Attac Jersey is a Member of the International Tax Justice Network. We are Members of the Association for the Taxation of financial Transactions for the Benefit of Citizens, (ATTAC) and the Tax Justice Network, (TJN). The aims of both organisations are to research, educate and campaign to further public awareness. We are seeking to alleviate poverty through the creation of just taxation systems to fund social goods.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Letter to the Editor of the Jersey Evening Post. 

Slammed for telling an inconvenient truth

January 13, 2011 – 3:00 pm
From Deputy Montfort Tadier.

Dear Editor,

I write to you to correct some inaccuracies in your report (JEP, 12 January) about my recent appearance on Mark Thomas’s BBC radio programme.

The figures relating to the number of Islanders receiving financial support were not ‘botched’, as your political correspondent Ben Quérée claimed in the article and the percentage that the Social Security Minister has given does not tell the full story.

On top of the supposed 17 per cent who receive income support, there are many others in receipt of ‘financial support’ (what I was asked about) in other forms. For example, in 2009 1,732 residents claimed the GST (‘Food Costs’) bonus.

The GST bonus is given to adults who are not in receipt of Income Support, but who do not earn enough to pay income tax. It is deemed that their income is insufficient for them to afford to pay for foodstuffs as well as the associated three per cent (soon to be five per cent) tax, so they are compensated for the latter.

In other words, they receive financial support from the Government to meet the costs of subsistence. This is paid out by the Social Security department, but is not recognised in the 17 per cent figure which Deputy Gorst has quoted. For some technical reason – no doubt to help keep the figures down – it is not considered part of Income Support. Is it financial support? Quite clearly, yes. Is it paid out to low-income households? Again, yes.

We can go on to consider other benefits that are necessary for many residents simply to survive in Jersey’s affluent society.

For example, there are roughly 6,200 social rental homes in Jersey – some owned directly by the States, others by Housing Trusts – yet 30 per cent of States tenants and 70 per cent of those in Housing Trusts are not on income support.

Though their income is above the threshold to qualify for Income Support, they are still not in a position where they can afford to pay the inflated market rates that are required in the private sector. Again, these are not included in Deputy Gorst’s very narrow and conveniently low figures, Yet this, too, the provision of housing at below market rate, is another form of support which is necessary for many Islanders to be able to live in what is becoming an increasingly expensive Island, with acute problems when it come to the supply of affordable accommodation.

Of course, what these Statistics do not take into account are the many hard working Islanders who have lived here for three or four years, who pay social security, who pay income tax, who often pay a premium for non-qualified housing – sometimes of questionable quality – yet who cannot claim Income Support and who will not be compensated by the GST (‘Food Costs’) bonus (something pointed out last month by Mr Ferey of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau).

It is a shame that reporters took the Minister’s ‘lean’ figures at face value, while trying to inculpate me for some kind of ‘high treason’, because I dared, on national radio, to tell an inconvenient truth.

The matters raised in Mark Thomas’ radio show regarding Jersey may not be flattering for those in Jersey’s ruling elite, however, ordinary residents in Jersey, those on marginal incomes and the 8,000 or so who have already signed the GST petition asking for the dismissal of Treasury Minister Senator Ozouf do not need Statistics and, to tell them what they already know: That life in Jersey is a struggle.

That they cannot always be sure to meet the bills at the end of the month; they cannot necessarily afford to send their children to university and that very real choices have to be made – for some – between heating and eating.

Moreover, it is high time that more local journalists take a leaf out of Mr Thomas’ book and start asking inconvenient, but essential questions about how it is that in a supposedly rich Island such as Jersey there is such a large section of society who are struggling daily in a very real way to make ends meet; why Jersey cannot afford to provide school milk for children and why we are having to close key heritage sites, prized by locals and tourists alike, because Jersey is simply too poor to afford these luxuries.

When this starts to happen perhaps public confidence will start to be restored and some politicians will be shamed into working for the working people of Jersey and not against them.

Article posted on 13th January, 2011 - 3.00pm

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