States back multi-million-pound youth facility in town

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The States unanimously passed the Common Strategic Policy yesterday – the core priorities which will underpin government policy for the current term of office – once the amendments had all been debated.

And Deputy Rob Ward successfully persuaded Members to include within those provisions a commitment to building ‘purpose-built youth facilities’ near the Town Park after arguing the area had suffered from years of over-development and under-investment.

He estimated that the cost of the facility would be in the region of £3m to £5m.

Deputy Ward said: ‘As children grow up and housing development increases, there will be an even greater need for facilities.

‘This provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate that this Assembly is serious about its long-term aims and is willing to commit to making real, tangible decisions.’

A proposition from the Council of Ministers asking for time to ‘actively explore’ the building of such facilities rather than make the full commitment was withdrawn following debate within the Chamber.

Education Minister Tracey Vallois had initially said that Deputy Ward’s proposals were ‘too prescriptive’ and that ministers needed to be able to research where the building should go and how it should be built.

However, after she withdrew the ministerial amendment, Deputy Ward’s proposition was accepted unanimously and will come into force after Members agreed to the CSP as a whole. Chief Minister John Le Fondré, in opening the debate, said the core strategic policies would run through government policy throughout the next four years and be at the forefront of decision-making.

‘The Council of Ministers is setting out its vision for this term of government and the areas of focus that will make Jersey an attractive place to live, work and do business,’ he said.

‘This is not simply a wish list. It provides measures on which we will be held to account. We have worked successfully across the political spectrum to provide a cohesive vision.’

An earlier amendment from Deputy Ward calling for schools to be given 15 per cent ‘headroom’ (the funds a school has left after staff and premises costs) was successfully changed by the Council of Ministers to ensure schools have a ‘good’ amount of funding for their day-to-day teaching requirements.

Three amendments from Deputy Scott Wickenden including a renewed focus on areas of the digital sector, to ensure ministers and the Assembly properly engage the public on policy and to improve voter turnout and the electoral system were all agreed.

Further changes to the wording of certain paragraphs – including to ‘nurture a diverse and inclusive society’ were included within the CSP.

The CSP – formally known as the Strategic Plan – lays out five ambitions which will underpin government policy.

They are to:

  • Put children first
  • Improve Islanders’ wellbeing and mental and physical health
  • Create a sustainable, vibrant economy and skilled local workforce for the future
  • Reduce income inequality and improve the standard of living
  • Protect and value the environment
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