Sark Newspaper 04 January 2019

4 At its Christmas meeting in January 2014 Sark’s ‘government’, Chief Pleas, voted through its poli- cy to ‘Secure Sark’s Future’ . Land reform was listed as priority number two. A meaningless ‘progress report’ on the implemen- tation of the policy to ‘Secure Sark’s Future’ - number 19 - was submitted to the Michaelmas meeting held in October 2018, but for the forth- coming Christmas meeting, set for 16th January 2019, this item is, for the first time in the five years since it first appeared, missing. This could mean several things. It could mean that the policy to ‘Secure Sark’s Future’ was al- ways a box-ticking exercise to pay lip service to Belinda Crowe, Colin Kniveton and the UK Min- istry of Justice anyway. It could mean that our unelected ‘chief minister’, Reginald Guille, is now in such a position of unadulterated power that he no longer feels he needs to adhere to what the civ- ilized world considers due process. Or it could mean that Sark’s government, still wholly une- lected until the new incumbents are sworn in, has gotten itself into such a tizz re-organising itself yet again that they just forgot to put this habitual item on the agenda. The upshot is, however, that land reform is off the agenda too. The land reform which was sup- posed to be priority number two of this unelected government after the introduction of good gov- ernance which was supposed to be delivered in parallel with the new development control law that we haven’t seen head nor tail of either. It is every bit as absent from the Sark government’s agenda as the essential problem of reversing the undeniable and disastrous decline in this Island’s economy. It is yet another example of how ‘chief minister’ Reginald Guille continues to lead Sark onto the rocks, whilst he and his fellow power-mongers scramble to protect their own vested interests and what they perceive to be their own personal realms, regardless of the negative consequences for the Island in general. Land reform was quite rightly identified as ur- gent back in January 2014; five years ago. What has been delivered so far is only pretend reforms. The antiquated ‘Retrait Lignager’ has been abol- ished as of last summer. It should have been abolished a century ago. The equally hopelessly outdated indivisibility of the tenements was abolished at the Easter meet- ing in April 2018. At the same time the law against raising a mortgage against Sark property - ‘real property’ - was lifted. No doubt the Land Reform Policy Development Committee, of which Reginald Guille himself is a member, considered its job done and dusted after that. As with every reform undertaken in Sark over the past decade, it paid lip service to the changes needed whilst carefully ensuring that in practice nothing would change at all. The problem with the so-called land reform they cooked up is that the vast majority of Sark’s housing stock consists of leasehold properties which are not considered ‘real property’ under the new law. The only ‘real property’ against which you can borrow money is the few freeholds, which are larger, expensive properties, way out- side the financial reach of the average young fam- ily. Supported by William Raymond and his old ally Nik van Leuven, Reginald Guille succeeded in delivering a land reform which changes absolute- ly nothing. It has done nothing to lift a property market in which values have dropped by 30% in the past decade. It has made no difference to the Island’s young families who still have no hope of aspiring to owning their own home with the help of a mortgage. Not in any way has it helped the Island’s numerous ‘asset rich but cash poor’ resi- dents to release equity to pay for everyday things like maintenance, medical bills and general living expenses. In addition, this pretend land reform will do nothing to promote Sark to the young as- piring people that we need to rebuild our econo- my and our population. The general public can only conclude that it’s been as thoroughly stitched up when it comes to land reform as it has with everything else that has been passed since the introduction of the deeply flawed Reform Law of 2008. As ever, vested in- terests and hidden agendas took precedence over common sense and the common good. There is hope yet. Finally the people of Sark have had their say in a properly contested election. New and democratically elected Conseillers will soon be making their mark. Hopefully land re- form will be back on the agenda and, this time, in a form which rectifies the terrible unfairness of the present situation. PUT LAND REFORM BACK ON THE AGENDA