33,003.57. Salesforce boosted the Dow, rallying 11.5% on a strong quarter and forward guidance. The S&P 500 gained 0.76% to close at 3,981.35. The Nasdaq Composite climbed 0.73%, ending the session at 11,462.98.

Asian markets finished broadly higher today with shares in Japan leading the region. The Nikkei 225 is up 1.56% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng is up 0.78% and China’s Shanghai Composite is up 0.54%.

Jersey construction firm’s collapse leaves few options for large builds

The collapse of one of the Island’s largest building contractors leaves Jersey with only a small number of local contractors with the resources to build large offices, housing developments and infrastructure projects.

Camerons, which stopped trading earlier this week, had been a significant contractor for decades. Founded as Peter Cameron Ltd in 1954, the company was bought by the Guernsey-based Garenne Group in 1993.

The firm has built or refurbished a number of well-known landmarks, including the Co-op and Premier Inn building at Charing Cross, the Albert Pier apartments, Ogier’s headquarters on the Esplanade and IFC4 in the International Finance Centre.

Its sudden loss – along with more than 50 jobs – has been described as a ‘bitter blow’ for the local construction industry.

Camerons was the main contractor on two significant projects: Merchants Square in Bath Street and Cyril Le Marquand Court, an Andium Homes development between Phillips Street and Ann Street.

The Bath Street development, owned by Le Masurier, includes 149 apartments, a restaurant and a 122-bed Premier Inn hotel, while the Andium Homes scheme is for 165 apartments and four shops.

Both sites were closed yesterday, with workers – including sub-contractors – turning up as normal but unable to work as news broke that Camerons had ceased trading.

However, the Cyril Le Marquand Court site will be up and running today, with Andium quickly finding a replacement contractor in ROK.

Meanwhile, Le Masurier will have a newly appointed construction manager on site today, liaising with sub-contractors and planning a return to work.

Andium Homes chief executive Ian Gallichan said: “While this is disappointing, we are confident that the impact to our clients and the project will be minimal and managed effectively. We are working closely with our new contractor to ensure the successful transfer and secure the continuity of this important project.”

We understand the concerns of Camerons’ former employees and sub-contractors on site and will be assisting ROK to ensure continuity of employment, for those who want it.

Le Masurier said it was in early dialogue with a number of former Camerons staff ‘and may well offer roles going forward’.

In a statement, the company’s managing director, Brian McCarthy, said:

“I would like to reassure purchasers, homeowners and sub-contractors that alternative arrangements are already in place, and construction will continue as planned with Le Masurier effectively stepping in directly to complete the development.”

“We are fully committed to see the development on Bath Street through to completion and have adequate funding and resourcing in place to achieve this.”

He added that there may be further delays with the project, which would be assessed in the coming days, with any such delay ‘clearly communicated’ to purchasers.

Work starts on £3 million Jersey Airport improvements

Passengers could soon be able to pass through Jersey Airport without taking liquids or laptops out of their hand luggage – as part of a £3 million project to improve customer facilities and upgrade security technology.

Ports of Jersey is this week starting work on the project, which will see new baggage screening equipment installed and several changes made to the airport’s layout.

The car hire desks will be moved back to the arrivals terminal, where the café and play area used to be before the pandemic.

Self-service bag drop facilities will be introduced in departures and the information desk – as well as Jersey Post and forex services – will be moved next to the café in the check-in area.

Work will then begin to install new cabin baggage screening equipment, which will eventually allow liquids and laptops to be scanned while remaining in passengers’ hand luggage.

The existing rules for liquids and electronics will remain in place until the new equipment has been tested and all security staff have been trained to use it.

However, this process has already begun and Ports hope it will be complete before the equipment becomes mandatory in June 2024.

Passenger services manager Maria Le Tiec said: “We are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to improve the passenger experience, hence our significant investment in these improvements.”

“Passengers need to be aware that services in departures and arrivals will be moving in the coming months and the area will look a little different as these changes are made. This work will ultimately improve our passengers’ experience and facilitate work on the new security equipment.”

Probe into 95 homes in Airbnb crackdown

Nearly 100 properties are to be investigated in a crackdown on Islanders using their homes as short-term holiday lets without permission.

Environment Minister Jonathan Renouf said officers would be assessing the planning status of 95 properties identified through websites such as Airbnb, which allows people to offer short-term lodgings or home stays for a fee.

He also revealed that supplementary planning guidance was being prepared, to advise those considering using their property for a short-term holiday let as to whether they needed to make an application covering the change of use.

In November, Deputy Renouf and Housing Minister David Warr announced that officers would be ‘cracking down’ on those renting illegally.

Under the Planning and Building Law, the use of a property for short-term holiday letting is defined as ‘development’, and requires planning permission.

Referencing a recent application in the east of the Island, Deputy Renouf said he was ‘encouraged’ to see an example of a person seeking the necessary permission to list properties on self-catering accommodation sites like Airbnb.

“It suggests people are now realising that – if they want to go down this route – it is not just a case of putting a sign on the door, creating a website listing and saying they are open for business. It suggests people are getting the message that this is a regulated activity,” he said.

“The housing officers sent through a list of properties that they wanted us to proactively investigate. In the first instance it means looking to see whether any planning permission exists, because all the [information] we have from the website is that it’s being listed.”

He added: “What I do know is that we have a significant backlog of compliance cases within the planning system, so it won’t necessarily be that the moment we get an address that we go racing out to see it. There is a workflow that has to be respected to some extent, but that is part of the workflow now and has been added to the list.”

Deputy Renouf explained that the supplementary planning guidance would go out for consultation ‘in the next few weeks’ and would consider how short-term holiday lets were defined.

“Is there a difference, we can say, between a room in a house as opposed to a whole house? What special circumstances might arise, for example, if someone is away receiving medical attention in the UK for a significant period – or a student is away – does that create opportunities for a slightly easier route to achieve permission?”

Renters twice as likely to be in bad health

Islanders living in rented accommodation are twice as likely to report being in poor health than those who own their own home – with a former Housing Minister saying this demonstrates the need for a licensing scheme.

Deputy Sam Mézec – who served as Housing Minister from 2018 to 2020 – said the situation outlined in a new Statistics Jersey report showed that there was something wrong with the rental sector, which he described as ‘a total mess’.

The new report, which forms part of the government’s Covid Recovery Insights Project, found that those in social rental accommodation were around three times more likely to report poor health than those in owner-occupied accommodation, while for qualified or non-qualified rental it was double.

A recent public-health report highlighted that Jersey was becoming less equal over time in terms of net income after housing costs, that inequalities ‘may be widening’ and that this was ‘likely to be having an impact on health and wellbeing’.

Overcrowding was highest for households living in non-qualified accommodation (14.6%), according to the 2021 census.

This compares to 5% for qualified rental, while across all households it was 4%.

Ministers have pledged to take action to improve the worsening rental situation in the Island after several unsuccessful attempts were made by the previous administration, with Minister Jonathan Renouf set to bring forward proposals for a licensing scheme in April ahead of a States Assembly debate in June.

Deputy Mézec said that if the new scheme was adopted, he expected it to make a significant difference. “This would go a huge way to addressing the problem and will have my whole-hearted support,” he said.

“I regret that it has taken so long, and don’t believe we needed this data as we’ve known there was a problem for a long time, but if it helps get it over the line, then that would be good.”

The previous government’s failure to tackle the issue had been a significant part in its downfall, the Reform Jersey leader added, with several leading players, including Chief Minister John Le Fondré, voted out of the Assembly at last June’s general election.

Deputy Mézec said: “If the new government wants to differentiate themselves then this issue is one they need to get to grips with.”

Housing Minister David Warr said: “I have been working with the Environment Minister on legislation in this area – things need to change and we are very keen to get this over the line.”

The report also showed that: For individuals above middle age, those with ‘Portuguese or Madeiran’ ethnicity were the most likely to report poor health compared to other ethnic backgrounds.

Those who took themselves to work – whether by car, bicycle, motorbike or on foot – were more likely to report poor health than those who were passengers in cars, buses or taxis, especially if they had manual jobs or worked in the service sector.

Figures from the 2021 census showed that around one in 20 Islanders reported having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ health.

Government has 671 vacancies

Every government department except one has vacancies, it has emerged – despite headcount having increased by 1,000 in the past five years.

The government currently has 671 vacancies, according to newly released figures, with Health and Community Services having the highest number, 267.

Chief Minister Kristina Moore said that not all roles were being actively recruited for and that in some cases, the government might have made a decision to ‘delay or defer going to market’.

The figures were released yesterday by Deputy Moore, in her capacity as chair of the States Employment Board, following a question from Deputy Max Andrews. Infrastructure, Housing and Environment has 147 vacancies, followed by Children, Young People, Education and Skills with 126.

Justice and Home Affairs has 40 unfilled roles, the Treasury has 35, while the Cabinet Office and non-executive departments have 24 each. The Department for the Economy has just seven, while External Relations has one.

Customer and Local Services is the only department not reported to be understaffed. It recently emerged that the government’s headcount had swelled by more than 1,000 people in the past five years.

At the end of 2018, the States staff headcount stood at 7,012, with 166 people classed in the top-earning bracket (£100,000-plus). But the end-of-year figures for 2022 show that the public sector ballooned to 8,127, with 209 in the £100,000-plus bracket.

And each of the top three earning brackets – £60,000 to £79,999, £80,000 to £99,999 and £100,000-plus – increased from the previous years.

Between the end of 2021 and the end of 2022, the data showed that the full-time equivalent headcount – which factors in part-time staff – had increased by more than 300 employees. Spending on consultants and external labour stood at around £100m in the first half of 2022.

Plans passed for demolition of old buildings at Overdale

Permission has been given to demolish derelict buildings at Overdale, potentially paving the way for new health facilities to be built there.

The government announced yesterday that it had received a planning permit for demolition work to take place at the site, and that feasibility studies for its proposed multi-site solution – which would include input from clinicians – were under way.

The previous government’s £800 million single-site ‘Our Hospital’ project at Overdale was scrapped following a review led by current Infrastructure Minister Tom Binet, which concluded that it was ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unaffordable’.

But ministers have not ruled out building some health infrastructure at Overdale as part of its multi-site approach.

The government said having planning permission before making any decisions about what to do would enable construction work to start as quickly as possible.

However, that permission has been accompanied by a set of obligations, including requiring the Infrastructure and Health ministers to: Find a new home for the Jersey Bowling Club, Contribute to the West Park Surface Water Separation Scheme, Take steps to ensure highways access, bus infrastructure, parking and a travel plan.

Deputy Binet said:

“The signature of the Planning Obligation Agreement and the release of planning permission means we can carry out demolition works on derelict buildings at Overdale, and we create the opportunity to move as quickly as possible once we have agreed the appropriate way forward with Health colleagues and concluded feasibility studies.”

He added: “I believe we can proceed with schemes for healthcare services that are appropriate and affordable, are more sympathetic to the surrounding areas and that deliver the appropriate supporting infrastructure.”

“This signifies our absolute commitment to moving forward with development at Overdale, as part of our plans for cost-effective and high-quality healthcare facilities.”

Jersey teenager shows disability is no barrier to passing his driving test

A Jersey teenager has refused to let his physical disabilities hold him back and has passed his driving test.

Adam Dalton (17), who was born with a rare condition called congenital limb deficiency – which means his arms and one of his legs did not fully form – gained his licence last weekend.

His motto is ‘no hands, no limits’ and he has already achieved success on the golf course, where he regularly hits drives of more than 200 yards and wins competitions.

“It feels absolutely amazing,” he said. “I can’t believe the day has come when I passed – it all seems so unreal.”

Mr Dalton’s quest for a driving licence began nearly three years ago when he was 15.

His mother, Juliette, contacted DriveAbility Jersey, an independent charity founded by Pam Evans to help those with physical disabilities, older people, or neurodiverse individuals to drive and maintain an independent lifestyle.

The initial step was an assessment by specialists in the UK, who advised that Mr Dalton needed a left-foot gas pedal and an extension on the indicator stalk.

They also recommended a specific Mercedes car which has a voice-activation feature and required fewer expensive adaptations.

Mr Dalton said: “If anyone is unsure about driving, whether it’s because of anxiety or disability, just give it a go. With the right professional guidance and support you may shock yourself.”

After passing his theory test, Mr Dalton got behind the wheel of DriveAbility’s dual-control car. “He was a natural,” said Fiona Herivel, the driving adviser at DriveAbility who taught Mr Dalton.

“He’s been driving golf buggies for years, so he just wanted to get going. He had 12 hours of tuition and practised with his mum nearly every day. It wasn’t long before we said, ‘let’s get you a test booked’.”

Mr Dalton said: “DriveAbility have been such great support. They’ve been with us on the journey right the way through and it would have been a bigger and longer journey without them.”

But the journey has not been without its roadblocks, including the £40,000 in funds that he needed to raise so that he could purchase, adapt, and maintain the car that was suited to his needs.

Unlike the UK, there is currently no government support in Jersey for drivers with disabilities, although in certain circumstances tax will be taken off when importing a specially adapted car from the UK.

Mr Dalton’s family and friends helped him to set up a JustGiving page, and there were golf events at Les Mielles to boost his cause.

In August 2022, his friend and amateur golfer Scott Mills completed the 48-mile Island Walk with a bag of golf clubs on his back to raise money. “I was lucky to have the support of the wonderful people of Jersey”, Adam said.