by Rod McLoughlin
International Relations Minister Carolyn Labey is reviewing contributions to the ongoing consultation on Island identity, and said to-date there had been ‘quite a good response’.
The strength of the Island’s cultural sector, the environment and importance of teaching aspects of Jersey history have featured prominently in submissions made though the Island Identity website, she said. The consultation closes on 12 October. But she added that another theme raised by some respondents related to inequalities created by the Island’s cost of living.
‘A lot of people have questioned the cost of housing which may be detrimental to staying over here and also affect quality of life which is a serious issue that the government is already considering but it is also something which impinges on our identity,’ she said. Mid-way through the consultation, which Deputy Labey announced in May, she also told the JEP that a public conference would be held later this year to explore in greater detail some of the themes raised by the public.
The event, which is likely to be held in November after the public consultation has closed, will afford the opportunity for further engagement by the public and the chance to hear speakers engage with some of the key themes around Jersey’s identity.
In the past month, Deputy Labey has taken a roadshow to six parish assemblies to help explain the importance of the consultation, which is intended to help shape policy-making to enhance a number of specific government objectives: to conserve Jersey’s unique character and heritage, improve awareness of the Island’s status as a small nation, nurture citizenship and engagement, address exclusion and to promote the Island’s international personality.
‘I think it’s really important work at the moment,’ Deputy Labey said. ‘Some might question the timing because we are coming out of the pandemic but I feel it’s vitally important that all aspects of Island identity are considered now when some are concerned that this identity is being diluted with four decades of influx to the Island. Post-Brexit and post-pandemic, it is vitally important that we are confident about our identity and where we want to place ourselves,’ she said.
She added that developing a curriculum which could be used not only with Island schoolchildren but also to help those newly-arrived in the Island to understand what made Jersey distinctive was especially important. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a welcome pack that helped teach people what the Island is about and where they could seek help. We are not part of the UK, neither are we just an adjunct to the UK but it is easy to slip into that school of thought,’ she said.
In addition to the online consultation and visits to parish assemblies, there has been direct consultation with a number of bodies including: ArtHouse Jersey, Jersey Heritage, Visit Jersey, Jersey Overseas Aid, Ports of Jersey, Jersey Sport, the Comité des Connétables, Institute of Directors, the Chamber of Commerce, Jersey Finance, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Caritas, Digital Jersey, the Jersey International Centre of Advanced Studies, States Members and a number of government departments. Deputy Labey said that all public feedback about enhancing our Island identity was welcome and she encouraged those with views to participate at the website islandidentity.je.