A stark view from Sark businesses
Thursday 10th October 2013, 4:00PM BST.
WHILE Guernsey’s ‘chancellor’ has been outlining his Budget proposals – a modest package based on prudence, responsibility and stability – Sark has been coming to terms with its own, far more damaging equivalent.
Taxes up and duty on cigarettes and alcohol increased by 15%, three times the size of the rise here – but despite that an expectation the amount brought in will fall by 2.2%.
The reason is that tourism is at best static, the housing market dead and 50 taxpayers are expected to quit the island next year.
By Chief Pleas’ own figures, it is an island in decline, which is why the Ministry of Justice is this week holding a series of economic workshops there to try to stimulate things.
However, a business questionnaire just released by the Sark Chamber of Commerce shows that the situation is far worse than the budget suggests.
Most businesses are standing still in terms of employees, 62% report poor trading conditions and 80% expect conditions to be worse (54%) or the same. Nearly 70% will make no further investment in their business.
However, asked to identify areas of mounting business concern, the respondents overwhelmingly highlighted the deficiencies of government and Chief Pleas’ anti-business stance, growing amounts of red tape and absence of any business development plan.
What makes this particularly devastating is that none of these comments came from Sark Estate Management businesses, which did not take part. It is existing businesses with no axe to grind that have produced a withering critique of their own leaders and it is clear that Chief Pleas’ antagonism towards investment by SEM is damaging the island as a whole.
The other area where Sarkees have turned on their own is over the operation of Isle of Sark Shipping and tourism. Both are seen as badly run, too expensive and nowhere near as efficient as Trident.
There are also demands for more links, an end to IoSS’s monopoly and a Customs post to facilitate direct ferries.
While a number of respondents did not like the tone of the Sark Newsletter, they have decisively backed many of the things it has been saying.