21st June 2018
ABANDONED AND CONDEMNED TO ANOTHER YEAR OF ECONOMIC DECLINE
In 18 days a diverse group of people consisting of democratically elected politicians from the States of Guernsey, members of the Guernsey business community, representatives from the Guernsey Border Agency, managers and directors of the French ferry operator Manche Iles, unelected would-be politicians from Sark and members of Sark’s business community should have been joining our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, for what had been described as a working lunch at Guernsey’s Government House. All of these people were to have gathered together at the bequest of the Lt. Governor, Sir Ian Corder, to "discuss" one simple matter, that of allowing French tourists to travel directly from the west coast of France into Sark.
Quite what Sir Ian Corder, a no doubt well-intentioned but apparently somewhat naïve individual, had in mind in getting so many non-Sark residents around the table to "discuss" what should be a decision solely for the Island’s people is anybody’s guess. Not for the first time the old adage of "design a racehorse by committee and you’ll end up with a donkey" is resonating around the Island of Sark. Once the champagne had been sipped on the carefully manicured lawns of Government House and a hearty lunch had been enjoyed by all there was, after all, only one item on the agenda: the immediate opening up of direct shipping routes from the French ports of Dielette, Carteret and Granville into Sark.
The people of Sark had pencilled this critical date into their diaries, but have, this week, received a slap in the face with the news that the meeting is now not to take place. In what can only be described as the answer to any unelected bureaucrat’s prayer, an email has been sent out from Government House stating that some of the would-be attendees are unable to make it and the meeting has been postponed indefinitely.
The external interference into whether or not Sark, at last, follows the independent advice of the UK Ministry of Justice-sponsored Colin Kniveton and Belinda Crowe, that of removing every obstacle to cross border trade, is at best unwelcome. Nevertheless, the people of Sark desperately needs to bring tourists to the Island in sufficient numbers to develop a viable economy and, if in this instance, the decision had been taken out of their hands, then they would have, under protest, accepted it. Only one thing matters to people trying to earn a living in Sark, that of opening up our borders to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe and ending our unelected would-be politicians’ destructive policy of state-sponsored isolationism.
For the moment, how this is achieved makes little difference to the long-suffering people of Sark. It has been over five years since they’ve seen a ballot box so they are more than familiar with having decisions made on their behalf by individuals who have not faced the electorate, have not received a single vote and who do not have a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf. It is a simple statement of fact that they have been deprived of a voice in their own governance for the past decade and they are all too used to having their future determined by unelected bureaucrats, state officials and would-be politicians.
The factual data on the page opposite tells its own story. In recent years the international tourism market has changed beyond recognition and consequently the number of visitors choosing to come to Sark has stagnated at around half that seen during the Island’s tourism ‘heyday’ a couple of decades ago. Moreover, the visitors who now come are, in the main, low-spending day trippers and cruise ship excursionists who spend little time here and even less of their money.
This Island’s tourist offering includes six first class hotels, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, two campsites, three pubs and 18 cafés and restaurants as well as 30,000 sq. feet of commercial retail space. In addition there are carriage drivers, carters and other service providers. All these businesses - all these people - depend on the visitor economy for a living and have had to compete for the business of the 202 visitors who, on average, have been brought over from Guernsey each day since the beginning of the tourism season.
A further statement of fact is that Sark’s tourist industry, the Island’s principal economic driver, is dying on its feet because the volume of customers is insufficient for the various establishments to deliver a gross profit large enough to pay the bills and staff wages, let alone offer a return on any capital invested. Three of the Island’s hotels remain closed due to lack of trade, whilst those who do open have difficulties filling their beds and are having to tempt customers with special deals and discounts. Numerous smaller businesses have closed their doors for good. The Avenue, our main thoroughfare, is a sad sight, largely boarded up. Confidence is at an all-time low and no one dares invest time, money or effort to upgrade or diversify what Sark has to offer in order to attract trade because the footfall just isn’t there.
With the meeting at Government House on 10th July 2018 postponed indefinitely this leaves the working men and women of Sark facing another year of state-sponsored economic decline and hardship. Only one thing matters to them, the immediate opening of our borders and the subsequent arrival of continental tourists making the short trip directly from the west coast of France into Sark. Until this happens the economy will continue to decline and yet more Islanders will have to pack up and leave for good, victims of our unelected would-be politicians’ policy of economic ethnic cleansing, akin to that last seen in Western Europe in 1930s Germany.
14th June 2018
A DUTY OF CARE BUT ACTING TO THE CONTRARY
Last week this publication took Guernsey’s Lt. Governor, Sir Ian Corder, to task for sabre rattling at the people of Sark within the pages of the Guernsey Press:
“In the light of Sir Ian's comments in Monday’s Guernsey Press, the people of Sark now know where his agenda lies and it’s not in giving Sark an economy or its people a future. It is about attempting to assert outside interference over the people of Sark’s independence and their right to self-determination.”
Not for the first time the Sark Newspaper found itself acutely in tune with the mood of the people of Sark. However, the response from our readership to Sir Ian’s clumsy attempts at what one reader describes as “shaking us up” has exceeded any reaction this publication has received to its coverage of events in Sark in recent years. One reader, a longtime resident of Sark, wrote that they could not recall such a blatant and hostile threat being made by an incumbent Lt. Governor. One thing is for sure, Sir Ian has seriously underestimated just how fiercely the people of Sark value their autonomy, their independence and their right to self-determination.
Sir Ian has a duty of care to all of the people of this Island, not just those who wield power without having faced the electorate, not having received a single vote and not having a mandate from the people, to govern on their behalf. Tragically, Sir Ian is dancing to the tune of the unelected Reginald Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians and state officials, whilst neglecting the urgent and pressing need for Sark to rebuild its economy and give a future to the Island and its people.
How else can his intervention in the process of opening up Sark’s tourist industry to the vast markets of mainland Europe be explained? Instead of us allowing the French ferry operator Manche Iles to land its passengers directly into Sark from a variety of Normandy and Brittany ports, we now find ourselves, at Sir Ian’s bequest, tied up in a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape.
The meeting which he has called on 10th July 2018 at Government House in Guernsey is too little, too late, and it will do nothing to help the working men and women of Sark who need an economy within which they can enjoy secure year-round employment, rather than having to scratch out a living. Many have up to ten part-time jobs from which to patch together a weekly wage. They may not get to sip champagne on the lawns of Government House, but each and every one of their voices matter, and they will, through the pages of the free press in Sark, be heard by Sir Ian, those who tread the corridors of power in Windsor and Westminster and the rest of the world.
Of greatest concern to our readership is the influence which Sir Ian appears to be exercising over our Seigneur. If his intervention has stopped Christopher Beaumont from picking up the phone and inviting Manche Iles to bring much needed French tourists directly from the west coast of France into his Island of Sark then Sir Ian has done incalculable damage.
The Seigneur outlined his vision for the future of Sark in his keynote speech to the Island’s Chamber of Commerce last December. He received universal approval from the people of Sark, but notably not from the unelected Reginald Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians, for his calls for a meaningful increase in the Island’s population to between 800 and 1,000 year-round residents. The Seigneur called for a culture of engagement and inclusion and, with a view to stimulating the economy, raised the prospect of Sark going it alone in respect of its borders.
Christopher Beaumont was absolutely correct to suggest that we can and should go it alone. Regardless of what Sir Ian Corder, or anyone else who treads the corridors of power in Windsor or Westminster, may be telling him, he is the only person with legitimate authority in Sark and he can and should say who can and who can’t land on his Island.
Since the beginning of the 2018 season we have not even managed to attract an average of 200 visitors a day. The figures on the page opposite show that our tourist industry is receiving barely enough customers to keep one single seasonal hospitality business going, let alone an entire industry.
The people of Sark have a right to be angry over Sir Ian’s intervention in the Island’s affairs, and they most certainly are. Regardless of how well intended, any hopes Islanders may have harboured that 2018 would see a turnaround in their fortunes have been scuppered by his ill-judged decision to convene a meeting which serves no other purpose other than to empower unelected would-be politicians and bureaucrats to frustrate the needs of Sark’s tourism industry, the Island’s principal economic driver. Unfortunately for Sir Ian, the resulting prospect of yet another year of economic decline on Sark has done immense harm to the office of the Lt. Governor of Guernsey.
8th June 2018
FRIEND OR FOE? THE PEOPLE OF SARK HAVE YET TO DECIDE
No doubt in response to the lead article in last week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper, Monday’s Guernsey Press gave front page coverage to an interview given by the Lt. Governor, Sir Ian Corder, in which the paper claims he sets out how he looks to heal Sark rifts.
“GUERNSEY’S Lt-Governor has been working with Sark’s Seigneur in an effort to help the island through its period of political uncertainty with its future as a self-governing jurisdiction in the spotlight. Sir Ian Corder said that his role is a diplomatic one and his aim is to facilitate dialogue between islanders, not all of whom share the same ideas.”
To this publication, and the overwhelming number of Sark residents who, having read the article, have contacted the Editor to express their concerns over Sir Ian’s comments, this sounds more like sabre-rattling and a thinly disguised threat to our independence and our right to self-determination than any desire to sort out the practical issues facing Sark, namely the dire state of the Island’s economy. Although we are told that the Lt. Governor has been working with Sark’s Seigneur to help the Island through what is described as “its period of political uncertainty” there is no mention of the fact that Sir Ian recently accompanied Christopher Beaumont to meet with officials of the Ministry of Justice in London. Why such a meeting took place and what was discussed has, to date, not been revealed.
It is against this background that the people of Sark are becoming increasingly alarmed at Sir Ian’s interference in Sark’s affairs. It may be well intended, but it is at best unhelpful. It is highly questionable just what an ex-military man with no previous experience in politics can bring to the table. At this moment in time all that matters to the people of Sark is addressing the dire state of the Island’s economy. It is at the epicentre of all of the problems facing the Island. Get this right and all of the other issues that the Island faces can and will be sorted out on Sark, by the people of Sark.
The meeting called by the Lt. Governor Sir Ian Corder on 10th July 2018 at Government House in Guernsey is too little, too late to salvage this year’s tourist season and is seen here in Sark as unhelpful interference in the future of this Island. Rather than moving things forward it will give credibility to Sark’s unelected would-be politicians’ policies of economic ethnic cleansing, the likes of which have not been seen in Western Europe since 1930s Germany.
It will merely serve to further damage Sark’s economy by delaying the day that we open up the Island to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe by bogging the process down in unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. As Abraham Lincoln famously said:
“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”
In the light of Sir Ian's comments in Monday’s Guernsey Press, the people of Sark now know where his agenda lies and it’s not in giving Sark an economy or its people a future. It is about attempting to assert outside interference over the people of Sark’s independence and their right to self-determination. His intentions could hardly have been made clearer. In a thinly veiled threat he told the Guernsey Press that Sark’s role as a self-governing jurisdiction could find itself under further scrutiny if its problems with forming a government continued.
“There is no doubt that Sark is facing some fairly significant challenges in maintaining enough participation from the community in order to keep its government going.”
“I am responsible for the oversight of good government in the Bailiwick. In Guernsey and Alderney our systems have been given a good bill of health.”
Tellingly he chose not to give the governance of Sark a clean bill of health. Sir Ian’s views on the governance of Sark carry little weight in the Island. People are far more focussed on trying to sort out the economy. His intervention in our right to give the greenlight to Manche Iles to start bringing passengers directly into the Island from the west coast of France is unnecessary and unwelcome. His comments to the Guernsey Press reveal how far he is removed from the reality of the dire state of Sark’s economy and the urgency of opening up our borders.
“The issue of direct tourist access from France and with that the associated issue of whether or not they should have a customs house on the island is one of those areas of division between different areas of the community.”
The article goes on to claim that “Sir Ian and Mr Beaumont have been looking into the situation regarding the amount of interest from particular operators.”
“It’s an effort to debunk any myths and see if there is some common ground here...But really it is about getting dialogue going.”
“My role is nothing more than to get people around a table and talking constructively.”
“A meeting is in the pipeline, but as yet, no date has been set.”
Sir Ian’s assertion that no date has yet been set for a meeting to discuss opening up Sark to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe is at odds with the report carried in last week’s edition of this publication:
“Sources close to Government House have confirmed that the mid-July meeting will be attended by, amongst others, the Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont, Guernsey politicians, representatives of the Guernsey Border Agency, representatives of the French ferry operator Manche Iles, members of Sark’s business community and, of course, unelected would-be politicians from Sark.”
A meeting has been arranged, invitations have been sent out and it will take place on 10th July 2018.
This meeting will serve no purpose other than to give a collection of Guernsey politicians, unelected would-be Sark politicians and unelected bureaucrats the opportunity to organise the entire initiative into a standstill. There is only one person who has the legitimate authority to give the greenlight to Manche Iles to land passengers travelling directly from France to Sark onto our Island and that individual is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. It beggars belief that anyone, least of all the Lt. Governor, believes that a meeting halfway through this year’s tourism season will do anything to help the majority of the people in Sark, who need to see their economy back up and running, now.
Only Christopher Beaumont can make this happen and he needs to do it now, for the sake of his Island and the future of his people. Only he can salvage something out of this year’s tourist season by meeting with Manche Iles, here in Sark, and telling them that they have his permission to land their passengers on his Island. The alternative is unthinkable. Without access to new markets numerous businesses, both large and small, will remain closed though lack of trade. Hotels along with numerous restaurants, shops and cafés will remain closed for this year.
The matter of opening up our borders to new tourism markets on mainland France is a Sark matter, affecting the lives of Sark people and it must be dealt with here in Sark. No previous Lt. Governor of the Bailiwick has interfered with the governance of Sark as much as Sir Ian Corder. He is of course free to offer advice, but sabre-rattling and threatening the people of this Island by saying that our right as a self-governing jurisdiction is under threat if we do not do as we are told is downright offensive.
Sark is not just an Island within the Bailiwick of Guernsey, it is a self-governing jurisdiction with its own parliament, its own judiciary and its own courts. Unequalled throughout the western world, it enjoys a level of autonomy that is second to none. We are on the edge of Europe, but not under the control of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. We are under the protection of the UK Crown, but not answerable to the politicians and bureaucrats in Westminster. We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey, but not answerable to their politicians and bureaucrats. We have a right to self-determination that means we cannot be told by Sir Ian, or anyone else off of Sark, how we should govern ourselves. By issuing threats to the contrary within the pages of the Guernsey Press it is little wonder that the people of this Island are asking if Sir Ian really is a friend of Sark.
1st June 2018
IT WILL TAKE ACTION, NOT WORDS, TO SAVE SARK
FROM ANOTHER YEAR OF ECONOMIC DECLINE
Last week the Sark Newspaper exposed the lies and propaganda which have been used by our unelected would-be politicians to obstruct Sark’s tourism businesses from accessing the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe. A figure of £500,000 has been circulated by the states’ propaganda machine as the cost of opening up Sark to allow visitors to travel directly here from the west coast of France in under an hour. The reality is that for less than £10,000 per year we can have a Guernsey Customs officer travel to Sark to meet and clear ferry passengers on an ad hoc basis and it can happen tomorrow morning.
Predictably, those with the power to slow things down and frustrate the needs of the people of Sark have mobilised and are now, knowingly or otherwise, condemning the Island to yet another year of economic decline. Coming on the back of a decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing the likes of which has not been seen in Western Europe since 1930s Germany, these individuals are failing Sark and its people. They are undermining our ability to rebuild our economy and to pay our own way in the world and are thereby playing foot loose and fancy free with our independence and our right to self-determination.
The latest in a long line of seemingly powerful figures who have promised much, but delivered little for the people of Sark is the current Lt. Governor of Guernsey, Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder KBE CB. He is undoubtedly a man of good intentions, but his current intervention in the critical decision to open up Sark to the tourism markets of mainland Europe is, at best, misguided. The proposed meeting that the Lt. Governor has organised in mid-July, to ‘discuss’ the prospect of allowing passenger ferries to come directly into Sark from France, although well intended, is not helpful. On the contrary, it is decidedly unhelpful. July is far too late to be having ‘talks’ for the future of this Island. Many businesses, both large and small, are relying on tourists arriving from France this season to allow them to take down the shutters and begin trading for the first time in five years but as things stand, this isn't going to happen.
Sources close to Government House have confirmed that the mid-July meeting will be attended by, amongst others, the Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont, Guernsey politicians, representatives of the Guernsey Border Agency, representatives of the French ferry operator Manche Iles, members of Sark’s business community and, of course, unelected would-be politicians from Sark.
Sir Ian Corder has achieved only one thing by calling this meeting, that of playing into the hands of the unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters. Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians are against the idea of a successful tourist industry on Sark because it threatens their absolute control of the Island’s economy. Any suggestion that nothing can happen without Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians approval is wrong.
The only person with legitimate authority in Sark is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. It is he, not Sir Ian and his chosen mix of attendees to the mid-July lunch at Government House who should be talking to the representatives of Manche Iles. Our Seigneur must tell them that he is willing and able to allow them to bring their passengers directly from the west coast ports of France directly into his Island.
Lest we forget, the role of the Lt. Governor is to act as the de facto head of state in Guernsey, not of Sark. He is an ex-officio member of the States of Guernsey, but may not vote and, by convention, speaks only on appointment and departure from the post. Even in Guernsey his duties are primarily diplomatic and ceremonial. The Lt. Governor is wrong to interfere in the matter of Sark’s borders. In his role as the representative of the Crown, his concern should only be whether or not the Island is run in breach of the Crown lease given to Christopher Beaumont's predecessors; a lease which guarantees Sark’s autonomous status, our independence and our right to self-determination. The Lt. Governor’s role is not to interfere in Sark's affairs.
Unlike the Lt. Governor, the Editor of the Sark Newspaper is not merely passing through. He intends to spend the rest of his life here on Sark and retain an active interest in the long-term future of the Island and the welfare of its inhabitants. It is his duty as the representative of the free press in Sark to be ever vigilant and to keep the public informed.
The people of Sark’s lack of belief in their unelected would-be politicians and individuals who tread the corridors of power off of Sark, is understandable. The Lt. Governor will be gone in less than two years. We will then have another Lt. Governor with, perhaps, a different agenda but it will not change the fact that the only person in Sark with legitimate authority to effect change is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont.
24th May 2018
THE TIME FOR TALKING IS OVER
We are a quarter of the way through the 2018 tourism season. Yet, to date less than 8,000 people have travelled to Sark. Predictably, we are facing yet another year of decline in our tourism industry, the Island’s principal economic driver, and, as has been the case in previous years, failure to support this vital sector will drag the rest of the economy down with it. It is a simple statement of fact that our tourism sector is dying on its feet. Equally, it is clear that our unelected would-be politicians are indifferent to the crisis and are doing nothing to resolve the issue.
Those with the power to effect change choose not to and instead opt to obstruct the growth of our tourist industry at every opportunity. The Island’s wholly unelected government is populated by individuals who have no interest in the Island’s tourism sector. They are, in the main, paid state officials, state employees, retirees of independent means with nothing to do and all day to do it and part-time residents such as Roger Norwich and Sébastien Moerman. Some are here on Sark for tax avoidance purposes spending little time here, but using the Island as a means of avoiding paying tax in other jurisdictions. Many are beneficiaries of the ‘Sark Lark’, earning up to £10,000 per signature providing offshore financial services which operate below the radar of international regulation.
We are governed by unelected would-be politicians who have the luxury of not having to care about anyone, or anything, but themselves. It would be too easy to think that they are merely content to sit back and do nothing because they are not dependent on Sark’s tourism industry to earn a living. The truth is a great deal more sinister. It is not in the interest of the unelected Reginald Guille and the powerful coterie of unelected state officials who govern Sark for the Island to have a successful tourism sector, let alone a vibrant and successful economy. It would present an unacceptable threat to their powers.
Fortunately for the people of Sark, moves are afoot to rectify the situation and open up our borders to the vast markets of mainland Europe. Unfortunately for those desperately trying to run a tourism business in Sark, it is increasingly looking like it will come too late to salvage this year’s season.
In his keynote speech to the Island last December our Seigneur, Christopher Beaumont, signalled an end to the Island’s history of shaping policies around anecdotal evidence and rhetoric:
“I ended my days, working days, with Rolls Royce as an engineering manager with principal responsibilities for data management so I was writing essentially business intelligence software. I am very well used to looking at data; I suck data up for fun! Which is driving some people on the Island completely nuts! I keep asking them for more and more information so Beth down at the Tourist Centre; I keep asking her questions like ‘how much does an average visitor spend?’ Nobody has got an idea. Wendy, [Kiernan, the then Island treasurer] I have been pestering Wendy recently, over tax and other things anyway so that’s me; I am evidence-based data centric, with some experience of the outside world."
It would appear that our Seigneur has been as good as his word and has been working away in the background, separating the propaganda peddled by those who oppose anything that will stimulate the Island’s economy from the facts. The Sark Newspaper is reliably informed that Major Christopher Beaumont and the Lt. Governor of Guernsey, Sir Ian Corder, have ‘debunked’ the scare stories being circulated in respect of the cost of opening up the Island to the vast markets of mainland Europe and are close to delivering a solution.
A figure of £500,000 has, for years, been bandied about by Guille and his supporters as the cost to of having a Customs presence in Sark. It is a lie. Investigations by the Sark Newspaper have revealed that a solution has been found, in the early stages of development, whereby a direct route from France into Sark a Guernsey Border Agency officer could visit Sark to check in passengers disembarking onto the Island. The cost to the Sark taxpayer? Less than £10,000 per year.
There is nothing radical in this. Dispensation is already made for cruise liner passengers who call directly into Sark. A simple solution to clear them without their ship travelling to Guernsey has been in place for some time. Also, the number of pleasure craft owners who travel in and out of Sark from France makes a mockery of our unelected would-be politicians’ attempts to isolate us from the tourism markets of mainland Europe.
Visitors are already coming to Sark without having to go to Guernsey to clear Customs. There is no reason why Manche Iles, or any of the other ferry operators looking to run a direct service between the west coast of France and Sark, should not do so tomorrow morning. Unfortunately for the people of Sark, it is not going to happen that easily, and, unbelievably, we may have to suffer another year of state-sponsored economic decline before we see the first passenger ferries arriving directly from France.
The Sark Newspaper is reliably informed that before our tourism sector welcomes the first scheduled ferry directly from France a meeting of stakeholders is to be held to ‘cross the T’s and dot the I’s.’ This is not the news that the people of Sark want to hear. This delay plays straight into the hands of the unelected Reginald Guille and his supporters, who are against the idea of a successful tourist industry on this Island, simply because it threatens their absolute power over Sark's economy. Guille, Baker and their coterie of hardliners have no long-term strategy, other than to ensure their own survival.
There is nothing the unelected Reginald Guille and his unelected would-be politicians can bring to the table. We already have 24 committees in Sark who meet in secrecy behind closed doors and then come to Chief Pleas to rubber-stamp their decisions. They have achieved nothing over the past ten years except the economic destruction of the Island.
We do not need to be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Instead we need to be taking the simple step of telling ferry operators that, if they run their ferries directly into Sark from France, a trained Customs officer will make the short journey from Guernsey to clear their passengers for disembarkation. This is all it will take to transform the fortunes of the Island. This will put ferry passengers on an equal footing with the cruise liner passengers and leisure boaters who currently visit Sark without the need to clear Customs in Guernsey or Jersey. It will also put paid to the one-party state lie that the French are not interested in travelling to the Islands, let alone coming to Sark.
The potential of the French market for Sark’s tourism sector can be seen by the number of tourists who visit the Grande-Île de Chausey every year. It is a very small Island of approximately 100 acres, 0.93 miles long and 0.31 miles wide at its widest, yet it attracts 200,000 visitors from the west coast of France every year. Sark by comparison attracts only 2,000.
The route from France to Sark currently takes a minimum of two and a half hours each way. The route takes passengers via Jersey where they have to disembark with all of their luggage, clear Customs and then re-board the ferry for the onward journey to Sark. Very few tourists are going to spend five hours at sea to spend just a few hours on Sark. Meanwhile, with a journey time of 55 minutes out of Granville and a similar journey time out of St Malo, 200,000 tourists a year leave the west coast of France and travel to the Grande-Île de Chausey.
The French ferry operator Manche Iles have confirmed that, with direct access into Sark, they too can deliver tourists from the west coast of France in under an hour. However, they, like every hospitality business in Sark, are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their frustration at not being able to get on with the job in hand was all too evident in their statement to the Guernsey Press on 5th May 2018:
“We have told everyone that Manche Iles would be ready and willing to operate a direct sailing from France to Sark, but for the time being we’ve never talked about a date or a schedule. We are waiting for a ‘green light’ from all parties involved, if it comes.”
With six first class hotels to fill, along with 30,000 sq. feet of commercial and retail space, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, two campsites, three pubs and 18 cafés and restaurants, the Island’s tourism sector cannot welcome visitors travelling directly into Sark from France a day too soon.
The time for talking is over. Along with Manche Iles, other ferry operators are expressing an interest in running services from the west coast of France into Sark. It is imperative that they are given the green light without delay if we are to salvage anything from the 2018 season.
17th May 2018
FAILURE TO ACT NOW TO SAVE SARK’S TOURISM
INDUSTRY IS A DERELICTION OF RESPONSIBILITY
We are already seven weeks into the 2018 season and although the French passenger ferry operator Manche Iles have agreed to, and look forward to, bringing visitors direct to Sark from the west coast of France, we are still waiting for it to happen. Those with the power to make it happen need to get on with it and right away. A direct passenger route to Sark will be beneficial to Manche Iles and the other ferry companies currently expressing an interest in operating the route. For Sark’s tourism industry it is absolutely essential.
There is no justification for this delay. Those with the power to make it happen need to act and act now. With the power to effect change comes responsibility and with that responsibility comes liability. No one, whoever they may be, can claim to be ignorant of the dire state of Sark’s tourism industry. As the Island’s principal economic driver its success must be at the epicentre of the working day of all stakeholders in the Island’s future. To knowingly allow Sark to sleepwalk into yet another year of economic decline, when that decline can be halted and reversed overnight, represents nothing short of a gross dereliction of duty on the part of those who have the power to enforce change.
The industry itself can do no more. Sark has a broad array of hospitality assets; world-class hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars, along with guest houses, self-catering units and shops. Sark’s hospitality business owners have delivered, but large sectors of the industry have received nothing but derision and contempt from our unelected would- be politicians. Rallying to the colours of their chief enforcer, the unelected Reginald Guille, they have blindly followed his policies of economic ethnic cleansing, destroyed our economy and left Sark unable to pay its own way in the world.
The net result is that Sark cannot survive without £2 million of subsidies syphoned off every year from the Guernsey taxpayer. With little or no real world political or commercial experience, Guille and his followers are indifferent to the fact that, by destroying the Island’s economy and leaving us dependent on handouts from our powerful neighbouring Island of Guernsey, they leave the people of Sark’s independence and right to self-determination more at risk than at any time in its 450-year history.
To date a little under 6,000 people have travelled to Sark since the beginning of the tourist season on Good Friday 30th March 2018. It would be a mistake to believe that all of the passengers travelling on the state-owned Isle of Sark Shipping ferries out of Guernsey and the Manche Iles vessels from Jersey are tourists. These numbers include Sark residents who use the services to travel to Jersey and Guernsey to shop, socialise in pubs or restaurants, or to pass through the Islands en route to destinations further afield.
Even without discounting the passenger numbers to reflect residents travelling to and from Sark, the pitiful average number of passengers travelling to Sark would barley represent enough trade for one seasonal hospitality business. Despite this we are told by our unelected would-be politicians that the Island’s entire tourism sector of 6 first-class hotels, 30,000 sq. feet of commercial and retail space, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, 2 campsites, 3 pubs and 18 cafés and restaurants can survive and prosper on this desperately thin level of trade.
The situation can be changed in a matter of days. As set out two weeks ago in an open letter published in the Sark Newspaper by the Editor Kevin Delaney, the huge tourism markets of mainland Europe, less than an hour’s ferry ride from Sark, offer the only credible prospect of increasing visitor numbers to our Island. Having met with the French ferry operator Manche Iles he wrote:
“From our discussions it was clear that very few French travellers are willing to endure the four-hour journey that it currently takes to travel to and from Sark via Jersey. I was interested to learn that only 2,000 of the 10,000 passengers who currently come to Sark on the Manche Iles services out of Jersey begin their journey in France. The remaining 8,000 passengers are merely using the service to travel between Jersey and Sark. It is clear that there is a significant market on the west coast of France that Sark could access overnight if Manche Iles are given approval to land their passengers in Sark.”
Those with the power to grant approval to Manche Iles to carry their passengers directly into Sark from France must act now. They have the power to halt Sark’s economic decline and give the Island and its people a future.
10th May 2018
SARK’S ECONOMIC SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON US GRABBING THIS OPPORTUNITY WITH BOTH HANDS
Last Friday the CEO of Sark Estate Management, Kevin Delaney, announced that he was bringing the Aval du Creux Hotel and the Time and Tide Restaurant in The Avenue out of their current mothballed state and was preparing them to be opened in time to meet the first direct sailings between France and Sark. The following day Manche Iles, the French ferry company which operates routes directly into Jersey and Guernsey from the ports of Dielette, Carteret and Granville, gave an insight into why hopes are high in Sark that we are on the verge of reopening direct routes between the Island and mainland Europe.
Talking to the Guernsey Press, Manche Iles Express Director Hugues Gros confirmed that his company is indeed ready and willing to operate a direct passenger service from the west coast of France into Sark. They are merely waiting for permission from the relevant authorities to land their passengers onto our harbour:
“We have told everyone that Manche Iles would be ready and willing to operate a direct sailing from France to Sark, but for the time being we’ve never talked about a date or a schedule. We are waiting for a ‘green light’ from all parties involved, if it comes.”
Tellingly, M. Gros added that he had discussed the matter with our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, a few months ago.
On Tuesday evening Sandra Williams, chairman of Sark’s Tourism Committee and chairman of Sark’s Harbours and Shipping Committee, responded to the news that Manche Iles could operate a passenger service between France and Sark. She told viewers of BBC Channel Island News that she would “encourage” direct sailings into Sark from France.
“I just don’t understand that, if it is that easy, why we didn’t do it 15 or 20 years ago? I mean obviously there has to be ramifications to them coming; we are going to have to have either Customs officers on board or a Customs post here.” “I mean, it has been looked into by lots of committees and I would love to know how easy it is going to be and I would encourage it.”
Mrs Williams demonstrates just how far removed she and our unelected would-be politicians are from the real world. This is the most powerful and influential person in the Island’s tourism sector, yet the best she can offer Sark’s struggling hospitality businesses is her ‘encouragement’. Mrs Williams should be grabbing this opportunity with both hands, contacting the speaker of Sark’s unelected parliament Arthur Rolfe and urgently calling an Extraordinary meeting of Chief Pleas to rubber-stamp the Island’s readiness to welcome M. Gros, his boats and his passengers into Sark’s harbour.
This one simple, straightforward move by the Island’s wholly unelected government would pave the way for all of the Island’s hotels to re- open, permanently. Confidence breeds confidence and where the Aval du Creux, Petit Champ, Dixcart and La Moinerie hotels lead, other smaller hospitality businesses and retailers will follow. Sark’s hospitality sector boasts six first class hotels, 30,000 sq. foot of commercial and retail space, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, two campsites, three pubs and 18 cafés and restaurants. Clearly Sark has an abundance of hospitality businesses but numerous owners have chosen to keep their premises closed, rather than battle with other operators for the custom of a handful of the paltry 55,000 tourist who will visit Sark between April and October.
We need to all but double the current number of people coming to the Island if we are to have a viable economy that allows us to pay our own way in the world. The number of visitors coming from the traditional markets of the UK and Guernsey has stagnated and there is no prospect of any meaningful growth in visitors via these routes. The future lies in marketing Sark across mainland Europe to cash rich, time poor modern-day travellers who will, through taxes levied on goods and services, make a meaningful contribution to the Island’s exchequer.
Speaking to BBC Radio Guernsey on Friday evening Tony Le Lievre, President of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce, told listeners that the Island’s economy is struggling and it is vital that something is done before it is too late:
“We have to grow our economy and the only way we are going to grow our economy I can see, the obvious only way, is to have a Customs Post on Sark and allow for direct travel from France to Sark. My message is please let’s do it, let’s try it, let’s see if we can make it work, let’s grow our economy. I think there is some movement behind the scenes, there have been meetings with people, stakeholders that are interested in this actually happening. I am hearing encouraging noise, I think that there is a strong possibility that it will happen and I can only hope that it will happen soon because it will make a huge difference to our economy. Guernsey’s visitor numbers are down, Jersey’s visitor numbers are down and subsequently so are ours and we need to go out and find more people to come to Sark. The logical thing is get them from France and the greater continent. Manche Iles can provide us with that service.”
When interviewed for Tuesday evening’s BBC Channel Island News he explained to viewers:
“Only 2,000 of the 10,000 that are carried to Sark are currently from France because they are reluctant to do the practically 4-hour journey that it takes to get to and from Sark; that will be cut down to something like less than an hour if they came direct from Dielette and/or Carteret.”
Mr Le Lievre is right to focus on the importance of the market of the west coast of France to Sark’s tourism sector. 200,000 French tourists depart from ports of Normandy and Brittany to visit the Grande-Ile de Chausey every year. With a journey time of just under an hour, their journey is comparable with the service that Manche Iles could run out of the Normandy ports of Dielette and Carteret directly into Sark. Grande-Ile de Chausey is undeniably a beautiful and unique Island, but so is Sark. At under a mile long and a third of a mile wide it is considerably smaller than Sark. It has several tourist businesses including a hotel, a restaurant and a shop, but comes nowhere close to offering the great array of hotels, restaurants, cafés, bars and shops that Sark has to offer. It nevertheless attracts 200,000 visitors from the west coast of France, whilst Sark attracts a paltry 2,000.
For too long our unelected would-be politicians have fed us lies and untruths about what is and what isn’t possible for Sark. The recent exposure of the systematic failings in the Island’s education system has shown how we were lied to over the years when we were told that our childrens’ education was the envy of the rest of the world. The grim reality, as exposed by the independent REAch2 report, resulted in the resignation of the headmistress, her entire teaching staff and almost all of the active members of the Education Committee.
What is clear is that when it comes to the difficulties of accessing the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe, and the value that those markets will bring to Sark’s economy, we have been lied to yet again. No end of arguments have been put forward by our unelected would-be politicians to try to stop the inevitable happening. We have been told that the French won’t travel by boat in any meaningful numbers to a small Island like Sark. This is exposed as a lie by the number of tourists that travel to Grande-Ile de Chausey every year. We have been told that the French don’t spend money, despite the fact that France is the sixth largest economy in the world.
Our unelected would-be politicians would have us believe that the inhabitants of Normandy and Brittany are, in the main, subsistence farmers who carry their produce to market on a handcart and have little or no disposable income. The abundance of high-quality car dealerships, five-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants along the Normandy and Brittany coast puts this lie to bed. The reality is that the French, more than any other nation on earth, enjoy travelling, socialising and, most importantly, wining and dining. Sark, with all of its hospitality businesses open, can offer them a paradise Island in which to wine and dine with family and friends; a unique destination lying less than an hour’s ferry crossing from their shores.
We have been told for years that a Customs presence would be too expensive for Sark. Figures of in excess of £500,000 have been bandied about by our unelected would-be politicians based on anecdotal evidence and rhetoric. We have been told that we must have purpose-built premises on our harbour with interview rooms, holding cells, x-ray machines and any other number of fancifully expensive facilities. The reality is that in the 21st century most Customs operations are intelligence led. Sark’s Customs requirements can be adequately served by the deployment of a Guernsey Border Agency Officer to clear passengers disembarking from the one or two boats a week that Manche Iles will initially run between France and Sark.
We need more than encouragement from our head of tourism Sandra Williams. We need her to grab this golden opportunity with both hands so we can all begin rebuilding Sark’s economy.
3rd May 2018
The Editor of the Sark Newspaper writes:
Last Thursday afternoon I travelled to Guernsey to meet with Manche Iles, the French ferry company that operates passenger services throughout the Channel Islands. My arrival in Guernsey coincided with the departure of the Isle of Sark Shipping sailing to Sark and many Islanders boarding the service would have seen me chatting on the quay to Olivier Normand of Manche Iles. Subsequently I have been inundated with questions from Islanders over the past few days, all asking if my meeting will result in Sark’s tourism industry finally opening up to the vast markets of mainland Europe.
As the owner, publisher and Editor of the Sark Newspaper I have campaigned long and hard for Sark to re-introduce direct passenger services between France and Sark. Having lived here for 11 years, I have watched the decline of our tourist industry to the point where many hospitality businesses have "given up the ghost’"and have closed their doors through lack of trade. I have always believed, and continue to believe, that only by supporting our tourism sector can we create jobs, attract inward investment and build up our economy so that we can pay our own way in the world.
The overwhelming impression I took from my meeting with Manche Iles is that we are very fortunate indeed to have an established ferry operator ready and willing to open a direct route from the west coast of France into Sark. They do not seek a penny of Sark taxpayers’ money to provide this service; they merely need to be given clearance to land their passengers onto our harbour. I was hugely impressed with the management and dynamics of the company and, in particular, the quality of the service they provide. They currently have two vessels operating in the Channel Islands. The Victor Hugo is a 35-metre passenger ferry that carries 195 passengers and cruises at 29 knots. The Granville is a 41-metre passenger ferry which carries 245 passengers and cruises at 26 knots. Either of these vessels are capable of carrying visitors from the French port of Dielette into Sark in 55 minutes and from the more southerly port of Carteret in an hour. Both vessels have catering facilities allowing passengers to enjoy a coffee, a bite to eat, or a glass of wine or a beer, as well as offering duty-free shopping.
From our discussions it was clear that very few French travellers are willing to endure the four-hour journey that it currently takes to travel to and from Sark via Jersey. I was interested to learn that only 2,000 of the 10,000 passengers who currently come to Sark on the Manche Iles services out of Jersey begin their journey in France. The remaining 8,000 passengers are merely using the service to travel between Jersey and Sark.
It is clear that there is a significant market on the west coast of France that Sark could access overnight if Manche Iles are given approval to land their passengers in Sark. It is equally clear that Manche Iles is a dynamic company, capable of responding quickly to the demands of the market place. One has only to look at how they have adapted their business model at very short notice to increase the number of sailings between Guernsey and Jersey and their recent introduction of a passenger service between Guernsey and Alderney to grasp that if we opened our harbours to them tomorrow, they would pull out ‘all of the stops’ to get a direct service operating between the west coast of France and Sark as soon as is humanly possible. We, the people of Sark want this service and it is clear that Manche Iles are ready and willing to provide it.
With this in mind I am, in my capacity as CEO of Sark Estate Management, bringing the Aval du Creux Hotel and Time and Tide Restaurant in the Avenue out of their current mothballed state and preparing them to be opened in time to meet the first of the direct sailings between France and Sark. I will follow this with a carefully managed re-opening of all of the company’s hospitality businesses in Sark. This will create much-needed employment, which will, in turn, increase the amount of money circulating in Sark’s economy and bring benefits to the Island’s utility suppliers, builders, shops, restaurants and bars. It will signify the commencement of the rebuilding of Sark’s economy and the prospect of a brighter more prosperous future for the Island and its people.
27th April 2018
Power corrupts goes the saying and it was never more apt than in the case of Reginald Guille. Through the committee structure that he dominates and controls, he has, over the years, introduced laws and regulations that have taken away the freedoms and liberties of the people of this Island. In doing so he has further empowered himself and his supporters. No law is made on the Island of Sark without the approval of the unelected Reginald Guille. The unelected committees meet behind closed doors and produce laws and regulations designed to keep the people of Sark under their control. They then proceed to vote them through at the public meetings of Chief Pleas, demonstrating that Sark is living under the kind of rule last seen in Western Europe in 1930s Germany.
Only the free press can expose their activities and hold them to account. The freedom of the press is the hallmark of democracy, but there can be no democratic process in Sark whilst Reginald Guille continues to dominate the Island like some kind of de facto dictator. An uncomfortable truth that he and his fellow unelected would-be politicians would prefer the free press to ignore is the fact that not one of them has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf. Neither Reginald Guille, nor any of the members of the committees who meet behind closed doors, has faced the electorate. Not one of them has received a single vote from the people through the ballot box.
The time is fast coming for us, the people of Sark, to take our future into our own hands. There is an appetite for change fueled by the leadership of Seigneur Christopher Beaumont. Sark does not have to remain in the dark ages. With a fully representative and democratically elected government that supports his agenda for change, the people of Sark can enjoy a bright and prosperous future.
20th April 2018
ONLY TWO PEOPLE HAVE THE LEGITIMATE
POWER TO CHANGE THE ISLAND OF SARK
The Lieutenant Governor, Sir Ian Corder, cannot be happy with the way Sark is governed, no more than our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. The Island has suffered a decade of economic decline and an unprecedented level of depopulation. The Island’s principal economic driver, its tourism industry, is in dire straits, with a stagnation in visitor numbers that will once again see numerous businesses unable to open through lack of trade.
Those in Chief Pleas, such as Reginald Guille, are unelected and hold no mandate from the people to govern on their behalf. Not one of the remaining 19 members of Sark’s parliament - 5 have walked out in the past 6 months alone - have received a single vote from the electorate.
Reginald Guille and his supporters have hijacked the Island’s economy, created unprecedented depopulation and are destroying the Island’s future. Sark must have a viable economy so that it can pay its own way in the world and secure its future as an autonomous jurisdiction.
This is of little interest to the unelected members of Chief Pleas, many of whom are involved in offshore directorships of companies and have no idea of what the companies are doing, or where they are allegedly trading.
There is no register of companies in Sark, therefore they pay no taxes on the vast fees that they earn, leaving them with the sole objective of making as much money as fast as they can, with no concern for the future of the Island or its people. Their policies of division and entrenchment must be brought to an end and replaced with our Seigneur’s policies of engagement and inclusion.
The Sark Newspaper calls upon the only people with authority in Sark, Sir Ian Corder, the Lt. Governor, and our Seigneur, Christopher Beaumont, to use their significant powers and influence to bring about the end of Reginald Guille and his supporters stranglehold of the Island, its people and its economy. They must both exercise their authority, or Sark, as an autonomous self-regulating jurisdiction, has no future.
13th April 2018
Reginald Guille has always believed and behaved as though he is the uncrowned king of Sark. The protection of his powers and his own financial position, along with that of his supporters, many of whom who are involved in offshore directorships, has been, and remains, his principal objective.
In the latter years of the late Seigneur Michael Beaumont’s life it was Reginald Guille who was the power behind the throne and he made sure that everybody knew it. No one, least of all the Seigneur, was able to impose legislation or regulation of any kind without first obtaining Guille’s consent.
Guille was the principal architect of a decade of economic decline in Sark that resulted in an unprecedented and unsustainable 40% fall in the Island’s year-round population. Notably there has been little decline in the number of people who claim to live here for tax avoidance purposes, but in reality, spend only a few days in Sark each year.
The last thing that Reginald Guille wants is for Sark to be financially and economically sound. This would take away the powers he holds over the people of this Island and their futures. It is why he and his supporters continue to promote division and entrenchment across Sark.
The arrival of Christopher Beaumont, the latest in Sark’s long line of Seigneurs, presents a challenge to Guille and his supporters. Our Seigneur has spoken of his belief that Sark’s future must be based on engagement and inclusion. He wants to see the repopulation of the Island to between 800 and 1,000 year-round residents. To achieve this and to give the Island and its people a future he will have to exercise all of his authority and influence to stop Guille damaging the Island in the way he did during his father’s term.
Without fundamental changes to Reginald Guille’s powers the Island has no future and the economy will continue to decline. Guille will, for instance, do whatever it takes to prevent opening the Island’s tourism industry to the vast markets of the continent of Europe. As a result, employment will remain at an all-time low, we will have less money to spend and we will endure further increases in taxation. With this will come higher livings costs as utility suppliers, shops, bars, restaurants and the Island’s service suppliers will have to raise their prices to recover their costs from an ever-dwindling customer base.
One might ask, who would invest in this Island when their fate is in the hands of the uncrowned king Reginald Guille and his supporters?
6th April 2018
A GLOBAL WORLD
Sark needs to attract tourists from across the global world if it is to rebuild its economy and create a future for the Island and its people. We are a wholly consumer led economy and, as such, are dependent on a successful tourist industry to enable us to pay our way in the world. Year on year tourism experiences unparalleled growth, making it one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world.
The tourism industry is a highly competitive business and requires the participation of government and the private sector to ensure its success. In an ever-changing and often troubled world, Sark finds itself in a unique and favourable position. We are a jurisdiction whose principal economic driver is our tourism industry, an international business sector that continues to go from strength to strength, attracting inward investments and creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs every year in to countries across the globe.
Here in Sark we have many of the enablers for a successful tourism sector, but we need more. The natural beauty of our coastline is indisputable, but it is not unique, and it alone is not enough to bring the number of visitors that we need for a successful tourism industry. There are tens of thousands of tourist destinations worldwide that can match and surpass us when it comes to breath-taking scenery. We need to take two important, but straightforward, measures. We must make it as easy as possible for our visitors to get here and, when they arrive, we need to offer them more things to do.
For too long we have relied on the UK and the local Guernsey market whose spending power has diminished and whose numbers have stagnated. There is little or no growth to be had from these markets. The high cost of travelling to Guernsey then onwards to Sark, when tourists can travel across mainland Europe on budget airlines for a fraction of the cost, means we can no longer hold our own in this highly competitive cut-throat market. We must open up our borders to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe and we must do it now.
As can be seen on the page opposite, restricting tourism traffic into Sark to passenger vessels coming out of Guernsey and Jersey is simply not going to deliver the kind of numbers we need to keep our principal industry alive. The average daily visitor numbers that these routes alone will deliver over this year’s tourism season, circa 55,000, would barely be enough to keep a medium-sized restaurant in business in any other tourist destination.
We could open up our borders overnight and begin the process of developing the vast markets of mainland Europe. However, here in Sark, we are disadvantaged by having a government of unelected would-be politicians who have no interest in Sark having a successful tourist industry. Our competitors the world over have governments that actively seek inward investment, economic growth and year-on-year increases in living standards for their people.
In Sark we have a coterie of unelected power-brokers who have waged war on their own people and have destroyed the economy. Ten years of economic ethnic cleansing, the likes of which have not been seen in Europe since 1930s Germany has resulted in Sark becoming the pariah state amongst the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, the Isle of Man and the Bailiwick of Guernsey.
Can anyone say what the hard-line fundamentalists Reginald Guille, Edric Baker and their underlings in Sark’s wholly unelected parliament have done for the Island? Have they created jobs? Have they attracted or welcomed inward investment? Have they lost a second’s sleep for the 250 Islanders who would be living and working here in Sark, but have instead had to pack up and leave as a result of Guille, Baker and their followers’ policies of economic ethnic cleansing? The answer is, of course, no. Their sole interest is the pursuit of power and with it the ability to control this Island for their own self-interest. They are finding themselves more and more isolated, but still wield enough power to hold Sark in an iron grip, for the moment.
It is for the rest of us to look beyond the dark days of Guille and Baker’s dominance of the Island and plan for the future. Where they can see only darkness, entrenchment and division, more and more people are rallying to the call of our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont’s colours of engagement and inclusion. Our Seigneur will need to exercise his powers and garner the support he needs to change Sark for the better, but, with help both on and off of Sark, he can and will deliver a brighter prosperous future for this Island and its people. In the meantime we must act to defend and promote our tourism industry. We cannot repopulate Sark if we are unable to provide jobs for people who come here to live and work. We must think globally and set about attracting high-spending tourists who will sustain our consumer led economy and allow us to pay our own way in the world. Only by being financially independent will we safeguard our autonomy.
29th March 2018
WE MUST STIMULATE
OUR ISLAND’S ECONOMY
Sark is a small self-legislating country. We enjoy a very privileged way of life with the peace, solitude and tranquility that the residents of many other countries around the world can only dream of. We have a duty to keep it this way and protect our enviable independence and our right to self-determination. We can only do this if we stimulate the Island’s economy and provide the means by which we can pay our own way in the world. To do so we must attract inward investment to stimulate the Island’s economy.
We quickly need to repopulate the Island to the 800 to 1,000 year-round residents that our Seigneur, Christopher Beaumont, called for in his keynote speech last December. Critically we need to attract economically active people to live and work in Sark and spend money in our shops, restaurants, hotels and bars. We need these year-round residents to increase consumption of our utilities, such as electricity, gas, oil and coal. It is only through greater consumer spending across the economy that we can reduce the costs of our key services.
What we do not need are more ghost residents; people who claim to live in Sark to avoid paying their taxes elsewhere, whilst spending only a few weeks a year on the Island. The ghost residents of Sark contribute very little to our Island’s economy. They are merely passing through, using it for their own self-interest with no concerns for the future viability of the Island or its people as an independent state. People who have the right to self-determination. Ghost residents will rarely visit our shops, bars, restaurants and cafés. They consume very little in the way of utilities such as electricity, oil, gas and coal. Few, if any, are economically active. Many let out rooms in their property so as to claim substantial relief on their tax bill, robbing the exchequer of much needed funds and increasing the burden on the genuine year-round Sark resident.
They bring no financial benefit to the Island’s economy, yet these people benefit from having a Sark address that allows them to claim residency here, when in fact they are rarely to be seen.
Sark is a "no questions asked" society, a haven for criminals. Operate a business in the visible economy and you will have no end of unelected would-be politicians, clipboard in hand, banging on your door telling you what you can and what you can’t do. Those operating in the secretive world of unregulated financial services have no such concerns. The Island’s wholly unelected "government", notably amongst whom are Reginald Guille, Edric Baker and William Raymond, have done nothing to eradicate Sark’s invisible economy. Why would they? In addition to both being unelected and without a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf, Raymond and Guille have been leading beneficiaries in the offshore directorship "business".
Here in Sark we have no idea how many people claim to be residents of the Island, yet don’t actually live here. Indeed we have no official records of the Island’s actual year-round resident population, despite the fact that it would barely amount to the number of guests staying in a medium-sized hotel. Incredibly, Sark does however, record the number of dogs on the Island. We know this because all dog owners are duty-bound to apply every year for a dog licence.
We also submit our livestock numbers to the "government" which must include cows, pigs, sheep and goats, yet there are no official records of the people who live here, or for that matter any records of the people who work here, or who practice a trade or operate a business from the Island as there is no official company register in Sark. Our unelected would-be politicians place great emphasis and apportion scarce resources to recording each and every dog, cow, sheep, pig and goat on the Island, but refuse to record who actually lives here.
To secure the Island’s future and collect the revenues our exchequer needs to provide fit-for-purpose education, care of the elderly and support for the weak and vulnerable, we need to attract young economically active residents that eat, work, play and sleep here. In short real year-round residents that truly live on the Island. We need families with children that can be educated here and that can go on to take up local apprenticeships and work or build their own businesses and futures within our community.
The more real residents there are, the stronger the economy will be. Real residents will stimulate the economy by purchasing goods from our shops, by eating and drinking in our restaurants, bars and cafés and by utilising the Island’s services and paying for fuel. Sark’s money needs to stay in Sark and money earned here needs to stay here.
Commerce is an inseparable part of our daily lives. We depend on merchants to supply us with goods and services and they depend on our patronage for survival. As Islanders we need to encourage local business and buy from them whenever possible to reduce the need for imports. The many pallets of goods that are transported up the Harbour Hill every week from Amazon and Guernsey clearly highlight the fact that we are not supporting our local businesses as much as we could and should do.
Sark is a consumer-led economy and, over the past 10 years, it has been all but destroyed, resulting in the decimation of the population from over 650 in December 2008 to under 390 today. Of that 390 we have no idea how many are economically active. In truth there are probably less than 100 people in full-time year-round employment. Many in Sark work a handful of hours a week for pin money to top up their savings, their pensions, their unregulated offshore directorship fees, or simply because they have nothing to do and all day to do it. Tragically, those at the bottom of the pile will have 10 or more part-time jobs cleaning houses, or tending gardens from which they bolt together a living wage. This is because of the self-interest of a select few of the Island’s self-appointed ruling elite. The decrease in the population, particularly amongst the economically active, that is people who work in year-round full-time employment, is one of the greatest threats to Sark’s future viability as an autonomous state.
The good news is this decline can be stopped and eventually reversed if we plan and act now.
We need a population census/residents register so as to fully understand the demographics of the Island. After all, everyone knows that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. We must put every resource available behind our principal economic sector, tourism. It is only our unelected would-be politicians who are stopping Sark taking its rightful place as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the Channel Island’s tourism industry.
The private sector has given us the tools to do the job in the form of numerous cafés bars, restaurants, shops, guest houses, self-catering units and hotels. It is now time for the unelected would-be politicians to get behind our tourism sector. There is no conceivable reason why we are not welcoming visitors directly from mainland Europe at the start of our new tourist season.
Sark has its own fire service, harbour master, ambulance service, police service and judiciary. They are all assisted by Guernsey, but not controlled by Guernsey. They are all staffed by local men and women. It belies belief that there are those who say that we cannot have our own Customs post, staffed by our own local Customs officers, patrolling our borders and checking continental visitors on and off the Island. At the commencement of the 2018 tourism season the people of Sark find themselves at a crossroads. Will the Island remain under the iron grip of unelected would-be politicians such as Reginald Guille, Edric Baker and their fellow hardliners in Chief Pleas who will continue with their policies of entrenchment and division regardless of how this undermines our 450 year-old right to independence and self-determination? The Sark Newspaper thinks not.
Leadership is about having an affinity with the aspirations of the ordinary man and woman. There is a growing body of Islanders who are finding Seigneur Christopher Beaumont’s vision of a new dawn for Sark founded on the principles of inclusion and engagement irresistible. He has connected with their aspirations and has garnered support amongst all sectors of the community. The people of Sark are sick to the back-teeth of the power games played by the unelected Guille and his supporters who have inflicted a decade of economic decline on the people of Sark. They know that we must act now to stimulate the economy and secure our future.
23rd March 2018
A CHANGING WORLD
We live in a fast changing and somewhat troubled and dangerous world. We are privileged to be living here on Sark where we can find peace and solitude and a way of life that many would be envious of. The big question is, how do we keep it that way? What kind of future do Sark Islanders want? How do we protect the enviable independence and our right to self-determination afforded to us under Seigneur Christopher Beaumont’s Crown lease? The people of Sark have, hypothetically, under the Reform Law of 2008 gained the democratic right to provide the answers. Unfortunately, we do not have a lot of choice.
WE NEED AN ECONOMY
No one owes us a living and no one is willing to put their hands in their pockets to help us. Why should they when all they can expect in return is animosity and intransigence? To retain what we have we have to make it on our own - we need to be financially independent. We must be able to provide for our own people and their and this Island’s future. We cannot do that without a viable economy. In order to avoid being swallowed up by Guernsey or, equally as appalling, being dictated to by the UK and its Ministry of Justice, we need to rebuild our economy and, for our own benefit, prove to the outside world that we can pay our own way.
“Stop the world we want to get off is NOT an option” as former Minister of State for Justice, Lord McNally, said to Sark’s legislature, Chief Pleas, back in April 2013. Those words resonate more strongly today, 5 years after they were uttered. We have had 10 years of dictatorial isolationist policies, set by a self-interested and self-appointed ruling elite, that want to avoid change at any cost. Instead of protecting the Island and its people, these unelected individuals have destroyed Sark’s economy and, consequently, the population that the Island needs, solely to protect themselves and their own very specific interests.
The wholly unelected chamber called Chief Pleas has taken it upon itself to dictate Sark policies and dominate the Island’s governance which has driven us into the ground. They have left Sark’s economy devastated, unable to maintain its assets, including the rapidly decaying infrastructure and our priceless independence. They have left the Island incapable of supporting its own sick or vulnerable. Over the past decade they have driven away over a third of Sark’s population, through entrenched, incessant and overt hostility to the investment that provided Sark’s young working population with the employment they needed to make a life for themselves here.
Thanks to the actions and policies set by the dictatorial, unelected, ultra-conservative and change-resistant Reginald Guille and his supporters, what we have left of an economy is, as shown by the Chief Pleas Easter agenda, heavily burdened with the cost of providing very basic support for a rapidly ageing population. To avoid being subjected to rule, either under Guernsey or the UK, we have no choice but to welcome change in the form of economic development - with the utmost urgency.
STEP 1: REMOVE THE DICTATORIAL INFLUENCES
For many years the unelected power-hungry Reginald Guille has controlled and dominated this Island in his own dictatorial and authoritarian way. He has promoted division and entrenchment and has been the chief architect of a decade of economic ethnic cleansing. He has presided over the significant decline in Sark’s population and the increasing regulation and taxation responsible for driving away investment and the closure of businesses which provided a large part of the population with training opportunities and paid employment.
In addition to his British Army pension, Guille has, during his 13 years in office as Seneschal (principal judge / unelected ‘president’ of Chief Pleas), made a small fortune for himself in untaxed notary fees. He has no need for this Island to have a functioning economy, which is reflected in the anti-economy policies he invariably supports.
Reginald Guille’s influence over the Island and its decision-making process cannot be overestimated. Anyone attending Chief Pleas in the public gallery and anyone reading the Hansard transcript of the meetings can plainly see how he dominates the unelected assembly himself and / or through trusted supporters such as Edric Baker, Sandra Williams, Alan Blythe and Paul Williams. The unelected Reginald Guille rules the roost in Sark’s sham parliament. Although wholly unelected, this self-appointed group of would-be politicians favour imposing more regulations and legislation that are stifling Sark’s shrinking population and the economic development it desperately needs.
Since Reginald Guille will not stand down willingly, it is time now to isolate and ignore him. He is yesterday’s man and the Island has to face the future under the enlightened leadership of Seigneur Christopher Beaumont who recognises that to maintain its autonomy Sark has to be financially independent. It is a matter of urgency and to achieve this objective we need to abolish a great number of regulations which, vigorously promoted by Reginald Guille, serve only to take away our ancient freedoms and empower him and his supporters in destroying Sark for their own benefit. By introducing a never-ending stream of laws and regulations aimed at stopping the economic development we need to maintain our way of life to ensure our survival as a self-governing jurisdiction. They have no right and no mandate to do so.
STEP 2: ACCEPT ACCOUNTABILITY AND THE ROLE OF THE FREE PRESS
Foremost amongst the issues that divide us is the freedom of the press. Ignoring the fact that the freedom of the press is the guardian of democracy, the members of Sark’s sham parliament organised, led and promoted a state-sponsored march aimed at closing down this publication in February 2012. Amongst the one-party mob of would-be politicians posing as ordinary members of the public were current Chief Pleas member Paul Williams, former member and anti-economy activist Rosanne Guille, who is the niece of Reginald Guille, and former member Janet Guy, the former headmistress who is now employed at taxpayers’ expense to provide ‘support’ for the unfit-for-purpose Education Committee.
Today, 6 years later, the overt hostility continues. The members of Chief Pleas, including of course Reginald Guille, seem to think that those who seek public office and the powers that go with it to rule over the lives of others should not be held to account. They, particularly the dictatorial Reginald Guille, do not recognise that they are supposed to be the servants of the people of Sark, not their masters. They resent transparency and without fail they object to the exposure of their abuse of their unfettered power. They refuse to recognise the fact that they have no legitimate power since not one of them was elected by anyone.
Their continued desire to close down this publication to avoid accountability does not belong in a modern democracy. It is instead strongly and uncomfortably reminiscent of Europe’s fascist dictatorships of the 1930s, a fact of which Sark’s unelected rulers loathe being reminded.
STEP 3: IMPLEMENTING WHAT WE NEED TO SECURE SARK’S FUTURE
• Fundamental to our survival is opening the Island to direct tourist trade with the continent of Europe. It is patently clear that the stagnated Guernsey day-trip market is unable to deliver the increase in staying visitors that we need to develop a viable economy. Border control including immigration procedures must be introduced and monitored by our own Customs officers. We must know who is here and keep a register accordingly.
• Our own local Customs officers can police and protect our borders by monitoring the comings and goings of the numerous foreign boats / yachts that come here illegally. Visitors should be able to arrive here without breaking the law. Whilst monitoring boat traffic will deter the drug running for which the Island is infamous.
• We need to open the hotels confident in the knowledge that we can fill them, which in turn will create much needed employment.
• We must reduce taxation, thereby allowing people - residents as well as visitors - to increase their spending on the Island. This will help shops, cafés, restaurants, guest houses, self-catering businesses and hotels - Sark’s entire tourism-dependent economy. Spending is important if Sark is to survive and have a future.
• Land reform is urgent and of the utmost importance, including the ability to buy and sell with finance from the various banks in these Islands. Being able to obtain a mortgage on property will inspire others to come and live here and in doing so will help rebuild the population of the Island.
• It follows that more people means more consumer spending and it provides increased revenue from taxation and, no doubt in the future, create employment in the construction industry. We need to build more fit-for-purpose housing.
• We need to know who really lives here - the demographic make-up. Collating such statistics is vital for planning and setting policies.
• Likewise, and also to protect our reputation and autonomy, we need to know what business, legal or otherwise, is being conducted on the Island.
• We need a state-of-the art medical centre.
• Sark’s infrastructure is decayed to the point where it poses a risk to public health and safety. Maintaining it, let alone putting it right is currently beyond the scope of the Island’s very limited budget. We need outside investors to deal with the decaying infrastructure, achievable by offering incentives in return, for example, the right to build homes here and live in them.
• Above all we need to get on with all of these changes without further delay otherwise there is no hope for the future or the people of this Island.
STEP 4: TAKE CHARGE OF OUR OWN FUTURE IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD
In spite of its flaws, the Reform Law of 2008 put our future in the peoples’ hands. We cannot blame others if the governance of this Island does not deliver a future for Sark, through lack of means, becoming yet another parish of Guernsey or, worse still, submitting to direct rule by the UK Ministry of Justice. We, the people of Sark, have responsibility to act before it is too late. We cannot blame others for the failure to protect what we have because we know that the future is in our own hands.
16th March 2018
ANOTHER YEAR OF DESPAIR
AND DECLINE FOR SARK
The unmandated decision-makers in the Island’s wholly unelected parliament are clearly determined that 2018 will be another year of personal hardship, despair and economic decline for the people of Sark. In spite of this publication’s campaign to open up the Island’s tourism sector to the vast markets of mainland Europe, our unelected would-be politicians have decreed that we will endure yet another year of self-imposed isolation from the very markets Sark needs to access if it is to build a viable, sustainable economy that will guarantee our unique autonomy.
Tourism is Sark's principal economic driver. If it fails, the Island’s economy fails and, without the means to pay our own way in the world, we put our independence and right to self-determination at risk. The powers that be, identified as the Dark Forces by their fellow unelected member of parliament Sébastien Moerman, don’t seem to get the message. They are too intent on using their unmandated powers in the pursuit their own self-interests to understand, or simply do not care, that their actions are driving Sark ever closer to losing its autonomy.
The unelected Reginald Guille and his fellow unelected ultra-orthodox hardliners dominate the Island’s wholly unelected government. They have done so since December 2008 and they will continue to do so, regardless of how many sham elections the Island holds. Neither Guille, nor any other of his fellow would-be politicians, have faced the electorate. Not one of them have received a single vote and not one of them has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf. There is no doubt that Reginald Guille, ably assisted by his second-in-command, the unelected Edric Baker, have led their followers in enforcing a ‘no access zone’ around Sark. It is they who deny visitors from mainland Europe the opportunity to travel directly to Sark from the many ports on the west coast of France that serve our neighbouring Islands of Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney.
It seems there is no hope for the future of this Island whilst the unelected chief enforcer Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians use their unmandated powers to strangle the Islands’ economy. A decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing, formulated and executed with chilling efficiency, has done nothing to sate their thirst for power. They are indifferent to the resulting unprecedented depopulation of the Island because it strengthens their hold on power.
It has not been the members and supporters of Guille and Baker’s regime that have had to pack up and leave Sark through lack of work or financial support. Sark’s wholly unelected parliament is riddled with members who have lined their pockets by prostituting the Island as a centre for unregulated financial services. Numerous members have awarded themselves taxpayer-funded employment and patronage. Reginald Guille, Edric Baker, Paul Williams, Peter Byrne, Antony Dunks, Cormac Scott and Sandra Williams have all utilised our taxes through state employment or patronage. With unfettered and unaccountable powers, it is little wonder that Guille and his followers are determined to see a second decade of entrenchment and division in Sark. The more people they drive off the Island the greater concentration of power sits in their hands. A failed economy will ensure that the rule of the mob will continue and it is the people of Sark who will continue to suffer.
As we begin the 2018 tourist season Sark should be looking forward to a new golden age. We have a new Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, who is determined that his Sark will be one of inclusion and engagement. By doing so he has elicited support from principal stakeholders in the Island’s future. In the few short months since his inaugural speech, within which he set out his vision for Sark, he has elicited an offer from Brecqhou of circa £500,000 of inward investment into the Island’s infrastructure to enable the resurfacing of the Harbour Hill and The Avenue. Sark is on the brink of a new golden age, but the unelected Reginald Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians have decreed that we must suffer another year of despair and decline.
9th March 2018.
THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO FIX SARK’S ECONOMY AND
THAT IS TO SUPPORT SARK’S TOURISM INDUSTRY
Whilst our competitors prepare for the 2018 tourist season with optimism and hope the people of Sark are facing yet another year of stagnation and despair. Blink and you’ll miss it. That’s the reality of what constitutes Sark’s tourist season in 2018. Year by year the season gets shorter, the value to the economy of the visitors that Sark attracts falls and the Island’s principal economic driver, tourism, fails to deliver the revenues that the Island needs to survive as an independent autonomous jurisdiction.
Sark’s tourism sector boast 6 world-class hotels, 30,000 sq. foot of retail space, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, 2 campsites, 3 pubs and 18 cafés and restaurants, yet these 69 businesses are told by our unelected would-be politicians that they should battle for a share of the miserly 55,000 tourist that will visit Sark this year. It is little wonder that over 50% of the Island’s hospitality businesses are boarded up and will remain closed for yet another season. Unless we open the Island up to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe, Sark’s tourism sector will continue to suffer year-on-year decline. As the Island’s principal economic driver, it will pull every other sector of Sark’s economy down with it. In the past three months the construction sector has seen only one application submitted to the Development Control Committee and that was for the demolition and rebuilding of an outbuilding.
Our utility suppliers’ fixed costs continue to rise whilst their revenues continue to fall. This has left many of these businesses wondering why they bother when the return on their investment in their businesses is all but negligible.
The Sark Electricity Company Ltd in particular is vulnerable to a hostile takeover with Guernsey resident Alan Jackson formulating an offer to take over the business. Who would blame the Gordon-Brown family for selling up and moving on? Their customer base has fallen by 40% in the past decade and they have been subjected to a state-sponsored attack on their business that has undermined their credibility as business people and caused immeasurable damage to the value of their company.
With only 3 weeks to go until the start of this year’s season, Sark’s hospitality sector is denied the right to develop the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe. Our competitors are not missing this opportunity. Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney all recognise the opportunities presented by being able to access direct trade routes in and out of a myriad of ports located in Normandy and Brittany. It is only the unelected would-be politicians of Sark that deny us the right to share in this bountiful harvest.
Led by the unelected Reginald Guille and his second-in-command Edric Baker they are determined to destroy the future of this Island and its people, by continuing their campaign of economic ethnic cleansing, the likes of which have not been seen in Western Europe since 1930s Germany. Unelected and unmandated by the people, their Sark is one of division and self-interest, an ideology that is wearing thin with the Island’s people.
We are fortunate that the only person who holds legitimate power in Sark is our Seigneur; Major Christopher Beaumont. His vision for his Island is one of inclusion and engagement. He sees the Island recovering from the past decade of unprecedented depopulation that has seen Sark’s year-round resident population fall from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today. Our Seigneur has set a target of 800 to 1,000 residents and it is up to us all to help him achieve this. His public declaration that he and the Lt. Governor of Guernsey, Sir Ian Corder, had visited Brecqhou and had opened up a dialogue with the largest inward investor in Sark’s history can only be welcomed by those who have a genuine interest in Sark and its peoples’ future prosperity. It has already resulted in an offer from Brecqhou to make a significant contribution to improving Sark’s infrastructure by providing circa £500,000 for the resurfacing of the Harbour Hill and Sark’s main commercial thoroughfare, The Avenue.
The Dark Forces within Sark’s wholly unelected parliament are happy to see the Island’s economy stagnate, but they find themselves up against formidable opposition. Only time will tell if it has come too late to save this year’s tourism season.
2nd March 2018
WE MUST ACT NOW, OR FACE ANOTHER YEAR OF ECONOMIC DECLINE
Sark’s economy is based on two key components, tourism and consumer spending. We export next to nothing and import close to 100% of our food. With no manufacturing sector we also import all of our household goods as well as our oil, gas and coal; indeed everything we need to allow us to live our lives here. Government spending for 2018 is set at a pitiful £1.3million and the monthly list of applications for building works, issued by the Development Control Committee, confirm the only too obvious fact that there is little, or no inward investment being undertaken by either domestic or commercial property owners.
It is an irrefutable fact that our economy is dependent on us having a strong tourism sector and a high level of consumer spending, indeed far more so than jurisdictions who have normal, more balanced, economies. As we approach the beginning of this year’s tourism season it is clear that we cannot afford another year of economic decline by neglecting these two key sectors of our economy.
Those who choose to live in Sark enjoy a level of independence and a right to self-determination, unequalled anywhere else in the free world. However the unique autonomous status that we enjoy, courtesy of a Crown lease held in perpetuity by our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, is becoming ever more dependent on Sark’s ability to pay its own way in the world.
A SUCCESSFUL TOURISM SECTOR WILL ATTRACT INWARD INVESTMENT AND WILL REPLENISH THE ISLAND’S COFFERS
Sark’s tourism sector is the Island’s principal economic driver. We ignore and neglect it at our peril. Of the 55,000 visitors that will travel to Sark this year only a small percentage will actually stay on the Island and make any meaningful contribution to our economy. The overwhelming number of visitors will be low spending day-trippers. If we don’t attract the right kind of middle to high spending visitors to fill our 6 hotels, 10 guest houses, 30 self-catering businesses, and 2 campsites, the Island is doomed and will suffer a further decline in the population and with it, a further fall in the Island’s fragile economy.
We must, as a matter of urgency, take the simple practical step of opening our own Customs post here in Sark. This can and should be operated by Sark residents who have received basic training from professional border agency staff in Guernsey. We have our own judge, our own courts, our own police force, our own ambulance and fire services; all of whom receive training off-Island. We are dependent on them to deliver law and order and to protect our property and, in the case of the ambulance and fire services, to save our lives in the event of an unforeseen emergency. It is an insult to this Island to suggest that we cannot man our own borders; something that our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont reflected on in his inaugural speech to the people of Sark 3 months ago:
“So, the question is can we do it? And the other question for me is do we need to do it? Could we be outside? Could we be a separate entity altogether? We might be able to do that. We might not.”
In tackling this critical subject head on, Christopher Beaumont is showing the kind of bold leadership that the Island must have if it is to bring an end to our economic stagnation. He has every right to do so. As the owner of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction, courtesy of a 450-year-old Crown lease which he holds in perpetuity. He is the only person on Sark with any legitimate authority and as such, when he speaks, those who tread the corridors of power in Westminster and Windsor listen, and listen hard.
Acknowledging that Brecqhou, through its company Sark Estate Management Ltd, have generously offered to pay for the Customs facilities, Christopher Beaumont quite rightly challenged the Island to show how we would raise the money to pay for the border agency staff. This is a legitimate concern, provoking any number of suggestions as to how this can be achieved.
Clearly increased numbers of visitors travelling directly from the French ports in Brittany and Normandy would pay the statutory landing fee, raising additional revenues for the Island’s exchequer. A bed levy, a valuable source of revenue for the public finances of towns and cities across mainland Europe, could also contribute significantly to paying the wage costs of our own resident border agency staff. This could be levied as a percentage of the bed costs, typically 1.5 to 2%, thus ensuring that the impact of the charge is proportionate to the value of bed provider, be they a hotel, guest house, self-catering unit or campsite. The Island’s coffers will further be swelled by additional tax collected on the increased consumption of wine, spirits, beers and cigarettes by an increase in the number of staying visitors.
However, opening up our tourist sector to new markets alone will not be enough to bring the number of visitors to our shores needed to revive the Island’s economy. We must offer them a range of leisure activities that will allow us to compete with our competitors on our neighbouring Islands and further afield. The natural beauty that we enjoy in Sark is indisputable but it is not unique.
The long-awaited golf course at Le Grand Beauregard would be a valuable asset to the Island. It would provide a key leisure activity for visitors, greatly enhancing the Island’s collective tourism offering.
It is public knowledge that the introduction of a Customs post on Sark would not only result in the immediate commencement of this project along with the construction of a new Beauregard Hotel and adjoining golf complex. With direct access to the vast tourism markets of mainland France a whole myriad of investors will have confidence in the Island’s ability to grow its economy, resulting in jobs, prosperity and growth.
Christopher Beaumont has made it clear that he would like to see all landowners coming together and creating a coastal path. This is an exceptional and readily achievable initiative by the Seigneur, giving an opportunity for all of those fortunate enough to own a tenement to put something meaningful back into the Island at a minimal cost. Brecqhou has made it clear that it will willingly participate in this project.
INCREASE THE POPULATION, RAISE CONSUMER SPENDING AND CUT TAXATION
In his inaugural speech Christopher Beaumont identified the unprecedented depopulation of Sark over the past ten years as one of the greatest threats to the Island’s continued autonomy. The number of year-round resident Islanders has fallen from 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today:
“It would be better for all of us if we were between 750 and 800 is my thought. I don’t think that we could sustain more than about 1,000. I don’t think that we have got enough water on the Island, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t get higher. That would be good for all of us.”
Repopulating the Island would certainly be in line with the unelected would-be politician Sébastien Moerman’s calls for more taxpayers, not higher taxes. Consumer spending is affected by taxation. It is a basic economic fact that when you lower taxes you find that people increase their spending. We need people to spend in our consumer-led economy. This will help the local shops, bars, cafés and restaurants that are struggling to survive in our current economic climate.
The Island’s taxes are far too high. Our taxes are extortionate when compared to what we get for them and do not stand comparison to those paid in our neighbouring Islands, the UK, Europe, or for that matter anywhere else in the world. We have no state-funded healthcare or welfare provision. We depend on charitable donations into the Professor Saint fund to subsidise our medicines; a situation more akin to a third-world nation in Africa than a British Crown Dependency. Our police, ambulance services and fire services are provided by low paid volunteers.
Our infrastructure is a disgrace, with poor roads, sub-standard waste treatment and ever decaying Island assets that have been starved of investment for decades. The only way to keep our unique status as a low-level tax jurisdiction is to heed Christopher Beaumont’s advice and repopulate the Island. It follows that more people will result in an increase from taxation for Sark’s exchequer.
LAND REFORM WILL MAKE HOME OWNERSHIP A REALITY FOR ALL AND WILL UNLOCK ISLANDER’S CAPITAL
Land reform is essential and must happen as a matter of the utmost urgency. People want their own homes and must able to buy them without complicated restrictions. This could happen overnight. Home ownership will become a reality for those who currently have no other choice than to rent. As importantly, property owners who are asset rich, but cash poor will be able to release capital from the equity that is sitting idle in their homes and spend it improving their homes and their quality of life.
23rd February 2018
ONLY FIVE WEEKS REMAIN TO SAVE OUR
ECONOMY AND SECURE OUR AUTONOMY
Unless Sark puts its house in order the Island has no future as a self-regulating jurisdiction. There are only five weeks left before the commencement of this year’s tourism season. Five weeks in which to save Sark from another year of economic disaster. It is inconceivable that the businesses that operate in the Island’s tourism sector face another summer season of battling amongst themselves to attract a few of the meagre 55,000 visitors that will come to Sark.
Tourism is the Island’s principal economic driver, yet each year it suffers further decline because of our unelected would-be politicians’ refusal to allow a Customs post on Sark. A Customs facility is an essential part of our infrastructure, as important as our harbours or our roads. Without it the Island cannot survive as an economically independent self-legislating jurisdiction. Unless we can pay our own way in the world we will lose our unique status as an autonomous state and, with it, both our independence and our right to self-determination.
There is no excuse for the Island not to have a Customs facility. An offer has been made by one of the major stakeholders in Sark’s tourism sector to fund the buildings and specialist equipment for the Island’s own Customs post. We can have our people trained as Customs officers. Sark residents manning Sark’s Customs post and borders. This is how it should be, indeed how it must be, if we are to continually assert our rights as an autonomous jurisdiction at every opportunity.
Sark Customs officers can be trained off-island in the same way as our judge, our police officers, our ambulance men and women and our fire fighters are. We have our own court, we have our own judge, we have our own police force, we have our own ambulance service and we have our own fire brigade. We entrust the protection of our lives and our properties with the Sark residents who man our police, ambulance and fire services. Why would we not entrust the protection of our borders with Sark Customs officers? Protecting our borders and manning our own Customs post will create valuable jobs for Sark men and women.
Only by tapping into the valuable resource that is the vast tourism market of mainland Europe can we begin to build the economic strength to protect our autonomous status in the turbulent post-Brexit years ahead.
Sark has been stuck in a prolonged economic depression for the past five years. Unique in the free world, it has been ‘governed’ by a coterie of unelected would-be politicians who put self-interest above the future of the Island. It has been run by the few, for the few to the exclusion of all other Islanders and, by doing so, has made a mockery of the pretext that we are a democratic jurisdiction.
No one in Sark has a democratically elected politician that they can go to to represent them. There are no political parties in Sark to represent differing views. No one with a Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, or any other political persuasion, has the right to have their views reflected in the governance of the Island. As a result we have a paralysis of governance that is stuck in a perverse ideological time warp that is bankrupting the Island.
The catalyst of the paralysis in the governance of Sark is the unelected would-be politician Reginald Guille. Despite having spent most of his adult life earning a living off of Sark, Guille has reinvented himself as the protector of a bucolic Sark from a bygone age that in reality never ever existed. To the outside world Guille likes to project Sark as an Island of indigenous people who live off the land and can trace their roots back to the original settlement of the Island by Helier de Carteret in 1565.
In fact Sark’s modern day roots lie not in a people who eke a living from the land and from a pitifully small tourist industry, but in being the worldwide epicentre of unregulated financial services. One has only to cross-reference the number of unelected state officials and members of the sham parliament who have been beneficiaries of the infamous ‘Sark Lark’ to understand how far removed Guille’s Sark is from reality. If Sark is to have a future it must cast away the legacy of the ‘Sark Lark’, knuckle down and get on with building a successful economy. As one Sark resident, a prolific "Sark Larker", recently observed:
“We had a good day at the races, but now we need to move on.”
Fortunately the people of Sark now find themselves in a position to ‘move on’. It was with some trepidation that they woke up on the morning of 3rd July 2016 to find that the then Seigneur, Michael Beaumont, had passed away and that they had a new Seigneur. In the 20 months that have followed the accession of Major Christopher Beaumont to the role of Seigneur of Sark he has shown that he is determined to deliver a brighter, bolder future for the Island and his people.
Major Christopher Beaumont’s vision for the future of Sark is one of a vibrant successful economy. His strategy is to repopulate the Island with a target of 800 to 1,000 residents and an end to the divisions that have divided Sark for the past 9 years. A man of knowledge and experience, particularly in the field of project management, Christopher Beaumont is set to deliver a new golden age for Sark; a time when Sark can take its rightful position as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the Channel Islands.
Regardless of how much knowledge, experience and determination our Seigneur has, he cannot achieve his objectives on his own. Christopher Beaumont will need support in delivering three key drivers: new markets for tourism, lower taxation and land reform.
New markets for tourism can be delivered by the introduction of a Customs post in Sark. This could happen overnight. There is no resistance from the Guernsey Border Agency for Sark having its own Customs post. They would willingly send their own border agency staff tomorrow to facilitate the opening of Sark to the vast markets of mainland Europe, whilst we train our own Sark residents to do the job. If Sark is to survive as a self-regulating autonomous state then it must be able to collect money into the exchequer to fund its essential services.
Currently our education service is subject to a fundamental restructuring following the appalling failings exposed by the REAch2 appraisal. Sark residents do not have a statutory right to financial help if they are elderly, unemployed, or ill. They are simply deemed to be a burden on the Island and are shipped off on the infamous ‘boat that leaves in the morning’. Our roads are in a perilous state and our treatment of the Island waste is no better than that of an impoverished third world country.
To rectify this the Island of Sark will require money, yet we need to preserve our unique status as somewhere with lower taxes. It is one of Sark’s principal selling points. We have the same problems as anywhere else, in particular a shrinking workforce and an ageing population. Where will Sark get the money? At the moment the burden falls very narrowly on property owners and, in particular, the businesses that the Island needs to attract to create jobs. Property tax has risen an astounding 116% in the past 9 years. Those that are suffering the burden of inflation-busting year-on-year tax rises cannot suffer any more. As the unelected would-be politician Sébastien Moerman has said on more than one occasion:
“We do not need higher taxes, we need more taxpayers.”
To increase the population to the 800 to 1,000 residents that Christopher Beaumont is calling for and to deliver Sébastien Moerman’s additional taxpayers Sark must attract inward investment. We need to increase capital spend and get investment back into the economy and we will only do that by discarding the perverse ideology of Reginald Guille and his ever-shrinking band of followers and by boosting confidence in the Island’s future.
Islanders must be able to hold a stake in the future prosperity of Sark. Land reform must be prioritised so that people can own their own home in Sark outright. There is no defence for the old feudal tradition of land holding. Owners of tenements should be allowed to sell the freehold rights of a property to those who occupy it on a leasehold basis. This will create another much needed stimulus for Sark’s economy.
Sark cannot take its right to self-determination for granted. We must act now to transform the Island’s economy and show that we are capable of paying our own way in the world.
16th February 2018
THE UK GOVERNMENT SHOULD PUT THEIR OWN HOUSE
IN ORDER BEFORE THEY BEGIN TO LECTURE SARK
Recent months have seen an ever-increasing amount of pressure being put on Sark by the UK government and, in particular, by the Ministry of Justice. We have had visits from unelected MoJ bureaucrats, threatening letters from the former Lord Chancellor and the appointment of the unelected Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with "special interest in the affairs of Sark."
When it comes to sticking their noses into Sark’s affairs the arrogance of Westminster politicians and bureaucrats appears to know no bounds. Given the apparently insurmountable divisions within their own government they would be better spending their time and energy into putting their own house in order, rather than interfering in the governance of Sark, an autonomous jurisdiction over which they have no legitimate authority. The constitution and jurisdiction of Sark lies in the hands of one individual, our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, courtesy of a Crown lease that can trace its roots back to the 16th century. This is an indisputable fact and one that everyone both on and off Sark would do well to reflect upon.
Not one resident of Sark has a representative in the European, British or Guernsey parliaments. Instead, Sark has its own ‘parliament’, its own court, its own judge and its own police force. It is on the edge of Europe but outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Strasbourg. Sark is part of the UK whilst being outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Westminster. Sark is inside the Bailiwick of Guernsey whilst remaining outside the jurisdiction of the politicians and bureaucrats of Guernsey.
Sark’s autonomy is unequalled in the western world and any attempt by European, British or Guernsey governments to change this, by intervening in our independence, our right to self-determination, or our unique autonomous status, will be challenged in a court of law.
To date the interference of the UK and Guernsey governments in the affairs of Sark have served no purpose other than to embolden the hold that our unelected would-be politicians have over the Island.
The MoJ’s interference in 2008 in the failed attempt to introduce fully representative democracy to Sark has resulted in the people of Sark having no political representation. It is over four years since Sark residents have seen a ballot box. Sark does have its own ‘parliament’, but the assembly is currently populated by an eclectic mix of individuals, all of whom have not faced the electorate.
It is an indisputable fact that only one person has legitimate authority in Sark and that is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. He is perfectly aware that we have to be ever vigilant in protecting our unique autonomy, something he recognised in his speech to the Sark Chamber of Commerce last December:
“We definitely want to retain our autonomy, probably priority number one.”
The Seigneur is right to make the protection of our autonomy as “priority number one”. In an address to the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce in April of last year he spelled out exactly why this is the case. He is the sole protector of our right to self-determination and it is with him that the future of Sark’s autonomous status lies:
“Sark is unique in that it is a Crown Dependency with direct relationship to Her Majesty and that is through a perpetual lease that is currently held by me but originally granted 452 years ago by Elizabeth I. In today’s terms that means that Sark is a democratic self-governing jurisdiction with a degree of independence. Sark makes its own laws, raises its own taxes and pledges allegiance to the Crown for the protection offered from Her Majesty’s government.”
Many will take issue with the Seigneur’s assertion that Sark is democratically governed. The people of Sark are currently governed by a wholly unelected ‘parliament’, Chief Pleas. Not a single member has faced the electorate, not a single member has received a single vote and not a single member holds a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf. However, the lack of a democratically elected government in Sark is an issue for Sark to sort out, not the politicians, unelected lords and bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice.
This was something that the late Seigneur Michael Beaumont knew only too well. He aptly demonstrated this when the most powerful UK delegation seen in Sark in living memory came to the Island in June 2014 to apply pressure on him to accede to their demands. It consisted of the then Minister of State for Justice, Lord Faulks, the late Lt. Governor, Air Marshal Peter Walker, and Sir Christopher Geidt, Her Majesty’s then Private Secretary. The late Seigneur sent them packing with their tails between their legs, something that at the time many on Sark were uneasy with.
However history has shown that the late Seigneur’s stand against this attempt at interference in Sark’s internal affairs was perfectly judged. No one outside of Sark has the authority to intervene in the Island’s affairs, least of all unelected and ill-informed lords from the UK. One has only to look at the chaos ensuing in Westminster, with Theresa May barely able to keep the warring factions within her cabinet from tearing the government apart, to conclude that they need to get their own house in order before trying to lecture Sark on what it should or should not be doing.
Sark needs to be ever vigilant if it is to protect its unique status in the world as a self-governing jurisdiction. The Island could easily be lulled into a false sense of security by believing that the UK government is far too busy dealing with Brexit to concern themselves with the issues currently facing Sark. They are not. On 23rd November 2017 three bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice travelled to Sark on a fact-finding mission. They began by summoning the Island’s state officials; the Seneschal, the Greffier, the Procurer and the speaker of Chief Pleas to meet with them. This was followed by a public meeting where the three unelected UK bureaucrats sought to address the people on how they should be conducting the Island’s internal affairs.
The public meeting was sparsely attended with only 20 or so Islanders bothering to turn up. However one resident, by questioning if and when the UK government would intervene in Sark’s affairs elicited a breathtakingly arrogant response from the Ministry of Justice head of the Crown Dependencies Team Elaine Cobb:
“At what point? If we think that there is a decline that is going to the point that the government will collapse for example, if we are literally looking at the numbers of resignations and everything and we are literally going to be down by 9 Conseillers by January 2019, theoretically if we were in that position, would it be, well it would seem appropriate, at that point I think, for the UK to say, right guys we need to do something about this. Whether that be, you know, as a preventative measure. There is no point in waiting until the thing goes off the rails before you actually do anything about it.”
The UK government has no authority to intervene in Sark. We have our own ‘parliament’, we raise our own taxes, we have our own court, our own judge and our own police force. The people of this Island have no representation, nor seek any representation within the UK government. We are a self-governing jurisdiction with a right to self-determination that can be traced back to the 16th century. However, the politicians, unelected lords and bureaucrats from the UK Ministry of Justice appear to have a problem grasping this simple indisputable fact.
We have recently learnt that the former Lord Chancellor has appointed the unelected Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with ‘special interest in the affairs of Sark.’ This announcement was accompanied with a thinly veiled threat that if we do not have a contested election in December of this year the MoJ will intervene. Just what shape or form that intervention would take remains a mystery.
The late Seigneur Michael Beaumont would not accept undue interference from ‘here today gone tomorrow’ UK Ministers of State for Justice and all indications are that neither will his son and heir. We have seen so many ministers come and go over the past ten years that it is difficult to take anything they say with anything more than a pinch of salt. Thankfully the people of Sark’s right to self-determination is not subject to the shifting sands of Westminster politics, it is enshrined within a perpetual Crown lease held by our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont.
9th February 2018
ONE-PARTY STATE APOLOGIST
BETTINA BORGFELD IS BACK
It was as predictable as it was inevitable. The exposure within the pages of this publication of the unelected Reginald Guille’s latest attempt to secure absolute power over the people of Sark was always going to release a torrent of one-party state propaganda against the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. Guille’s scheme to create a ‘super’ committee, combining the two most powerful committees within Sark’s wholly unelected parliament, Policy & Performance and Finance & Resources, has not gone smoothly.
In the past Guille would have simply told people what to do and his word would be sacrosanct. For years he bullied the ageing Seigneur Michael Beaumont into following his agenda of division and entrenchment. Today, because of the presence of a free press in Sark for the first time in 450 years, Guille's pursuit of power is subject to public scrutiny like never before. Guille and the one-party state activists within his family are not happy people.
The past few weeks have seen an upsurge in anonymous abusive emails received by the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. This comes as no surprise. Whenever the actions of the one-party state activists within the Guille family are exposed within the pages of the free press the Editor of the Sark Newspaper will come under attack. There is nothing new in this. Over the years there have been numerous attempts at silencing the Editor, Kevin Delaney, and his publication. These have included a threat by a partner of a member of Chief Pleas to shoot him, a vicious online campaign of abuse against him and his family, explosive devices placed outside of his offices, an Island-wide poster campaign portraying him as Adolf Hitler and numerous acts of criminal damage to his own personal property and that of the businesses under his management.
None of the above succeeded therefore an attempt by 51 ‘Islanders’ to enlist the Guernsey Law Officers and the Guernsey police to prosecute the Editor on a trumped-up charge of harassment was launched. This was dismissed out of hand when it was revealed that these were not ordinary members of the public but were in fact members and supporters of Sark’s one-party state trying to pass themselves off as the ordinary folk of Sark.
Not a single one of the acts of physical abuse, on line abuse or attempts to prosecute the Editor of the Sark Newspaper has ever been condemned by any of our past or present unelected would be politicians. No one has been arrested or prosecuted for the crimes committed against him.
Now, out of the woodwork, has crept the German journalist Bettina Borgfeld to once again stick her nose into the affairs of the people of Sark. Borgfeld has more than a passing acquaintance with the members and supporters of Sark’s one-party state, and in particular, the activists amongst the Guille family.
In August 2014 Borgfeld of the German company Filmtank came to Sark. She interviewed Mr Kevin Delaney, the Editor of the Sark Newspaper, in his capacity as CEO of Sark Estate Management Ltd, on the pretext that she was producing a balanced and impartial documentary reflecting the problems faced by small communities suffering economic decline. She claimed that she wanted to explore how such communities adapt and reinvent themselves, citing examples of towns and villages in Germany, where depopulation had caused the closure of shops, banks and post offices.
Borgfeld was being more than a little economical with the truth. Investigations revealed that she was in fact working in tandem with the Rosanne Guille Byrne who was taking a very active role in Borgfeld’s project. Mrs Guille Byrne, a former member of Sark’s sham parliament, is the niece of the unelected chief enforcer of Sark’s wholly unelected government, Reginald Guille. Both believe Sark to be ‘their’ Island and that this gives them an elevated status over other Islanders.
The Sark Newspaper has obtained a copy of a letter penned by the German journalist, Bettina Borgfeld, within which she launches her latest attempt to attack the Sark Newspaper and, in particular, its Editor Kevin Delaney. Borgfeld asserts in her letter that:
“Many islanders regarded, and continue to regard, content published by the Sark Newsletter and the Sark Newspaper as “defamatory. The democratic system on Sark is based essentially on voluntary and unpaid work. Some islanders regard the degree of intimidation resulting from defamatory content in these publications as a threat to the democratic process.”
One wonders what planet Bettina Borgfeld inhabits. There is no democratic system in Sark. The Island is ruled by unelected would-be politicians and state officials. In case Borgfeld’s infatuation with the Guille family and their control of Sark has addled her brain, the Sark Newspaper will spell out for her three simple yet indisputable facts.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has faced the electorate.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has received a single vote from the electorate.
· Not one member of Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf.
Unlike the Editor of the Sark Newspaper who has lived and worked in Sark since July 2007, Borgfeld has no choice but to frame her questions from afar and has to base them around propaganda peddled by one-party state activists amongst the Guille family. Writing from Hamburg she would do well to remember the views of her fellow countryman Joseph Goebbels in respect of one-party state propaganda.
As a journalist her duty is to challenge state propaganda not to accept it hook, line and sinker and regurgitate it as news. When defending Reginald Guille and the one-party state activists within his family, Borgfeld may wish to reflect on an edict he issued in January 2015 when he called for the Island to be ruled by and for the majority to the exclusion and detriment of minority groups. These are sentiments that resonate all too clearly with those expressed by another of her fellow countrymen in the 1930s during his rise to power.
Borgfeld’s clumsy and potentially defamatory ramblings from her home in Germany are not confined solely to attempting to undermine the existence of the free press in Sark. She seeks to further the cause of the one-party state activists within the Guille family by taking a blunderbuss approach to denigrating anything associated with the Editor of the Sark Newspaper. Attacking his and many of the Island builders’ work in refurbishing many of Sark’s decaying hotels, café’s bars and restaurants she asks if it was necessary given that she doubts that:
“...tourists with exclusive standards would travel to Sark in commercially relevant numbers, given the inclement weather there that lasts for months, the muddy streets and the general mid-range standard.”
Businesses struggling to survive in Sark will no doubt be hoping that the delusional Bettina Borgfeld keeps her thoughts on this matter to herself when she releases what she claims will be a feature-length cinema documentary about our beautiful and unique Island. Borgfeld, like Reginald Guille and his niece Rosanne, have nothing to offer the people of Sark other than a perverse ideology of division and entrenchment reminiscent of 1930s Germany.
2nd February 2018
UNREGULATED TAX HAVEN CASTS A DARK
SHADOW OVER THE BAILIWICK OF GUERNSEY
In early December there was jubilation in Guernsey because the Island was not placed on the EU Commission’s "black list" of uncooperative jurisdictions. Little was, however, made of the fact that Guernsey was instead put on notice - on a "grey list".
At the time, The Guardian reported that “jurisdictions with links to the UK – Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, along with Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man – have been placed on a so-called “grey list” who have committed to reform their tax structures to ensure, for example, that firms are not simply using their 0% corporate tax rates to shield their profits”. Click here to read
Guernsey had little cause for the jubilation expressed at that time in the local media because it is now under intense pressure to show the EU, in time for the periodical inspection promised in some four months from now, that criticisms have been taken on board and acted upon as part of the international community’s on-going clamp-down on tax evasion and financial crime.
The local media has attempted to bury the Tax Justice Network’s "Financial Secrecy Index", published this week, despite the fact that Guernsey has been found to be the 10th most secretive jurisdiction in the world, well ahead of Jersey (18th), the BVIs (16th) and even Panama (12th).
How on earth could Guernsey, a jurisdiction which has signed up to all international information exchange agreements, whilst bending over backwards to comply with all and any new regulations be labelled the world’s 10th most secretive tax haven?
The answer is simple. By "Guernsey" the outside world means "the Bailiwick of Guernsey". The Island of Guernsey, the Island of Alderney and the Island of Sark, in the international community’s view (the OECD, the EU Commission or the Tax Justice Network) is seen as one single entity - as highlighted in the report excerpts on the page opposite.
Sark is a tax haven whatever definition you apply, whether the OECD’s or the pressure group called Tax Justice Network. The fact is, Sark has no tax transparency whatsoever because the Island does not collect any data and its tax system is based on ownership of Sark property and a personal capital tax which is minimal and voluntary in that no declarations are checked. There is no company law and consequently there are, officially that is, no Sark companies.
In spite of this, two major high street banks, HSBC and NatWest, operate branches on the Island, to service the needs, on the face of it, of Sark’s less than 390 residents, the majority of whom are no longer economically active and a handful of local small businesses. HSBC and NatWest have never been charitable organisations. They would never operate branches which do not generate a healthy profit. There is more to Sark than meets the eye.
The Hansard has just been published for the Extraordinary meeting of the Island’s unelected sham parliament on 17th December 2017. During that meeting it was stated that in its hunt for a new Island treasurer the committee in charge of finances had approached the “three or four” highly qualified accountants residing in Sark. None of whom were willing to work for the £40 an hour offered, as the ‘going rate’ in Guernsey is £500 - £700 an hour. In addition to two high street banks, Sark, with a handful of small businesses and a population of less than 390 souls, most of whom are elderly, has in its midst “three or four” accountants who, since they can command £500 - £700 an hour, consider £40 an hour to be charitable work (see pages 16 and 19 of Hansard Extraordinary Chief Pleas 07/12/17 here ).
Clearly this Island is far from the backwater community of subsistence farmers and fishermen that it portrays itself to be.
In the tax haven of Sark, nothing and no one is what they appear to be. People with no visible income go on multiple foreign holidays every year and send their children to expensive UK boarding schools.
In its narrative report on Guernsey, the Tax Justice Network quite rightly highlights the ‘Sark Lark’. A practice which, far from eradicated, is still providing individuals who are happy to exploit Sark’s special constitutional and geographical position for personal gain with substantial amounts of untaxed and undeclared money. Individuals for whom the £10,000 per year per directorship is far more important than the international community’s efforts to stop tax evasion, money laundering, financing of terrorism and the many other financial crimes that you can think of and who are totally unconcerned about the devastating damage their activities are inflicting on the Bailiwick of Guernsey as a whole.
The "International Tax Transparency Statement" issued by Sark’s sham parliament (see here) is as insincere as it is laughable. As shown by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ "offshore leaks" database, and the associated www.opencorporates.com (see overleaf) as well as the UK company register, Sark’s governance and administration is absolutely riddled with people closely associated with the shady world of unregulated "offshore financial services". The Island’s tax assessor, Simon Boyd de Carteret, is shown to be deeply involved, along with, to mention but a few, unelected members of parliament like Paul Williams, Sandra Williams, Alan Blythe and William Raymond. Even court officials like deputy judge Ewan de Carteret, Greffier Trevor Hamon, or state officials such as former treasurer Wendy Kiernan and the committee secretary Caroline Robins have all jumped onto the lucrative "gravy train" of offshore financial services, operated well below the radar of international regulators. Benefiting on the side-line was the unelected Reginald Guille who is now in the process of setting himself up as the controller of Sark’s new "super" committee and Sark’s international spokesman. Guille who when sitting as Island judge collected large sums of money in the form of notary fees for registering thousands of directorships, many of which were held by members of his family.
The Tax Justice Network is right to highlight the existence of the "Sark Lark". It never went away, it just morphed into ever more elaborate schemes designed to evade the taxman in other jurisdictions, whilst making money for Sark’s unelected and self-elevated ‘elite’. Then as now, that ‘elite’ controls the decision-making process which perpetuates the status quo - perpetuates the absolute secrecy which enables them to continue operating lucrative but unregulated ‘offshore financial services’ undisturbed by inconvenient issues such as transparency, law obedience and common decency. They are, in short, ensuring that the Island of Sark remains a tax haven in every sense.
What can Guernsey do about it? Nothing. Although constitutionally Sark is a separate jurisdiction, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is one entity in the international community’s eyes, despite Guernsey having no right to any say in Sark’s governance. Moreover, there will be many skeletons lurking in the ‘Sark Lark’ cupboard, which may well explain why successive Guernsey governments continue to pay Sark some £2 million a year in hidden subsidies, no strings attached - not even adherence to financial regulations.
25th January 2018
ELECTED BY NO ONE,
REPRESENTING NO ONE
Reginald Guille has not been elected by the people of this Island. This is an indisputable fact. He has not faced the electorate. Not one Islander has cast a vote for Guille in a ballot box. He has no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf. He represents entrenchment and division at a time when Sark, if it is to survive as an autonomous jurisdiction, needs to embrace the inclusion and engagement that our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont has called for.
Guille amassed considerable personal wealth as a key player in the infamous ‘Sark Lark’. For over a decade he reigned supreme as the Island’s judge and the president of Sark’s sham parliament. He used his powers to facilitate directorships for favoured Islanders who were signatories for companies that no one in Sark had the slightest idea of what the companies were doing. Who knows what criminals, be they drug dealers, illegal arms dealers, fraudsters, or money launderers, have been welcomed into Sark with open arms for the sole purpose of Guille and a select few Islanders’ personal enrichment? They have been only too happy to prostitute Sark as the worldwide epicentre for unregulated financial services.
By taking advantage of the ailing health of the late Michael Beaumont at a time when the late Seigneur’s time was dedicated more and more to caring for his wife Diana, Guille assumed the role as the de facto ruler of Sark. Under Guille the Island has become his own personal one-party state; a jurisdiction where the will of the bullying Reginald Guille takes precedence over the wants and rights of each and every citizen.
Having been stripped through the courts of the immense powers that saw him reign supreme as the Island’s judge and the president of Sark’s sham parliament, he is now spending his time manoeuvring and scheming to create a ‘super’ committee. This committee will ensure that control of Sark remains in his hands and not that of the only legitimate holder of power in Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont. To many, it beggars belief that Guille has got away with his dominance of Chief Pleas by using his bullying tactics for so long, but he has never been short of greedy self-serving disciples to his cause. On the page opposite is a list of Sark state officials and unelected would-be politicians that stand as testimony to the toxic legacy of Guille and his self-serving power mongers. Guille and his fellow purveyors of unregulated financial services would have it that the Island is populated by indigenous farmers who can trace their roots back to the original settlement of Sark in 1565. In truth Sark is held in the iron grip of greedy self-serving individuals who make the wolves of Wall Street look like benign philanthropists.
In last week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper we reported on a series of communications from the Lord Chancellor naming Lord Keen of Elie as the minister with a special interest in the affairs of Sark. We were told that Lord Keen wants to see:
“….good government of Sark and to ensure the ability of the government to deliver key quality public services, in particular education, health and social care and policing and sustain a viable economy and essential lifeline connectivity.”
Commendable objectives, but Lord Keen needs to start going to bed early and spending his time reading up on how the one-party state of Sark operates if he wants to understand why he is merely ‘whistling in the wind’. He should avail himself of how the bloc vote determines who is and who isn’t allowed into the Island’s sham parliament. He might also take the time to reflect on how it is possible for an Island of less than 350 adult residents to sustain the presence of two high street banks: HSBC and NatWest.
We are told that the Ministry of Justice sees the up and coming elections in December of this year as being:
“….a valuable opportunity to measure increased engagement and confidence in Chief Pleas; a key indicator being the success of the election.”
The people of Sark have never had the opportunity to vote in democratic elections. Whilst Guille and his fellow unelected would-be politicians remain in control, they never will. Guille et al are elected by no one and represent no one, bar themselves and their own self-interests.
19th January 2018
REVERSING ANTI-BUSINESS LEGISLATION IS THE ROUTE TO ECONOMIC GROWTH
If Sark is to have a future we need immediate action to reverse the damage caused by the Island’s unelected would-be politicians. This is a simple statement of fact; something that all stakeholders in the Island’s future fully understand. It is not however something that our unelected would-be politicians are willing to face up to. During this week’s meeting of the Island's wholly unelected parliament, Chief Pleas, Reginald Guille was to be found calling for more even more anti-business legislation:
“I wish to ask a question with regards to empty properties and fairer taxation. Can the Finance & Resources Committee tell me why there has been no movement on taxing empty properties at a much higher rate to encourage the owners to fill the empty properties?”
“In this regard I wish to see taxation, tax action, taken against empty commercial properties also. In my view there is no reason why this should not have happened already. After all the hotels and other homes that have been empty for several years now and I believe that something should be sorted in time for the 2019 budgets.”
The catalogue of anti-business legislation, listed on pages 4 and 5 of this publication, is testimony to the years of attacks by the Island’s unelected would-be politicians on the private sector in Sark. Guille is only too happy to see this continuing. The statistics below bear witness to the results of nine years of economic ethnic cleansing:
• Year-round residents down 40%.
• Land and property prices down 30%.
• Employment down 70%.
• Children attending Sark’s school down 40%.
• Building sector activity down 60%.
• Hotel bed-stock down 66%.
• Retail space let down 55%.
• Property tax up by 116%.
• Direct taxes up by 52%.
Thankfully we have a Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, who is saying that ‘enough is enough’ and is set to lead us away from the path of self-destruction that Guille would have us continue to travel. The people of Sark want to know what the future hold for them. Are we set for yet more years of one party state entrenchment and economic decline as advocated by Reginald Guille and his ultra-orthodox hardliners? Or are we to respond to our Seigneur’s call for a bright and prosperous future, built on engagement with all stakeholders in the Island's future?
Christopher Beaumont, a man with a wealth of experience in the real world, has already demonstrated a grasp of many of the issues that we need to resolve if we are to rebuild the Island’s economy. He has called for the repopulation of the Island from the current 390 year-round residents to increase to 800 up to 1,000. This will happen by making Sark an ever more desirable place to visit and to live. Sark’s tourism industry is the Island’s principal economic driver. There have been tens of millions of pounds of inward investment into this sector in recent years, but the economy has yet to benefit because our unelected would-be politicians continue to obstruct the introduction of a Customs post that would open the Island to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe.
When this obstacle to economic growth is finally removed we will need to ensure that Sark offers a world-renowned welcome to the tourists who come to visit us. The Seigneur has rightly called for the Island’s waste disposal plant to be relocated away from the harbour. This must be complemented by the resurfacing of the Harbour Hill and The Avenue. The Seigneur has called for the possible introduction of electric vehicles as an alternative to the 100 + tractors that tear up our roads whilst spewing out noxious diesel fumes.
Land reform will ensure that those who come to repopulate and live in Sark can aspire to home ownership; something that is currently only possible for cash buyers.
Our Seigneur’s vision of engagement or the hardliners plans for yet more years of entrenchment? Either way, reversing anti-business legislation is the only route to economic growth.
11th January 2018
IS 2018 SET TO BE YET ANOTHER WASTED YEAR?
With only 11 weeks to go until the start of the tourism season it is looking increasingly likely that 2018 is going to become yet another wasted year for Sark’s economy. Nothing has changed and nothing looks set to change. To date there is no evidence that the Island’s principal economic driver, its tourism industry, is to be given the tools to go out and do the job of creating employment, attracting inward investment and begin the task of reversing the impact of ten years of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing.
Is 2018 is going to be another year where the ‘dark forces’, a phrase coined by Sébastien Moerman when referring to the ultra-orthodox extremists amongst Sark’s wholly unelected sham parliament, continue to obstruct the liberation of the Island’s tourism sector and hold off the introduction of a Customs post for at least another 12 months? Whilst our domestic competitors in Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Herm fully utilise every avenue available to them to promote and support their tourism industries, the ‘dark forces’ within Sark’s wholly unelected parliament continue to enforce the self-imposed isolation that has caused the stagnation and decline of our own tourism sector.
No case can be made against the cost/benefit of introducing a Customs post. France has one of the world’s largest economies. Its purchasing power parity (PPP) is the 10th in the world. It has a GDP of $2.6 trillion, some $40,000 per capita. These are the very people who the ‘dark forces’ would have us believe offer no economic benefit to Sark.
A Customs post, manned by professionally trained local residents, would allow visitors from the west coast of France and beyond to travel directly into Sark, with an average journey time of a little over an hour. It would immediately trigger the reopening of all of Sark’s hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars; businesses operated by a variety of owners both large and small. These are businesses that remain closed as a direct result of being starved of trade. Without direct access to new continental markets capital projects such as the Beauregard golf course and leisure complex will remain on the drawing board, rather than becoming a reality and providing a myriad of high value works packages for Sark’s beleaguered building industry.
In 2018 alone the ‘dark forces’ within the Island’s wholly unelected parliament will starve Sark’s economy of circa £5 million. To put this in the context of the Island’s economy, government expenditure in Sark for 2018 is budgeted at £1.36 million.
This will not concern the ‘dark forces’ within the Island’s wholly unelected parliament. They are interested in only what Sark can do for them, not what they can do for the people of Sark. They are driven by self-interest and a lust for the very power that furthers their own personal agenda. Despite having not faced the electorate, having not received a single vote and having no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf, members of the Island’s sham government take taxpayers money that they are entrusted with by the people of Sark and distribute it amongst themselves by means of state-funded employment and patronage.
Unelected would-be politicians including Antony Dunks, Paul Williams, Edric Baker, Peter Byrne, and Cormac Scott are all beneficiaries of paid employment from the public purse. Sandra Williams receives state patronage by way of her tenancy of the Island Hall, a public house and café business for which there is no public record of her ever paying a penny in rent. To add insult to injury she receives an annual taxpayer-funded subsidy to her business of £8,000. Williams runs her hospitality business in direct competition with the rest of the Island’s tourism operators, over which she has an unsurmountable advantage courtesy of her chairmanship of Sark’s tourism committee and the Island’s shipping committee.
The ‘dark forces’ rally to the colours of the unelected member of parliament Reginald Guille. Guille pocketed undisclosed sums of money, estimated to be hundreds of thousands of pounds, in notary fees for unregulated offshore directorships during his joint tenure as the Island’s judge and president of Chief Pleas. He is, for reasons known only to him, determined to drive the Island’s economy down to a point where we have no economic strength to defend our unique autonomous status. Guille’s last stand, as locals see it, will, if left unchecked, result in the loss of our independence and our right to self-determination. In next week’s Chief Pleas he will make yet another bid to sate his insatiable lust for power. Guille and others are proposing the amalgamation of the two most powerful committees, Policy & Performance and Finance & Resources into one ‘super’ committee, Policy & Finance. Ominously the chairman of this ‘senior’ committee, will be given an exclusive mandate to speak to the outside world on behalf of Chief Pleas. Who would doubt it will be anyone other than Guille?
On current evidence Sark looks set for another wasted year. One of lost opportunities, deeper entrenchment by Guille and his ‘dark forces’ and further unchecked economic decline.
5th January 2018
12 WEEKS REMAIN TO CHANGE THE ISLAND’S FORTUNES
In last week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper Dawn Manger, Group Manager of Sark Estate Management Ltd, reflected on the reasons behind the company’s decision to pay all outstanding taxes to the Sark exchequer. Confirming that she had also elected to pay all of her own outstanding personal taxes Ms Manger said:
“I believe that we must all get behind our Seigneur and work together to rebuild the economy and I would not want the withholding of SEM’s taxes or my own taxes to be a distraction to the task ahead of us.”
Reflecting on Ms Manger's comments I find myself agreeing with her reasoning and have therefore elected to settle all of my own outstanding personal taxes.
It is 16 weeks since this publication chose to adopt a fresh editorial stance. A change of direction that surprised many but has since been universally welcomed. On 15th September 2017, sensing a desire for change in the air, the Sark Newspaper posed a straightforward question to the Seigneur:
“Better to be the feudal lord of a prosperous Sark than a failed State?”
It was an important question to ask. After all, as we observed at the time:
“The future of Sark is in Christopher Beaumont’s hands.”
Over the past four months the Seigneur has made it clear that he has no intention of allowing Sark to become a failed state. His keynote speech to the Sark Chamber of Commerce on 12th December 2017, was preceded a month earlier by a visit to Brecqhou with the Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey and myself. He has shown that he is a man of conviction, who is determined to lead from the front. Indeed, he has demonstrated more leadership in the past few months than we have seen from any of our unelected would-be politicians over the past decade.
Not for the first time, this publication has shown itself to be ahead of events in both its editorial stance and its reporting. Looking forward to the year ahead, I predict that it will take a herculean effort to reverse a decade of state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing. My primary concern is that the emergence of Christopher Beaumont as a competent and able leader may be too little, too late. I can see no evidence that any real measures are being taken to stimulate the economy and begin the process of repopulating the Island.
Editor of the Sark Newspaper
29th December 2017
13 WEEKS TO OPEN UP SARK TO THE VAST
TOURISM MARKETS OF MAINLAND EUROPE
We may only just be about to welcome in the new year but it is a sobering thought that in 13 weeks’ time the 2018 tourist season will begin. The figures just released by the Sark Tourism Committee demonstrate that, if we do not have a Customs post in place by Easter, we will see yet another year of economic decline in Sark.
The number of visitors coming to the Island via Guernsey has stagnated at below 50,000 per annum. Last year’s figure of 47,034 includes, as does all previous years’ figures, trips made by Sark residents to and from Guernsey. The actual net annual figure of tourists carried by the state-owned shipping company is considerably below 45,000. It is inconceivable that Sark’s tourism industry, the Island’s principal economic driver, can survive on these pitiful volumes of trade. It is essential that we open up the Island to the vast markets of mainland Europe by having a Customs post in place by the time that the new season begins in April.
It is something that our unelected would be politicians have resolutely refused to do, but this is hardly surprising. Our unelected parliament is riddled with individuals who have prostituted Sark’s unique status in the world as a self-legislating independent state by providing ‘no questions asked’ unregulated financial services. The “Sark Lark” that has handsomely enriched so many of our would-be politicians has removed the incentive for productive economic activity.
This is all set to change. Our would-be politicians may be determined to let the Island’s tourism industry sink without trace but not our new Seigneur. He had no compunction about tackling the subject of a Customs presence here in Sark in his recent speech to the Island’s Chamber of Commerce:
“So, the question is can we do it? And the other question for me is do we need to do it? Could we be outside? Could we be a separate entity altogether? We might be able to do that. We might not."
The Seigneur’s acknowledgment that he is considering the prospect of us going it alone and taking control of our own borders shows that all options are on the table. This publication has long advocated Sark having its own Customs post staffed by professionally trained local residents. As well as creating much needed employment it would make a bold statement to those in the States of Guernsey and in Westminster who our own unelected would-be politicians continually allow to meddle in our affairs.
Our own Customs post would open up our struggling tourism industry to huge new markets by allow visitors from the continent to travel directly to and from Sark from the west coast of France. The figures above show how tourists coming to Sark via Jersey on services provided by the French ferry operator Manche Iles have grown by 27% over the past four years. This merely hints at the potential volume of trade that we can expect to attract when the Island finally ends our unelected would-be politicians’ policy of self-imposed isolation.
Our own professionally trained Customs officers will play a critical role in maintaining the security of Sark and that of its residents. Currently anyone can come to Sark and, no questions asked, find a property owner willing to let a room or even an entire property to them. Provided they hand over their rent, often in untraceable cash, they can live here without anyone knowing who they are or where they have come from. We live in a troubled and often dangerous world and our unelected would-be politicians cavalier policies in respect of our security are clearly unfit for purpose.
Incredibly they place more importance on keeping a record of the dogs on Sark than collecting and maintaining data on who is actually living here. They demand to know the name of any dog along with the names of both its mother and father. They place great importance on knowing the breed and colour of the animal as well as its age. In the case of a male they insist on being informed of its ability to father any offspring or in the case of a female, the ability to become pregnant. Previous criminal behaviour must be disclosed, in particular any assaults on humans or other dogs. For good measure a detailed description of the animal’s appearance is required along with details of the address where the dog is to live, including the full postcode.
This attention to meaningless detail demonstrates that our unelected would-be politicians are in a state of paralysis. They are obstructing the proper governance of Sark at a time when we need the kind of leadership shown by Seigneur Christopher Beaumont in his recent speech to the Island’s Chamber of Commerce. A bold approach is needed if we are to avoid another year of economic decline that, if allowed to happen, will result in more unemployment leading to further depopulation that we can ill afford. We have 13 weeks to save Sark’s economy and we need to use this time to cast aside the restrictions placed on our tourisms sector by our unelected would-be politicians and have a Customs post up and running by the beginning of the season.
The alternative is unthinkable. Another year of more businesses boarded up than open, several million pounds that should be flowing through the Island’s economy lost forever and yet another year of economic decline.
14th December 2017
SARK IS THE JEWEL OF THE
Sark is the jewel of the Crown Dependencies, but it will only remain so if we are financially and economically independent. To do so we must reverse the damage done to the Island’s economy by would-be politicians who have inflicted nine years of economic ethnic cleansing on the people of Sark.
On Tuesday evening the Island’s Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, shared his vision of how this could be achieved in a presentation to members and guests of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce. It was a wide-ranging speech which had something for everyone. Chief Pleas, the Sark Newspaper and the Chamber of Commerce were all subjected to challenges by Christopher Beaumont. However, in the main, his message was one of unification; building allegiances with those who are willing to help Sark, including Brecqhou, and a desire to turn the fortunes of the Island around, as soon as is humanly possible.
8th December 2017
SEIGNEUR CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT: THE PROTECTOR OF OUR EXTRAORDINARY AUTONOMY
The Chief Pleas of Sark, the Island’s parliament, is not sovereign. It is a creation of statute and governed by statute, namely, the Reform Law of 2008, which itself derives legal status from the Order in Council. Chief Pleas has only limited powers to make local laws without reference to London and even these laws can be struck down if deemed to be ultra vires - beyond the limited powers held by Sark’s parliament.
Thank goodness our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, has real significant powers that are his, and his alone, courtesy of a Crown Lease that confers on him and him alone ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction. These powers, vested in one private individual, are unequalled in the western world. For Sark to have a future, he will need to be ever vigilant to ensure that his Island continues to maintain its independence, its autonomy and its right to self-determination.
The Seigneur no longer has the power of veto over ordinances made by the Chief Pleas. For that reason, the Island’s wholly unelected parliament, dominated by self-serving members such as Reginald Guille, Edric Baker and Charles Maitland, is free to pass new laws to incriminate innocent people and create ever more regulations which will further add to the Island’s economic decline. Nevertheless, thanks to his Crown Lease, the Seigneur has very substantial over-riding powers and intangible assets, the power and value of which cannot be qualified and with which come the responsibility of being the sole custodian of the future of his Island of Sark and his people. It is clear that it will take considerable effort and determination by Christopher Beaumont to ensure that his Island has a future and that his people are given every opportunity to make Sark a success, economically, financially, socially and demographically.
The question remains, how to achieve it? The Island’s economy cannot be allowed to sink any lower. The population is in decline and there is no prospect of this decline being reversed until Sark is opened up to the continent of Europe to enable a viable and sustainable tourist industry to create desperately needed jobs. The Island needs this as a matter of the utmost urgency so as to build a strong economy and a prosperous future. Land and property prices are at rock bottom, so much so that it is now all but impossible to sell a property of any kind. It is now vitally important to allow, urgently, any property, whether freehold or leasehold, to be mortgaged in Sark. Only the lender will decide how much he will lend against a property or parcel of land, but the important thing is this will deliver a desperately needed kick start to the Island’s economy.
It will allow first-time buyers, in the main young men, women and their families to get a foot on the housing ladder. It will also allow property owners to borrow money against their assets which they can spend on themselves and their homes or, if they so wish, lend or gift it to their children. This is a process that puts money back into the economy and in turn helps to stabilise and increase the population of the Island. It is of critical importance because we want young men, women and their families to stay; we want them to live, work and build a life for themselves here in Sark.
We are a low-cost jurisdiction and as such we must set ourselves the objective of abolishing all direct taxation in Sark. This should begin with an immediate reduction and the subsequent abolition of the new property tax. It is a simple economic fact that lower taxes allow people to spend more of their money on what they, and not the state, want to spend it on.
This additional cash in people’s pockets will circulate around the economy many times over. In the first instance it will feed into the Island’s shops, restaurants, cafés and bars. This will, in turn, result in increased revenues for utility suppliers of electricity, gas, oil and coal, as well as shipping and freight services supplied by the Isle of Sark Shipping Company and the carters who deliver all goods landed on the Sark quay onward to businesses and homes across the Island.
With increased volumes of trade come profits which can and will be reinvested into maintaining and refurbishing the Island’s various hospitality and retail establishments. This will deliver a much-needed boost to Sark’s beleaguered construction sector, which is second only to tourism as the Island’s main employer.
The task of rebuilding Sark’s economy must begin now if we are to support our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, in his duty to protect our independence, our autonomy and our right to self-determination.
Whereas our unelected would-be politicians have spent the past nine years destroying our economy, we must begin the process of rebuilding it. No jurisdiction can realistically hope to survive a 40% depopulation in less than a decade. We must reverse the results of years of Sark’s state-sponsored economic ethnic cleansing and make the Island attractive to men and women of working age and their families to come here and repopulate the Island.
What a task our unelected would-be politicians have left our Seigneur. They have left him more vulnerable to interference from outside jurisdictions than at any time in the Island’s entire history, by driving our economy into the ground at a time when we should have been building our financial might so as to protect our most precious asset, our right to self-determination. For nine years the members of Sark’s one ruling party state have enjoyed a free rein to pursue whatever policies they wished. They faced no opposition whatsoever from within their own sham parliament, no compromising on ideas or watering down of policies. They have willingly and knowingly driven the Island to the dire state in which it finds itself in today:
· The number of year-round residents is down by 40%.
· Land and property prices are down 30%.
· Employment is down 70%.
· The number of children attending Sark’s school is down 40%.
· Building sector activity is down by 60%.
· The Island’s hotel bed-stock is down 66%.
· Retail space let is down by 55%.
· Property tax has risen by 116%.
We must halt this decline immediately if we are to protect our autonomous status. Our unelected would-be politicians cannot be allowed to continue to lead us down this path to ruin. It can stop now, but only if Seigneur Christopher Beaumont’s determination to halt and reverse the years of economic decline can be communicated to inward investors. Only then can the process of rebuilding Sark’s economy and repopulating the Island begin.
The time has come to identify and work with our allies, people who share the same belief in Sark’s need to protect the Island’s autonomous status, its independence and its right to self-determination. We make a grave mistake if we believe that outside political forces are our allies. They can be friends, they may offer advice at times, some of it worthwhile, some of it not, but their motives must always be challenged and questioned. In the matter of our constitution and jurisdiction they need to be told in no uncertain terms where they stand and, more importantly, where we stand.
We are on the edge of Europe but we are not controlled by Europe and are not subject to the endless stream of laws and legislation to which the citizens of the European Union are. We have no representation in the European Parliament, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
We are a British Crown Dependency, protected by the UK but not subject to the laws and legislation to which the people of the UK must adhere. We have no representation in Westminster, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but are not subject to the laws and legislation to which the rest of the people of the Bailiwick are bound. We have no representation in the States of Guernsey, the Island’s parliament, nor do we seek or want any such representation.
Sark’s independence, our right to self-determination and our autonomous status are guaranteed by our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont’s ownership of the Island’s constitution and jurisdiction - a right that can trace its legitimacy back to Helier de Carteret’s settlement of Sark in 1565.
It is now time for the Island to come together to build our economic strength. We will only do that by attracting and welcoming the inward investment we need.
It is not uncommon for business and the state to work together on major infrastructure projects. The Sark Newspaper has it on good authority that Brecqhou’s owners would like to help Sark. They have shown an interest in helping create a gateway into the Island worthy of a unique 21st century tourist destination. This would entail resurfacing the road from the harbour and through to the Avenue, cutting much of the undergrowth on each side of the Harbour Hill away. Good news for the people of Sark, but it is difficult to see any plans for such regeneration projects coming to fruition whilst our unelected would-be politicians continue to attack Sark’s property and business owners through targeted taxation.
THREE STEPS TO TRANSFORM
SARK’S ECONOMIC FUTURE
The autonomy of this Island is unique and unparalleled in the western world. However, it will not survive if we are not financially independent and able to keep ourselves from seeking financial assistance from the UK government or the States of Guernsey. There is no future in Sark being stuck in the dark ages. We must understand that we are a consumer-led economy, based primarily on our tourism industry, and use this to build the economic strength we will need in the years ahead to protect our unique rights and privileges.
These are ours courtesy of the Crown Lease held by our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. His ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction guarantees that we are free from the endless stream of rules and regulations that pour out of Brussels, the UK and Guernsey. We are geographically on the edge of Europe, just 20 miles off the west coast of France, but not controlled by Europe. We are outside the jurisdiction of the British Parliament. We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but the States of Guernsey have no authority over our Seigneur, his Island or his people.
We are fortunate that our independence, our right to self-determination and our continued existence as an autonomous state is under the stewardship and protection of our Seigneur. We must work with him to rebuild our economy and to ensure that we are financially independent and do not have to go cap in hand to the UK or Guernsey just to survive.
Three things are key to us building our economic strength and in doing so protecting our independence and right to self-determination. What Sark needs with immediate effect is land reform, lowering of taxes and the opening up of its tourism industry to the vast markets of mainland Europe.
Land reform is necessary so that people can raise a mortgage to buy a home in Sark. The current system of property and landholding is unacceptable in this day and age. It is discriminatory, favoring the haves over the have nots, and stifles economic growth. At the moment only cash buyers can purchase a property here. This is at odds with the rest of the western world, where it is necessary only to be able to raise a deposit of 5% to 10% of the property value to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The ability to be able to raise money against a property will bring enormous relief to existing home owners in Sark, many of whom are elderly asset rich, cash poor individuals who are struggling to make ends meet. For others, the ability to raise money against their properties will allow them to carry out essential repairs and to upgrade the quality of their homes.
There is no reason at all why changing the laws on leases so that they would satisfy the lending criteria of high street banks should not be given statutory recognition in Sark law. They exist already as a matter of Sark common law. Leases were not brought into existence in English law by a statute, they evolved in common law. Statutes were passed centuries later to regulate leases and to create new forms of lease. The same process can occur in Sark too.
As to mortgages, this power has been on the Sark statue book since the Real Property Law of 2007 but the necessary ordinance has never been drafted.
Putting property ownership within the reach of working men and women is essential if we are to repopulate the Island. Since December 2008 we have seen the number of year-round resident’s plummet from 650 to a little under 390 today. This represents a catastrophic 40% drop in the population which is simply unsustainable. We need to make Sark an attractive place to work and live for young men, women and families but this will never happen whilst the prospect of buying a home on the Island remains an impossibility for all but the few who have the means to make a cash purchase.
By allowing existing home owners to borrow money against their properties, land reform will deliver a welcome boost to the Island’s building industry. This sector is second only to tourism in terms of the number of Islanders it employs and it has suffered in line with every other sector as a result of the collapse in the Island’s economy. A short walk around the Island quickly reveals the lamentable state of much of Sark’s housing stock.
There is much work waiting to be done but unless homeowners are free to raise money against their properties to finance home improvements and essential repairs, this work will simply not happen.
The people of Sark must be given the right to buy their own homes and they must be given the right to raise a mortgage against Sark property. This is something that can and must happen without further delay.
No nation in history has ever taxed its way to prosperity and Sark is no exception to the rule. The people of Sark have seen their direct taxes rise by 52% since December 2008 and their property tax by a staggering 116%. At the same time employment has fallen by 70%, land and property prices have fallen by 30% and the Island’s population has declined by 40%. Clearly this is not sustainable. It is glaringly obvious that each and every one of these trends needs to be reversed and this can only be achieved by having more taxpayers, not higher taxes.
For Sark to repopulate and attract taxpaying men and women to the Island, it needs businesses and jobs. These will only come about if we welcome the inward investment that is required to stimulate and grow our economy. We are competing with the rest of the world for such inward investment. Our competitors are only to aware that to attract businesses and create employment they have to work hard at it, it does not come as a given. We will only attract inward investment if we are a welcoming jurisdiction that is open for business.
We can’t currently afford to offer government grants like other jurisdictions do to attract inward investment, businesses and jobs but our relatively low-cost base can make it attractive and rewarding for investors to direct their investment into us rather than any number of our competitors. We will only attract more businesses and jobs if we reduce the ever-growing tax burden on businesses. Sark has no manufacturing industry to speak of. We are a consumer-led economy and depend on Islanders and visitors to spend money in our shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars to raise money for the public purse. The more people who live here and the more holiday makers we attract, the more we can reduce our own direct taxes and property taxes. This will leave more money in people’s pockets to spend in the Island.
In any consumer-led economy there is one indisputable fact: reduce taxes and you will increase consumer spending. If we continue to opt for higher taxes from less taxpayers, the catastrophic economic decline which we are experiencing will continue, threatening our ability to function as a self-legislating autonomous state. Our competitors are all battling to attract investment and are willing to offer all manner of incentives to entice investors to their shores. We have to use whatever resources we have available to attract investment into Sark and ever lower taxation is the most cost-effective resource we have.
NEW MARKETS FOR TOURISM
Tourism is one of the world’s fastest expanding industries. More people are employed in hospitality and retail than any other industry. In Sark our tourism industry is our principal economic driver, yet the sector is prevented from reaching anywhere near its true potential because of our unelected would-be politicians’ constant efforts to undermine it. Instead of getting behind the Island’s hospitality businesses and supporting them, they have spent the past nine years attacking huge swathes of the industry to the point where only two of the Island's six hotels open for the short summer season and 55% of our retail space sits empty.
The fortunes of our tourism sector can be transformed overnight by the introduction of our own Customs post. This can be manned by local officers trained by Guernsey’s border control staff, creating much needed jobs on Sark. The local knowledge brought to the roles by Sark Customs officers will be invaluable in determining who is on and who is off Sark. It will allow us to understand who lives here and who only claims to live here and uses Sark as a mailing address.
A Customs post will at the very least put us on an even keel with our competitors across the other Channel Islands. At the moment, they are all waking up to the huge potential presented by the tourism markets of mainland Europe. Jersey alone attracted over 250,000 people in 2017 from this ever-growing source of new visitors. We would need to attract only a fraction of this number to transform our tourism industry and see all of the shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés and bars which are currently closed reopen for next season.
Doing nothing is not an option. A Customs post will send out a vital message to all stakeholders in Sark. It will make a bold statement that the Island welcomes new investment along with the businesses and jobs that come with it. It would show that we are determined to protect our independence, our right to self-determination and our autonomy.
Three simple steps; land reform, lower taxes and new markets for tourism can and will secure our economic future, but we must act now.
24th November 2017
WHAT FUTURE FOR SARK UNDER OUR NEW SEIGNEUR?
The new Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont, is a man who should not be underestimated. Since inheriting the powers and responsibilities that come with the ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction, he has taken time to understand his new role before making any public statements of where he wants to lead his Island and his people.
The Seigneur has inherited a divided community. Clear divisions exist between "the haves and the have nots", the employed and the unemployed, the financially independent and those who live on or below the poverty line. The perilous level to which Sark’s unelected would-be politicians have allowed our economy to sink means that the only way for Sark is up. For our economy to sink any lower is unthinkable. If it were allowed to do so, our independence, our right to self-determination, indeed our future as an autonomous jurisdiction, would be at risk.
Unlike our unelected would-be politicians, Christopher Beaumont has power and authority, courtesy of a Crown Lease which carries the weight of its 450 years of history, to make real and effective changes in Sark. This Crown Lease means that he is the only person in Sark who has the legitimacy to determine our future. A covenant exists between every man, woman and child who lives in Sark and their Seigneur. By living and working here, we are all subject to his authority. Unlike the Island's unelected would-be politicians, none of whom have faced the electorate, received a single vote or have a mandate from the people to govern over them, Christopher Beaumont’s right to shape the future of his Island and his people cannot be challenged.
The momentous task that our Seigneur has in making Sark financially independent and thereby protecting our right to self-determination will not be achieved if the Island cannot meet its commitments in the years ahead. The issues of a declining population and higher taxes which many cannot afford to pay are compounded by a tourism industry that is dying on its feet, with less visitors coming to Sark than ever before and with those who do come having less money to spend.
If Christopher Beaumont represents hope and the prospect of a future for Sark then the Island’s unelected would-be politicians represent a dark and troubled past. Many of them are about to desert the sinking ship that is Sark, but not before first bringing the Island to its nadir - to “the worst moment, or the moment of least hope and least achievement.”
The unelected would-be politician Colin Golds resigned his seat last Thursday. Illustrating the contempt in which our wholly unelected parliament holds the people of Sark, no explanation was given as to his reasons for resigning. Charles Maitland, Hazel Fry and Robert Cottle are set to follow Golds out of the door very shortly, triggering yet another round of meaningless sham by-elections which will only result in yet more unelected would-be politicians dictating how we should live our lives, despite having no mandate to govern.
Thankfully for the people of Sark it is not the unelected ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ would-be politicians who are tasked with protecting our right to self-determination. Left to them we would very soon become just another parish of Guernsey. It is our Seigneur who, from his position of strength and authority, will protect our autonomous status and our independence so that we can look forward to a bright and prosperous future.
The people of Sark will not have to wait long to hear how much he believes in the future of his Island. Major Christopher Beaumont was scheduled to give his first public speech to the people of Sark on Tuesday of this week. With a clear indication that he intends to engage with all stakeholders on Sark, he was to address a meeting of the Island's Chamber of Commerce at the Sark Sanctuary Centre, adjacent to the Methodist Church. Unfortunately, due to adverse weather conditions impacting on his need to be back in the UK to attend a family funeral, he was reluctantly forced to postpone the event. It has been announced that the event has been re-scheduled for 12th December 2017, when we have been told that the Seigneur will:
“discuss with us, both his vision for the future of Sark and also his plans for the future of La Seigneurie.”
The Seigneur has considerable influence and power and can set the agenda for the future of a Sark that welcomes inward investment, creates businesses and employment, reduces taxes and reverses the damage inflicted on the Island and its people over the course of the past nine years by our unelected would-be politicians. During the period since the sham elections of December 2008, the Island’s key economic indicators make for devastating reading:
• The number of year-round residents is down by 40%.
• Land and property prices are down 30%.
• Employment is down 70%.
• The number of children attending Sark’s school is down 40%.
• Building sector activity is down by 60%.
• The Island’s hotel bed-stock is down 66%.
• Retail space let is down by 55%.
• Property tax has risen by 116%.
• Direct taxes have risen by 52%.
Meanwhile the number of visitors coming to Sark via Guernsey to support the Island’s principal economic driver, tourism, has stagnated at a little under 50,000 a year. Many individual hospitality businesses in Guernsey see this number of customers coming through their doors every year. Our unelected would-be politicians would have us believe that this Island only needs the same number of customers as that of a single café, bar or restaurant in Guernsey to support our entire tourism industry. Little wonder the Island is in the mess it is in today.
Even the figure of 50,000 a year seeks to flatter the track record of our unelected would-be politicians. Included in this figure are the journeys made to and from Guernsey by Sark residents. Of far more significance is the fact that the spend per head of the visitors coming to Sark today is a fraction of what it was in December 2008.
The Island has fallen into the trap of attracting, in the main, the ‘teas and wees’ brigade, day visitors and cruise line passengers with severely limited spending power. This is a trend which must be reversed. It is the staying visitor who will make a meaningful contribution to Sark’s GDP and in turn boost the Island’s economy. We need ‘heads on beds’ in our hotels, our guest houses, our self-catering units and our campsites. These in turn will put people through the doors of our restaurants, cafés, shops and bars.
Tourism and consumer spending are the bedrock of Sark’s economy but these key sectors have been neglected over the past nine years by our unelected and self-serving would-be politicians who have pursued instead a policy of economic ethnic cleansing in their desperation to cling to power.
Fortunately our future does not lie in their hands. It is Christopher Beaumont who is the custodian of the unique rights and privileges we enjoy as an autonomous jurisdiction. He is the only person with the authority to shape Sark’s future, and what a tremendous future the Island can look forward to.
We are on the edge of Europe, just 20 miles of water separate us from the west coast of France. Yet, despite our close proximity to Europe, we are not controlled by the EU. We do not have to take any notice of the endless stream of new laws and regulations pouring out of Brussels. We are outside the jurisdiction of the British parliament, despite the UK Ministry of Justice’s attempts to interfere in our right to self-determination. The Ministry of Justice have no right to come to Sark and interfere in our governance. We are not bound by the laws and regulations of Westminster. We should turn them away at the harbour whenever they come here telling us what we can and cannot do. Our neighbouring States of Guernsey and Jersey similarly have no authority over Sark at all.
If on face of it Christopher Beaumont’s task in turning the Island’s fortunes around looks momentous, it is not. A few simple changes can be implemented with little or no cost, changes which will make the Island a place where people want to come to live, work and buy their own home or simply somewhere to visit for a truly memorable holiday.
We urgently need land reform so that people can raise a mortgage and buy their own homes. We need Guernsey Customs officers to train Sark residents to man our own Customs post. We have our own judge, and police officers; it is an insult to the people of Sark to say that we cannot have our own Customs officers. We need to know who is on and who is off the Island, for which our own trained Customs officers local knowledge will be invaluable. With the introduction of a Customs post, manned by our own officers, will come direct access to the huge tourism markets of mainland Europe, which is critical to Sark’s economic survival. We need to drastically reduce the number of tractors on our roads. Tractors should be for agricultural and freight use only, not as a means of personal transport.
Christopher Beaumont is the custodian of the future of this Island and its people. The above are just a few of the things that he can change and thereby ensure that the only way for Sark is up.
17th November 2017
IN AN EVER-TROUBLED WORLD WE NEED TO BE UNITED AND STRONG BUT OUR UNELECTED WOULD-BE POLITICIANS HAVE LEFT SARK DIVIDED AND EXPOSED
No one could have done a better job of destroying Sark’s future than the ex-serviceman Reginald Guille, the multi-tenement owning multi- millionaire Edric Baker and the Island’s self-styled ‘chief minister’ Charles Maitland. Ably assisted by sycophants such as the thug and would-be hard man Alan Blythe and taxpayer-funded state employees Paul Williams, Peter Byrne, Antony Dunks, Robert Cottle, Peter La Trobe-Bateman and Cormac Scott, they represent all that is wrong with the governance of Sark.
They, along with every other member of their parliament of would-be politicians, have not faced the electorate. They have not received a single vote from the electorate. They have no mandate from the people of Sark to govern on their behalf, to levy taxes or to make laws. Nevertheless, they continue with their charade, posing as a democratically elected government whilst the rest of the world looks on with disbelief.
We are fortunate indeed that in Sark our future does not lie in the hands of these unelected would -be politicians who have shown their contempt for the most basic principal of democracy, that of going to the people and receiving mandate to govern on their behalf. In Sark, the only person with the authority to shape our future is our Seigneur, Major Christopher Beaumont. By right of a Crown Lease that can trace its origins back to the reign of Elizabeth I, Major Beaumont owns Sark’s constitution and its jurisdiction.
Winston Churchill once wrote:
“The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.”
The truth in Sark is that despite the protestations of the likes of the UK Ministry of Justice, the governments of our neighbouring islands and, in fairness, the previous editorial stance of this publication, Sark is Major Christopher Beaumont’s Island and all the time we choose to live and work here, we are his people. As such our Seigneur is at liberty to lead the Island to wherever he sees fit and all indications are that he is determined to lead us to prosperity and strength so that we can protect our autonomous status and our right to self-determination.
The factual data reported on the front page of this week’s edition of the Sark Newspaper represent a devastating indictment of the destruction that the Island’s unelected would-be politicians have inflicted on us all. At a time when the western world has enjoyed a long-sustained period of low inflation and all but zero interest rates, we in Sark have seen a deterioration of living standards as a direct result of our unelected would-be politicians’ policies of economic ethnic cleansing.
When one looks at the mess that these unelected unqualified and inexperienced would-be politicians have made of the Island’s economy, it is a wonder that Major Christopher Beaumont has decided to come and live here at all. It is to his credit that he has. By doing so he is sending out a clear message to the people of Sark, that of a belief that he can use the powers vested in him courtesy of his Crown Lease to turn around the fortunes of his Island and with it those of his people. But, what a mess he has inherited!
Whilst property prices across the UK have risen by over 35% on average since 2008, the value of houses in Sark have fallen by 30%, a differential in growth in real terms of 65%.
The number of year-round residents living in Sark has been driven down from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today.
Property tax has risen an eye watering 116% since December 2008. There can be no greater weapon in our unelected would-be politicians’ armoury than that of using discriminately taxation to target prospective inward investment. Their perverse ideology has resulted in massive tax hikes for all property owners in Sark, who have become caught up in the state’s attack on the largest inward investor in Sark’s history.
Activity in the building sector, the barometer of any economy, is 60% down from the average enjoyed in the years leading up to 2008. This collapse in customers’ confidence to spend on their properties does not take into consideration the boom years for the sector of 2009 to 2013 when the Aval du Creux Hotel, Stocks Hotel, the Dixcart Bay Hotel, La Moinerie Hotel and Hotel Petit Champ were collectively beneficiaries of inward investment into Sark of over £35million.
Employment in Sark is down 70%, which is little wonder when the Island’s unelected would-be politicians refuse to allow Sark’s principal economic driver, its tourism industry, access to the markets on mainland Europe - markets that are essential to its survival. The introduction of a Customs post that would allow visitors from France direct access to Sark in under an hour would transform the Island’s economy and provide for decades of year-on-year economic growth. The benefits would flood down throughout all sectors of Sark’s economy and allow us to repopulate the Island with working men, women and families.
The failure of Sark’s unelected would-be politicians to allow the hospitality sector access to new markets has resulted in the Island’s hotel bed stock declining by 66% over the past nine years. Sark can boast a collection of hotels which are the envy of our competitors across the Channel Islands and the west coast of France. The quality of accommodation and service of every hotel in Sark means that our combined offering is of a standard rarely found in what is an ever-competitive market. It is doubtful that any single destination can come close to us. Nevertheless, of Sark’s six hotels only two remain open, La Sablonnerie and Stocks Hotel. Neither of these can fill their rooms throughout the short summer season and are having to resort to high season discounting. More competition in this market would be a pointless exercise therefore the remaining four hotels will stay closed until such a time as the entire tourism industry in Sark is given direct access to the markets of mainland Europe.
The impact of our unelected would-be politicians’ policy of economic ethnic cleansing is not felt by the Island’s hotels alone. Over 55% of Sark’s retail space lies empty and unlet. Numerous small cafés, restaurants, bars and shops around Sark have closed their doors as a result of having to compete for a smaller and smaller slice of an ever-decreasing tourism market.
A key aspect to making the Island attractive to incomers must be the capping of any further increases to personal taxation. Our unelected would-be politicians have increased the tax burden on the private individual by an inflation-smashing 52% since December 2008. As Sébastian Moerman, an unelected member of Sark’s parliament Chief Pleas observed earlier this year:
“We don’t need higher taxes, we need more taxpayers”.
Added to Sébastian Moerman’s view that we need more taxpayers is the widely held belief in Sark that we need more children. The number of pupils attending the Island’s school has plummeted by 40% since December 2009.
Within the factual data set out on the front page of this edition lies the reason for the change in editorial stance of this publication. A man can change his mind and circumstances can change it for him. Faced with these irrefutable facts it is impossible to see how Sark can retain its autonomous status, its independence and its right to self-determination if our future is left in the hands of unelected, incompetent and self-serving would-be politicians.
Only this week Guernsey politicians were calling for greater independence from Westminster. Sark does not need greater independence, we already have it courtesy of the powers vested in our Seigneur Major Christopher Beaumont through his Crown Lease. At time when we should have been building our economic strength and securing our right to self-determination, our unelected would-be politicians have been systematically destroying our economy. At a time when we needed unity like never before, they have created only division.
What an uphill struggle our new Seigneur has, what a monumental task. We must unite and stand shoulder to shoulder with Christopher Beaumont to rebuild our economy and secure our right to self-determination.
9th November 2017
Readers of the Sark Newspaper have been asking me why the editorial stance of my publication has changed recently? What has happened to make me change my mind so fundamentally? My response to these questions is that a person can change their mind and circumstances can change it for them.
It is my view that we are living in a highly regulated and increasingly troubled world and that Sark’s autonomy is unique and must be protected. Recent events have led me to believe that our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont recognises this and understands that because of the numerous issues facing Sark, we must all work together to secure and retain our autonomous status, our independence and our right to self-determination.
I believe that our Seigneur does not want his Island or his people to have to rely on the outside world either politically or economically. To achieve this, he recognises that it is imperative that he becomes the Seigneur of an independent and prosperous Sark.
Cometh the time, cometh the man and Christopher Beaumont is in my opinion a man who has the right attitude, skills and desire to implement changes for the benefit of all Islanders. If I am right, and he does lead the Island out of its current economic and political paralysis, history will judge him with respect and honour and acknowledge him as the man who retained and protected Sark’s independence and right to self-determination for generations to come.
3rd November 2017
CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT OFFERS A NEW DAWN FOR SARK BUILT UPON OPENNESS, TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Sark is very fortunate to have a Seigneur who owns our constitution and, equally importantly, our jurisdiction. This makes our Island unique in an ever more troubled world. The powers vested in Christopher Beaumont guarantee our independence as an autonomous state and our right to self- determination. Sark is outside the jurisdiction of the UK and is not subject to the laws of the British parliament. Sark is not part of the European Union and is not answerable to EU laws and regulations. Equally, we are not subject to the laws and regulations of the States of Guernsey. The endless stream of new laws and regulations pouring out of Europe, the UK and Guernsey are made by democratically elected politicians on the basis of promises they cannot keep. The fact remains that we are better off without them. In Sark we have a parliament of unelected would-be politicians, all of whom we would most certainly be better off without. Not one of them have faced the electorate. Not one of them has received a single vote. Not one of them has a mandate from the people of Sark to govern. Unelected, unqualified and incapable, they have spent the past nine years proving themselves to be vindictive, malicious, short-sighted and self-serving. Concentrating all their effort and using their unaccountable and unopposed power to oust those trying to build something in Sark. They have destroyed the Island’s economy.
Following the sudden death of his father in July of last year, Christopher Beaumont should have inherited a prosperous Island with a flourishing economy. Instead he assumed ownership and responsibilities for an Island with an economy that is in a state of collapse following nine years of state-sponsored attacks on businesses, jobs and the livelihoods of its own people. He should have assumed command of an Island where inward investment was flowing in, providing employment and raising living standards year-on-year. Instead he found himself in control of an Island that has not only shunned the largest inward investor in its history but has spent its time and resources throughout the past nine years on attacking and undermining the investors, their investments, their representatives in Sark and their employees.
These are simple statements of facts of the economic reality of the self-legislating autonomous Island which the 23rd Seigneur of Sark, Major Christopher Beaumont, inherited some 16 months ago. They have been repeated many times in past editions of this publication and make difficult reading but only by understanding the magnitude of the problem facing Sark can we work together to find and implement the solutions.
Sark’s economy is in a state of collapse. Over 225 jobs have been lost and most of the unemployed have had no choice but to leave the Island for good and make a life for themselves elsewhere. Many of those remaining are suffering hardship, having difficulties paying the rent and putting food on the table. Shops and businesses, big and small, have closed down, others are on the verge of bankruptcy.
The lives of many families have been devastated and over 260 Islanders have already left whilst others are in the process of leaving simply because they have no other choice. The fact that the Island’s resident population has dropped from 650 in 2008 to below 390 today and is shrinking rapidly speaks for itself. Sark is losing its life-blood, its people. The Island’s cash reserves are depleted, consisting mainly of worthless shares in the Isle of Sark Shipping Company, whilst swingeing tax increases are continuously imposed on a diminishing number of taxpayers.
Sark is not sustainable - neither its tourism-dependent economy nor the population which depends on that economy for their livelihoods. Without a dramatic change - without a viable economic plan which includes the border control that will give Sark direct access to the European tourist market and without a fundamental reversal of policy to restore investor confidence. The Island has no viable future, neither economically nor demographically.
Given the above it is to Christopher Beaumont’s credit that he didn't simply give up on Sark and walk away. A lesser man may well have done so but he appears, on the face of it, to have chosen to move to Sark and take on the responsibility of protecting our autonomous status. He has already broken the mould by agreeing to address the members of Sark Chamber of Commerce later this month with his vision for the future of Sark.
Rumours currently abound around Sark with regard to where the Seigneur and his family will live and what they will do with the most iconic building on the Island, La Seigneurie. In a commendable act of openness, transparency and accountability he at that meeting will take the opportunity to reveal his future plans for La Seigneurie.
The Seigneur will find that he will be listened to with respect and courtesy when he addresses the members and non-members of Sark’s Chamber of Commerce. However, he will be perfectly aware that in the questions and answer session in which he has agreed to participate he will hear views and concerns that are representative of all Islanders. Meanwhile, he will no doubt be aware that he will only meet and get the views of all members of Sark’s community by engaging with them individually or in in small groups. Indications are that he has already begun this process and that given time, everyone in Sark will have had the opportunity to meet with the Seigneur and express their views, concerns and hopes for the future.
To many in Sark the refreshingly inclusive approach which Christopher Beaumont has brought to the role of Seigneur has not taken them by surprise. People have been contacting this publication to point out that the new Seigneur has never bought into the one-party state boycott of businesses owned by individuals identified as enemies of the state.
His frequent low profile visits to Sark over the past ten years reveal that he is a man of conviction who will not be pushed around by any individual or group. He shops where he wants to shop, eats out where he wants to eat out and drinks where he wants to drink, regardless of who owns or operates the business.
He will be only too aware that numerous hospitality businesses he has visited over the years, both large and small, have had to close their doors through lack of trade. There are simply not enough visitors coming to Sark, particularly staying visitors, to sustain the Island’s principal economic driver, its tourism sector. In recent years Sark has benefitted from two seasons of prime time national television coverage courtesy of the BBC 1 programme An Island Parish. Despite this free nationwide advertising and promotion of Sark, a total of 12 half hour episodes, visitor numbers from the UK remain stagnant and show no prospect for any meaningful future growth. Only by opening up Sark to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe will our own tourism sector be able to attract more staying visitors for our hotels, guest houses, self-catering units and campsites.
Christopher Beaumont will know that there is nothing new or clever in the simple concept of having a customs post in Sark and allowing continental visitors travelling from the west coast of France to travel directly to Sark. For most of the 20th century our Island welcomed commercial vessels and their passengers who had made the short journey from the French ports of Dielette, Carteret or Granville into Sark.
If we quickly remove Sark’s self-imposed obstacles to the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe, we need then to focus on what we have to offer prospective visitors. Our unique selling points are the Island’s natural beauty and the fact that we are a self-governing autonomous state whose rights to self-determination sit with one person, our Seigneur Christopher Beaumont. However, the international tourism market is brimming with competitors willing and able to attract visitors to their destinations and we must smarten up our act if we are to compete with them and bring in good value high spending customers.
The Island’s pot holed and dusty roads must be consigned to the annals of history. We could begin by resurfacing the Harbour Hill, which in its present state is a disgrace that would not be tolerated in a third world African state. We need things for visitors to do. A golf course, tennis courts, world class spa facilities. Co-operation by tenement owners could see the realisation of the vision of a cliff path which would allow visitors to circumnavigate the Island - 40 miles of the world’s most stunning coastline. In the coming weeks we will find out if some, if not all, of these ideas, form a significant part of Christopher Beaumont’s vision for the future of Sark.
26th October 2017
ONLY CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT HAS LEGITIMATE AUTHORITY IN SARK
Whilst the outside world looks on, the would-be politicians who make up Sark’s one-party state have spent the past nine years destroying our economy, depopulating the Island and putting their own self-interest above that of the future of the Island and its people. Unelected and unaccountable, they have driven the economy into the ground and are now set on finding someone, anyone other than themselves, to blame.
We can’t trust, nor do we need to trust, the 24 members of Sark’s unelected parliament - Chief Pleas. Not one of them has faced the electorate. Not one has received a single vote. Not one has a mandate from the people to govern. They have passed laws and pursued policies which openly discriminate against inward investment, businesses and jobs. The net result is numerous small and large businesses are having to close their doors through lack of trade. Over 225 jobs have been lost and the number of year-round residents has collapsed from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today.
In less than ten years of economic ethnic cleansing, the past and present members of Sark’s one-party state parliament have overseen a 40% drop in the number of people living here.
Only one individual has the legitimate authority, the skills and, we must hope, the will to change the future of Sark and that individual is the Island’s 23rd feudal lord Major Christopher Beaumont. The fact that he has such powers, courtesy of a Crown Lease which was established in the mid-16th century, makes Sark an Island unequalled in the western world.
Sark’s future as an autonomous state is in the hands of Christopher Beaumont. Following the sudden death of his father, Michael, in July 2016, he inherited the powers and responsibilities that come with the ownership of Sark’s constitution and jurisdiction. Most importantly, he inherited a self-legislating Island state that has an inalienable right to self-determination.
Sark is geographically on the edge of Europe; only 20 miles of sea separate us. Crucially, we are not controlled by Europe. As a Crown Dependency we are protected by the UK but we are not governed by them. We are part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey but are an autonomous state, courtesy of our feudal lord’s Crown Lease.
In a troubled and ever-changing world we have to depend on Christopher Beaumont to protect our unique rights and institutions. We cannot rely on unelected would-be politicians who have delivered only economic destruction and paralysis to the Island and its people.
Christopher Beaumont has inherited an autonomous state which has the right to make its own laws, control its own waters and seabed, and levy and collect our own taxes. We have our own judiciary and we have our own police force, manned by year-round local Sark residents.
We have the right to have our own Customs officers, again local men and women, to allow us to access the vast tourism markets of mainland Europe. The cost of training and paying our own Customs officers can easily be met by administering a landing charge that reflects the cost of allowing the people of Europe direct access into Sark.
Each and every one of these rights and institutions are unique to Sark. In an ever troubled and changing world, where events can change the fortunes of nations in the blink of an eye, we must find ways of working together to support Christopher Beaumont in protecting our precious autonomy.
We can only do this by building a strong economy that can attract new inward investment from a myriad of investors. We need to create the economic environment that will see businesses of all shapes and sizes reopening in Sark ahead of the 2018 tourism season. A man can change his mind and events can change it for him. We must ensure that Christopher Beaumont is supported from all quarters in his duty to lead Sark out of its current economic paralysis.
He cannot do it on his own. He must build alliances with potential investors into his Island, be they large, medium or small. Hiking up taxes on businesses is the last thing Sark, an autonomous state which must rebuild its economy or die, needs to do. It is discriminatory and creates the ultimate deterrent to inward investment and economic growth. The fact that Sark’s future lies in the hands of Christopher Beaumont and not unelected would-be politicians offers the greatest protection to the Island’s priceless autonomy.
20th October 2017
CHRISTOPHER BEAUMONT IS THE SOLE GUARANTOR OF OUR RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION
In these post-Brexit days it is clear that Europe is dividing in a way that has not been witnessed since the Second World War. Old fault lines are reopening and in doing so they are providing central governments with opportunities to muscle in on what they perceive to be troublesome regions. Only this week we learn that the Spanish government will trigger article 155 of its constitution, thereby revoking Catalonia’s autonomy. Overnight the autonomous community encompassing the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona will simply disappear.
In Sark we are fortunate to have the powers that safeguard our autonomy vested in one individual, Christopher Beaumont, the Island’s 23rd Seigneur. It is he who guarantees our right to self-determination, courtesy of a Crown Lease which has its origins set in the reign of Elizabeth I. This is a lease that has stood the test of time and today, over 450 years since it was first granted, it continues to enshrine our right to self-determination.
Sark has its own parliament, its own court, its own judge and its own police force. It is on the edge of Europe but not controlled by Europe. As a Crown Dependency, we are not part of the UK and not governed by the UK but nevertheless protected by them. Although only 2.1 sq. miles in size, we are ‘the jewel in the crown’ of the Channel Islands, yet none of our larger neighbouring Islands rule over us.
However, the outside world is pressing against Sark like never before. Many of those who walk the corridors of power off-Island question our right to self-determination.
For nine years Sark has been sleepwalking towards oblivion. There has been no leadership, nor has there been any unifying idea, apart from a futile resistance to comply with 21st century standards. Instead of focussing on strengthening the Island’s economy, the state has relentlessly pursued a policy of economic ethnic cleansing.
The net result is that the population has collapsed from over 650 year-round residents in 2008 to below 390 today. One has only to look at the drop in the number of pupils attending the Sark school to see the long-term impact of this disastrous policy. Recent data shows that it has dropped from 47 to 27, a disastrous and unsustainable 42.5% collapse in the number of school children in Sark.
All indications are that these numbers will continue to fall dramatically in the coming years. It is widely acknowledged that, to maintain population numbers in any society, a birth rate of 2.1% per capita is necessary. This year in Sark we will celebrate the arrival of only two babies to year-round resident mothers, a birth rate per capita of a mere 0.5%.
It is in the gift of Christopher Beaumont to stop this madness. He can bring about societal change to alter the disastrous course that is driven by an outdated feudal ideology. He can, if he chooses, set about uniting Sark and set it on a course of economic prosperity, paving the way for businesses to reopen, which will in turn create jobs, raise living standards and repopulate the Island.
Although only in the role for a little over 15 months, Sark’s feudal lord Christopher Beaumont will have learnt that defending our right to self-determination is a demanding task. It is a task that has been made all the harder by the collapse in the Island’s economy in the wake of almost a decade of economic ethnic cleansing. He will know that as a result of this policy, the world is coming at Sark at just the time when it is least able to defend itself.
We do not have a single elected politician in our government. This leaves us vulnerable and exposed on the world stage when we make the false claim that we are a fully representative democracy. Not one of the members of our parliament has faced the electorate. Not one member of our parliament has received a single vote from the electorate. Not one member of our parliament has a mandate from the people to govern on their behalf.
Sark is currently a toxic mix of a failed system of government and collapsed economy. If anyone thinks that Christopher Beaumont has an easy job ahead of him sorting this mess out, they are deluding themselves. Sort it out he must if he is to guarantee our future autonomy and with it our right to self-determination.
The time has come for all stakeholders in Sark to come together to rebuild the Island's economy and work towards creating a fully representative democracy. To do so will require a strong individual to unite us all. Only time will tell if Christopher Beaumont is that man.
12th October 2017
THE POWERS TO PROTECT US ALL
ARE VESTED IN ONE INDIVIDUAL
Whilst there is much that divides the people of Sark, there are many things that we all have in common. First and foremost, amongst these is a determination amongst Islanders to ensure that Sark defends its unique status in the world and in doing so retains its precious autonomy.
Sark is on the edge of Europe; geographically we are just 20 miles from the west coast of mainland Europe, whilst not being controlled by Europe. We benefit from being part of the United Kingdom but are not governed by them. Sark is one of the Channel Islands but, unlike Alderney, no other Island has the right to exercise control over us.
We have our own parliament that shapes and makes our laws. We set and collect our own taxes. We have our own court of law with powers equal to that of the High Court in London. We have our own judge, a year-round resident of Sark. We have our own police force that is manned by men and women. All of whom have to be full-time year-round residents of Sark to qualify to serve.
We have the right, if we so choose, to appoint our own customs officers. The precedent set by the criteria for candidates to our judiciary and law enforcement agency would also require them to be year-round residents. We could, if we wish, combine the roles of police officer and Customs officers and have dual badged officers, employed by the Island, who could be given professional training to allow them to operate to internationally recognised standards.
In an increasingly dangerous, mad and confused world Sark has the right to determine its own future. We are fortunate that in one man, Christopher Beaumont, we have someone who holds the constitution on our behalf. Courtesy of a unique Crown Lease that can trace its legitimacy back over some 450 years, he is in the unique position to protect his Island and the rights of his people to self-determination. We have yet to learn if he possesses the qualities required to be a truly remarkable feudal lord protector of the Island of Sark. In April of this year he told the members of the Guernsey Chamber of Commerce that:
“I view the responsibility I have as being the current custodian of Sark’s unique position within the world.”
“I have only been Seigneur for a matter of months. The transition was instantaneous. The learning process about Sark however started from an almost standing start and has continued at a frantic pace. Being Seigneur puts me in a position of privilege and some responsibility.”
He went on to demonstrate that he had a full understanding of Sark’s unparalleled status on the world stage:
“Sark is unique in that it is a Crown Dependency with direct relationship to Her Majesty and that is through a perpetual lease that is currently held by me but originally granted 452 years ago by Elizabeth I. In today’s terms that means that Sark is a democratic self-governing jurisdiction with a degree of independence. Sark makes its own laws, raises its own taxes, pledges allegiance to the Crown for the protection offered from Her Majesty’s government. The Ministry of Justice, the Lt. Governor and I all take an active interest in Sark’s good governance and government.”
Unfortunately, Christopher Beaumont failed to follow up his understanding of Sark’s autonomy with an honest assessment of the difficulties facing the Island’s economy. He was therefore unable to put forward solutions to the economic problems that, left unchecked, threaten Sark’s autonomous status. He instead opted to trot out the ‘tried and tested’ theme of Sark being ‘a land of milk and honey’; devoid of any of the issues that face the real world. His message was clear: ‘all is good in Sark and nothing will change.’
This was perhaps understandable. By his own admission Christopher Beaumont had, at the time, been engaged in a learning process that was taking place at a frantic pace. By now he will have learnt that his Island is a far cry from the ‘land of milk and honey’ that he so eloquently described to Guernsey's Chamber of Commerce. Sark’s economy is in terminal decline. The population has dropped from over 650 in December 2008 to below 390 today. The number of pupils attending the Island’s only school has plummeted from 47 to 27 over the same period of time.
A person can change their mind and, more often than not, circumstances can change it for them. We must hope that Christopher Beaumont is a man who will accept that he was mistaken. He must address the real issues facing Sark. In doing so he can protect all of our futures.
6th October 2017
THE DECLINE OF SARK’S ECONOMY PREDICTABLE, AVOIDABLE, YET RECOVERABLE
At this week’s meeting of Chief Pleas, Sark’s wholly unelected parliament, long-time member Christopher Nightingale announced that he would be closing his dairy business in mid-November. In a voice trembling with emotion he told the assembly that he would run his current stock of milk bottles down and, once they were gone, the dairy would close for good. This is both a human and economic tragedy for Mr Nightingale, his family and the people of Sark.
This is a tragedy that could have been avoided. Had the governance of Sark not focussed its time, energy and resources over the past nine years in attacking its perceived enemies and had instead adopted a policy of cooperation between government and business the dairy, along with the numerous businesses that have been forced into closure by the state’s policy of economic ethnic cleansing, would be positively thriving.
This publication, along with many Islanders, has a huge respect for Christopher Nightingale. As a hard-working farmer he has dedicated his life to the care of his animals and to producing high quality dairy products, the foremost of which is, of course, local milk. A man with a huge natural presence and a disarming charm, over the years he has shown himself capable of leaving his political ideology within the confines of the committee offices and engaged with all sections of Sark’s society. He is by no means unique in this, but, amongst the few members of Sark’s government that do engage with all of Sark’s residents, Mr Nightingale stands head and shoulders above them all.
Over the past year he has been instrumental in Sark Estate Management’s Terry Crowther’s work in building a beef herd that will be grazing the land that is being returned to pasture following the closure of its vineyards. Many of the animals within the herd have been purchased from Mr Nightingale’s dairy business and his advice and support have been invaluable.
Sark’s dairy is yet another business that has fallen foul of the Island’s anti-business policies. This week’s meeting of Chief Pleas was of note in that it marked the moment in time when Sark’s ‘establishment’ finally acknowledged the dire state of the Island’s economy. True to form they could not bring themselves to admit that it is of their own making, preferring instead to apportion blame to the very people they have wasted the past nine years attacking.
Even now there are hard-line feudal fundamentalists that will see Sark’s economy die and would surrender the Island’s autonomy, rather than set aside their bitterness and hostility and seeking a solution to Sark’s woes. That said there are perhaps signs that amongst their midst there are some voices of reason that see that the only way forward for Sark is to establish a culture of open, transparent and accountable governance and an economic climate to attract desperately needed inward investment. Charles Maitland, reflecting on Sark’s governance for item 12 of the agenda, said:
“I have met some angry residents over the past few weeks, probably no doubt the same residents that bothered to reply to the exhaustive consultation sent out by the Good Governance PDT earlier in the year. They cannot understand why Chief Pleas cannot grasp the need for reform and get on with it and consider that much of this attitude is driven by self-interest. Certainly I think that Chief Pleas is in danger of becoming a laughing stock; we fudged the issue of reducing our numbers to 14, settling for the dangerously high number of 18 and then, to make matters worse, refuse to take the next logical step in agreeing to the establishment review which asks the committees to look at what functions could be delegated. There are many that say some Conseillers are more interested in what Sark can do for them rather than looking to see what they can do for Sark. Self-interest and protection of their jobs and the way they undertake those jobs supervised by the committee of which they are a member would seem to be paramount.”
Sébastien Moerman, assessing the dire state of the Island’s economy, stated:
“The priority should be the economy. We have a declining economy. We need to attract new taxpayers and investors to Sark. If we carry on the way we are it is very likely that we will become a retirement home.”
The decline of Sark’s economy was as predictable as it was avoidable. The closure of the Island’s dairy provides a wakeup call, if any were needed, to all on Sark. Over four years ago the letter opposite was sent to the Sark government warning them of the consequences of inaction on their part. The offer of a public / private initiative to establish a Customs post remains on the table. We must work together to build a sustainable economy. We must create a prosperous future for the generations that follow us, and in doing so, protect our precious autonomy.
“It is an undisputable fact that Sark’s economy is facing an uncertain future. The numbers of tourists and day visitors coming here are alarmingly low. Not only does this have an impact on the Island’s tourism-related businesses where income is down, it also affects the Island’s revenues as illustrated by the drop in last year’s income from Impot. Revenues from hospitality businesses on the island show that a further substantial drop in impot revenues for this year can be expected. Furthermore, with desperately low levels of freight and all but stagnant passenger numbers, the Isle of Sark Shipping’ revenues are falling with the company expected to follow last year’s appalling losses with a further loss in trading this year. Once again the Island’s taxpayers will have to bear the cost of supporting the Company’s shortfall in cash flow and, indeed, its commitment to the banks.
The small size of the Guernsey market, the only daily market open to Sark, is obviously insufficient to sustain the Island’s main industry, namely tourism. As a result, unemployment is rising and record numbers of people are having to leave the Island.
There is only one solution that will deliver an immediate boost to Sark’s economy and in turn its job market; you and your Committee have the responsibility to act without further delay and confirm that there will be a Customs post on Sark in place before the beginning of the next tourist season, starting in April 2014. There is no alternative if you wish to provide a future for Sark and its people - and in the process help to resolve the differences that divide the island by creating an economy for the benefit of all.
Sark has nothing to lose and, indeed, there is no alternative. I confirm that the cost of providing all necessary facilities for a customs post will be met by SEM, be it in the form of a portacabin or refitting an existing structure. SEM will also commit to provide accommodation for the Customs officers, which leaves the Island of Sark bearing the cost of the seasonal salaries only.
Sark is an attractive, low cost destination with some 8million people living in the immediate vicinity of North West France alone, only an hour or so away across the Channel. The strength of the Euro works tremendously in our favour. A pint of lager, for example, costs twice as much in France as it does in Sark and this applies to many other consumer items and tourism-related services.
Tourism is a major contributor to the economies of all the countries in the Western world. Sark can no longer support itself through the declining number of visitors from the Bailiwick Islands alone, Islands which have their own problems in dealing with their economies. Sark can no longer sit back and hope for the best. We have to act and act now.
It is vital for Sark’s various tourism-related businesses, and all other sectors of the economy that benefit from a healthy tourism market, that there is a commitment from the Island’s government without further delay. We merely need to know now that there will be a Customs presence on the Island for the next season so that we can immediately plan and start marketing accordingly. The Tourism Committee is currently canvassing businesses to advertise in its 2014 – 2015 tourism brochure and it is of crucial importance that we can begin marketing direct access to Sark from France in this publication.”