Please vote: Robert Gregson

rob photo

For the South East district

on Wednesday 23rd April


Biography

I grew up in St Martin’s from the age of 2 months and have lived here for most of my life. I was educated locally and, after studying for a degree in Maths, pursued a career in marketing management and IT, working in the UK, the US, Hong Kong, Canada and Norway. I now work as a self-employed software developer.

I have two children: a 15-year-old daughter who lives in Manchester and who visits regularly, and one-year-old son in Guernsey.

Environment

The time for action on the environment is NOW! I believe the majority of islanders are willing to play their part but the present government is lagging behind. There has been progress in recycling but there is still a long way to go. Our politicians can take little credit, for example, for the initiative to reduce plastic bag use. Progress on critical environmental measures will be faster if the States takes its duty to lead seriously.

As a wealthy island, our resource usage and carbon emissions per capita are high. We also have a significant impact upon our local environment - particularly when dealing with our waste. Our growing population and (we hope) continuing strong economy will exacerbate these existing problems, so we need to put strategies in place now to enable us not just to cope but to thrive. If we take the lead, we will encourage other similarly sized communities to do the same, so, even though we’re small, our efforts do count.

It is possible to reduce our environmental impact whilst maintaining (or even enhancing!) our standard of living.

Waste reduction

Whilst recycling is good, waste reduction is far better. We have become accustomed to a throw-away culture, but with foresight and a dynamic approach we have the opportunity to steal a march in this area. Even China has recently banned plastic bags; we should have the courage to go further and tackle the problem of (often excess) packaging arriving in our island. Not an easy undertaking, but one which could save us millions when commissioning and operating a waste facility.

Recycling

Separation of waste needs to become second nature for all, as it is, for example, in Scandinavia. In order to reach this point, there must be no gaps; we must make proper provision throughout the island: at schools, in public places and in States departments themselves. Kerb-side recycling should be introduced island-wide.

Incinerator

An incinerator remains a terrible idea. Incinerators release poisonous dioxins and produce highly toxic fly-ash. They also require large volumes of waste - especially flammable materials like cardboard and plastics; this is totally contrary to our collective efforts to reduce and recycle waste in the island. Building a incinerator would reverse the progress we have worked so hard to achieve. The current proposal is for an incinerator with capacity rising to 70,000 tonnes – if anything with global consciousness of waste issues improving, we should be planning for a reduction in waste.

Sewage

The States agreed in 1996 to address the sewage problem by 2006. Yet in 2008, our sewage treatment remains a disgrace. As an island that is proud of its maritime tradition and its reputation as a tourist destination, we must do something about this. There is no way to separate out viruses, bacteria and toxic chemicals from the waste stream; this means that a full sewage treatment plant is a necessity. I do not believe that this will necessitate an incinerator.

Traffic

I am on the committee of the pedestrian safety group STEPS.

The majority of Guernsey's drivers are courteous and risk-averse but the behaviour of some drivers makes our roads dangerous and unpleasant for everyone. Leading others, in a vicious circle, to prioritise their own and their family’s safety; they too stop considering transport options other than the car. However, we must remember that some people do not have the option of driving – notably children and some older people. This result is that our roads are out of bounds for them and they become dependent upon others to drive them. Also, many pavements become unsafe as they are annexed as part of the road. The Bailiff's Cross Road is a shocking example of this.

We need to make our roads and particularly our lanes safer and more pleasant for those who choose not to drive for environmental or health reasons - or through necessity. We should be encouraging a culture of respect for people, rather than allowing the blind assumption to persist that everyone is safe inside a car. As well as lower speed limits in lanes, I would like to see the teaching of respect for vulnerable road users incorporated into driving lessons and an understanding that driving is a privilege, not a right.

It is not long since our roads were safe even for children to cycle or walk to school unaccompanied, people would meet on the streets and there was a strong community feeling. The States should be bold enough to expand its policy of encouraging alternative modes of transport. By adapting our travel patterns, we could save ourselves some part of the hundreds of millions of pounds we spend on private vehicles per annum and simultaneously improve our environment, quality of life and local community.

Community

Closing St Andrew’s School would take the heart our the parish. I would prefer our parishes to remain real communities in which people know and look out for each other.

Similarly, I regret the loss of small shops and community pubs from many parishes. If we want to revive the relaxed and friendly nature of the island that seems somehow to be slipping away, then we should be preserving these parish institutions and encouraging people to think local first.

It took a wave of arson attacks in St Martin’s to get police officers patrolling the parish on foot. I would like to see a permanent return to community policing in Guernsey.

Transparency & Communication

The States does not have a good record on communicating with the people of Guernsey. Transparency and accountability could both be improved. Neither has it kept pace with the information age.

I would like to close the perceived distance between the States and the people. If elected, I would like to improve the accountability of our elected government and aim to improve communication in general, particularly by improving the States’ own web site. Specifically, I would:

  1. Publish details of deputies' records. I would like to make easily accessible a record of interests, attendance and (through recorded voting in the house) voting history.
  2. Have a good look at the culture of secrecy at the IDC. Making planning decisions in such an opaque manner leads to suspicion - whether justified or not.
  3. Publish as much publicly available information as possible, and improve the usefulness and usability of the States' web site.
  4. Hold (and encourage other South-East deputies) to attend regular "surgeries" in St Martin's and St Andrew's.

Education

The children of our island are our future. We should do all we can to ensure that every one of the island's children get an excellent education. If capital expenditure is necessary, then we should prioritise it. We should also make every effort to attract and retain good teachers.

St Andrew’s school is an excellent and innovative school. We need to direct more resources towards it, not shut it down.

Spending

Spending on capital projects seems to have been badly managed over the last few years. There is clearly room for improvement in the areas of financial control and risk management. However, I don't believe that we can make deep cuts to our public sector without damaging the quality of provision of education, health and social services.

Culture

As a committee member of Guernsey's independent film club, Cine Guernsey, I have made some effort to increase the range of cultural options in the island.

Guernsey has always punched above its weight in sport and the current Culture & Leisure department has done a good job of fostering sport in the island. However, not everyone has the same penchant for sports. I am glad to see that Culture & Leisure has recently broadened its remit to foster the arts as well. I believe that providing outlets for musical, dramatic and visual arts for our young people will enrich the island – and give perhaps otherwise disaffected kids an opportunity to channel their energy in more positive ways.

Tax

I do not advocate scrapping zero-ten; I hope that the "go for growth" policy will succeed. However, we must be ready for outcomes other than its unequivocal success. Without mortgaging our quality of life and going for large scale population growth we will probably need to raise more money in taxation. Under the new tax regime, I don't believe that companies are making a fair contribution to the island infrastructure. The burden seems to have fallen on the ordinary taxpayer. Something must be done to redress the balance.

Where possible, we should target tax to encourage sustainable behaviour.

Economy and population

Growth is good, but it cannot continue uninterrupted without some price being paid. I think we would be foolish to sacrifice quality of life for growth. Innovation and technology (for instance, tidal power) are a part of the solution but limiting population growth is crucial.

However, if we can learn to live well whilst consuming less then the rewards can be: better community spirit, a more pleasant environment, a reduction in crime and a general increase in our quality of life.

The next States will face challenges both predictable and unforeseen, both local and global, but all serious and demanding an agile response. I would like to contribute at this time when we need dynamic people able to suggest innovative solutions.

Contact

Please feel free to contact me on 07911 741986

or by email at: robert@gregsonweb.com