European markets are sharply lower today with shares in London off the most. The FTSE 100 is down 2.00% while Germany’s DAX is off 1.57% and France’s CAC 40 is lower by 1.45%.
Stocks fell yesterday as banks and other financial stocks sold off, and investors prepared for a crucial payroll report today that might determine the course of interest rates. The S&P 500 slid 1.85% to end at 3,918.32, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dove 543.54 points, or 1.66%, to settle at 32,254.86. The Nasdaq Composite shed 2.05% to finish at 11,338.35.
Asian markets finished sharply lower today with shares in Hong Kong leading the region. The Hang Seng is down 3.04% while Japan’s Nikkei 225 is off 1.67% and China’s Shanghai Composite is lower by 1.40%.
Taxpayers given more time for voluntary National Insurance contributions
Thousands of taxpayers (including islanders who have worked in the UK) have been given more time to fill gaps in their UK National Insurance record and help increase the amount they receive in State Pension. The government has extended the voluntary National Insurance deadline to 31 July 2023 to give taxpayers more time to fill gaps in their National Insurance record and help increase the amount they receive in State Pension. This comes after members of the public voiced concern over the previous deadline of 5 April 2023. The deadline extension was announced via a written ministerial statement on 7 March 2023 and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is urging taxpayers to ensure they do not miss out.
Anyone with gaps in their National Insurance record from April 2006 onwards now has more time to decide whether to fill the gaps to boost their new State Pension. Any payments made will be at the lower 2022 to 2023 tax year rates. As part of transitional arrangements to the new State Pension, taxpayers have been able to make voluntary contributions to any incomplete years in their National Insurance record between April 2006 and April 2016, to help increase the amount they receive when they retire. And after an increase in customer contact, the government has extended the deadline to ensure people have time to make their contributions.
Victoria Atkins, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: We’ve listened to concerned members of the public and have acted. We recognise how important State Pensions are for retired individuals, which is why we are giving people more time to fill any gaps in their National Insurance record to help bolster their entitlement. Thousands of taxpayers with incomplete years in their National Insurance record could be financially better off in their retirement if they make voluntary payments to top up any incomplete or missing years. Eligible taxpayers can find out how to check their National Insurance record, obtain a state pension forecast decide if making a voluntary national insurance contribution is worthwhile for them and their pension, and how to make a payment on GOV.UK.
Islanders can check their national Insurance Record via the HMRC app or their Personal Tax Account.
Condor buys new passenger and freight conventional ferry
Condor has acquired a new conventional passenger and freight ferry which is set to come into service in the autumn. The vessel, currently operating in New Zealand under the name MV Straitsman, is similar in size, speed and capability to the Commodore Clipper. It will be used on the company’s routes between Guernsey, Jersey, the UK and France. John Napton, Condor’s chief executive, said: ‘Condor has always maintained that its primary focus is to support the three strands of the Islands’ economies – lifeline freight, connectivity for Islanders and inbound tourism – which is clearly demonstrated through this additional vessel.‘We have been interested in purchasing another vessel for a while and would have already done so had it not been for the challenges caused by Covid and the limited availability of these size of vessels.
‘This is a fundamentally important step in showing our commitment to the Islands and demonstrates we have listened to the needs of our clients and key stakeholders.’ Straitsman was built in 2005 at the Dutch shipyard, Merwede BV, and has operated under different names in both Europe and New Zealand.The ferry will be renamed and undertake berthing trials in Guernsey and Jersey later this year before entering regular service. Mr Napton added: ‘The new ship is similar to Clipper in size, speed and capability so we plan to use her on the important freight supply route from Portsmouth, offering an overnight service in both directions and creating an overall more weather resilient service. ‘She will also enable the larger fleet to assist with inter-Island frequency and continue to develop freight services from France, which are showing real growth and potential. ‘There is considerable amount of work to be done before she enters service but this is very positive news for the Islands.’
Tourism boost for Jersey as French visitors are allowed day trips with ID cards
Jersey’s tourism industry has received a major boost after a deal was struck to allow French nationals to visit the Island on day trips using only a national identity card. The number of French visitors plummeted following Brexit, after which anyone entering the Island from France was required to show a passport. Previously visitors could enter the Island after producing a carte d’identité. Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles said that the change would be implemented for a pilot period, which would be likely to start at the end of April subject to ferry operators’ schedules. The breakthrough follows lengthy conversations between the Home Affairs Department and UK government officials. External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf last year said that the number of visitors from France, where only about 50% of the population have a passport, had dropped off a ‘cliff edge’ and confirmed that discussions were taking place between Jersey and France about how this could be addressed.
Deputy Miles said: ‘As a result of Brexit, we were unable to accept passengers into Jersey unless they had a passport. That was having a very negative effect on, not only our economy, but also our cultural and heritage links with the French. ‘So, for example, some of our twinning associations were considering having to fold because a lot of the members of the twinning associations from the French side couldn’t travel over for the day.’ She added: ‘What we have done and what we have agreed now, subject to working through quite a lot of issues, is that French nationals only – who do not have a passport – will be able to travel to Jersey on commercial shipping only, so that is Manche Iles Express and Condor.’
Deputy Miles said she hoped the move would help maintain cultural links between Jersey and France, while also addressing the significant decline in tourists from the region. However, she explained that this would be restricted to those visiting for the day – who must have a day return ticket. ‘We’re not allowing anything longer than that and they will have permission to land in Jersey and Jersey only, so that doesn’t give them permission to move on to the UK. The security around this will be tightly controlled, so they will be arriving to a fully staffed Customs and Immigration control where every single piece of identity will be checked through the usual systems,’ she continued. ‘The difference is, if you have a passport, you can swipe it through electronically. If you have a carte d’identité, it will be done manually by Immigration.’ She added that if there was ‘any doubt whatsoever’ about whether someone was a genuine visitor, they would be refused entry.
Electric-vehicle subsidy scheme for Jersey to be unveiled within ‘months’
A Government subsidy scheme to incentivise the purchase of electric vehicles is under development and will play a key role in delivering on the Island’s carbon-neutral commitments, the Environment Minister has said. Deputy Jonathan Renouf admitted that the take-up of eco-friendly vehicles fell well below that of countries where subsidies had been offered to those wanting to trade in high-polluting cars. He said that Jersey was ‘lagging significantly behind in the actual take-up of EVs, because we haven’t had a subsidy structure in place – whereas other jurisdictions have’. However, he explained that the government was committed to providing financial support to those wishing to reduce their emissions and added that the Island was ‘not in a bad place’ when it came to the number of charging points available.
There were 1,789 EVs registered in Jersey at the end of last year, compared to 1,365 at the end of 2021. In 2019, the States Assembly declared a climate emergency, with plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 established following a proposition lodged by Deputy Rob Ward. However, criticism has been levelled at the government’s Carbon Neutral Roadmap, which pushed the 2030 deadline back to 2050. The roadmap includes provision for a ban on the sale, registration and importation of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. Deputy Renouf said that the replacement of petrol and diesel vehicles by electric motors remained a key component of the Carbon Neutral Roadmap. He said: ‘That [a subsidy scheme] is currently being worked on with a view to being announced in the next few months. The actual targeting of it – the level at which it is applied, the types of vehicles that qualify and the threshold value of those cars – those components have to be defined before the policy can go live.’
Last week, the States Assembly unanimously agreed to establish a five-member Climate Council, which will assess whether the government is on course to meet its carbon-cutting targets. Assistant Environment Minister Hilary Jeune, who holds political responsibility for climate change and energy, stressed that increasing the use of electric vehicles was only one element of reducing emissions from transport. She added: ‘We are also working to strengthen public transport options, and encouraging walking and cycling.’ And she refused to rule out the introduction of a congestion charge – although this would not come into force during the first phase of the Carbon Neutral Roadmap. The introduction of a congestion or ‘ultra-low emission zone’ – such as those in cities including London and Sheffield – is currently not a policy included in the roadmap, which states that the transport sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Jersey. Deputy Jeune said the prospect of a congestion charge was a policy the government ‘could potentially look into in future’ and added that it could ‘be part of a revenue-raising, longer-term financing strategy’.
Heavy rainfall warning issued for Jersey as flood-risk action taken
A heavy rain warning has been issued – with government staff clearing drains around Grands Vaux and other flood-risk zones around the Island. Around 35mm of rainfall is expected on Tuesday evening and overnight – around half the amount which usually falls during the whole of March. Earlier this year, Grands Vaux was hit be severe flooding, with dozens of households evacuated and some still unable to return home. Large areas around Grands Vaux were left under several feet of water as half a month’s rainfall fell in the space of a few hours. Shortly after the incident, Jersey Met said it was considering issuing ‘rainfall event warnings’ in future to enable Islanders to prepare for severe weather.
Following a much drier than average February, the Island reservoirs are holding less water than normal for this time of year with overall storage currently at 95%. Typically, they would be full at this time of year and Jersey Water is continuing to monitor reservoir levels. The government is warning that the next seven days are expected to see significant amounts of rain, with the heaviest rainfall forecast tonight. Group director of Natural Environment, Willie Peggie, said: ‘The current weather forecast is for significant rain tonight into tomorrow in Jersey, possibly up to 35mm, which has the potential to create standing water on the roads and in low-lying areas. ‘We’re monitoring the situation and working with our partners, including Jersey Water and the parishes to be as prepared as possible for heavy rainfall.’
The government has confirmed that drainage teams from the Infrastructure, Housing and Environment Department have been out over the last few days checking the gullies and clearing the drains in the Grand Vaux area and other low-lying hotspots around the Island. Islanders are being advised to look out for updated weather forecasts and follow any flood defence advice provided.
Daughter of Jersey pig farmer Jon Hackett to run half-marathon after he suffers a stroke
The daughter of a well-known pig farmer is running her first half marathon later this month to raise funds for Jersey Stroke Support. Kate Hackett – whose father Jon suffered a stroke on 11 November – has increased her fundraising target from £500 to £7,500 following an overwhelming response to her efforts. She chose the new target in recognition of her father’s 75th birthday, which is this Monday. By yesterday, she had raised just over £6,500. Mr Hackett’s pigs, poultry and shop along Route des Genêts are a familiar feature of the St Brelade landscape, and his sausages, pies, burgers and chops are a firm favourite of many Islanders.
Miss Hackett, along with her mother Jenny, brother Jono and daughter Ella, is running the family ‘Me and the Farmer’ business at Brooklands Farm. She said that after some difficult days immediately after the stroke, her father was now in a much better place and was focused on his recovery. ‘There has been a massive turnaround in the last few weeks,’ she said. ‘He has got a lot of movement back in his right leg. There’s nothing yet in the right arm but he is in much better spirits. ‘He’s had a couple of urinary infections which have set him back but every time he has bounced back. ‘His speech is coming along as well. It is all going in the right direction. ‘We have a whiteboard next to his bed at Samarès Ward counting down the days to the run and he is really getting behind it.’ She added: ‘Jersey Stroke Support is an amazing charity and I’m delighted to be supporting it.’
Miss Hackett’s fundraising page is at: justgiving.com/page/kate-hackett-1672833157795
Islanders scoop world record after ice-cream Marathon run
Two Islanders have got the sweet taste of victory after claiming an unusual world record. Alan Falle, head of sixth form at Victoria College, and Scott Welsh, a personal trainer at Funktion, first explored their shared love of ice cream when they started the Coneheadsje challenge, which saw the duo travel around the Island to find Jersey’s best soft scoop. But in October, they took their love of the sweet stuff a step further by completing the Jersey Marathon dressed as ice-cream cones. And this week, Guinness has confirmed that their time of three hours, 48 minutes and 12 seconds is a new world record for completing a marathon dressed as a sweet food. The marathon formed part of Mr Falle’s challenge to run 2022 miles in 2022 in an effort to raise hundreds and thousands for the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation, a charity which provides financial and emotional support for Jersey families when a child requires medical treatment in the UK.
In Mr Falle’s 2022 running challenge, Mr Welsh was instrumental in helping out with training and rehabilitation when the teacher ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament. As he neared the end of his challenge, Mr Falle decided to invite Mr Welsh to join him in running one of the last marathons, dressed as their mutual favourite snack, and secretly applied to Guinness World Records. Mr Falle said: ‘I felt that it would be nice to involve Scott in what was almost the final component of my year-long challenge. He had played a huge role in getting me into a position, physically, to be able to take something like that on. ‘It’s quite an achievement to have done it wrapped up in that outfit. Someone else was trying out for the record on the same day, but he was a bit slower than us. He was dressed as a Mr Whippy.’ The record for the fastest marathon dressed as a sweet food (female) is currently held by Anna Bassil who ran the London Marathon in four hours, 12 minutes and 18 seconds in 2021. She was dressed as a 3D cupcake. By the end of his challenge, Mr Falle had raised £12,500 for the Grace Crocker Family Support Foundation. He added: We will tell people that we are the fastest men on earth, but what we won’t tell them is that it’s for running a marathon while dressed up as an ice cream. ‘But obviously it means a lot to me as a bit of a personal climax to the whole event.’