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New Ministers Elected Unopposed

Deputy Jeremy Macon is the new Children and Education Minister and Deputy Russell Labey is the new Housing and Communities Minister.

Both were elected unopposed after being nominated by the Chief Minister.

The Education and Children departments have been merged following a request from the Children's Commissioner.

Senator John Le Fondre will also sign an order to add Communities to the Housing portfolio.

Deputy Macon was elected to replace Senator Sam Mezec as Housing Minister in November, but stepped aside to take on the Education remit.

He was the Assistant Minister until Senator Tracey Vallois resigned as Education Minister in January.

"It goes without saying that these times have been tough on all of us, but whilst there is some light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine programme, the role and demands of the department will only increase and we will have to supplement our recovery curriculum so that our young people are not left behind as a result of the pandemic." - Deputy Jeremy Macon.

He was then asked a range of questions from fellow States members, including:

The school funding review: "There are controversial recommendations within that review. We know, for example, anything that should include restructuring the fee-paying sector would be highly controversial and may not be worth extending energies on.

"On the other hand, we know that the inclusion review is being cried out for to pursue.

"That is why I want to take it to the Council of Ministers to get political soundings, to know what the rest of the Council feels, to know where the energies in bringing forth these recommendations should really lie."

If there will be a review into added demand on town schools with the increasing number of homes being built in St Helier: "I've made the case for extending Rouge Bouillon School. I think they are a key player at the old police station site. I think that it is a key priority that the Education Minister make a claim to that site. Whilst the school is safe, there are significant issues with the estate there and it does require a significant amount of investment. That issue needs to be addressed.

"Is there is extra capacity required within the town schooling system? Yes it is. Officers have already highlighted that as a policy area that needs to be developed with our colleagues in the Infrastructure Department. It is something in the work programme of the Education Minister."

Clarity on if he is still committed to delivering 30 hours of nursery funding: "The money provided in the Government Plan was to support the Early Years Policy Development Board recommendations. One of the recommendations is the 30 hours (and the) intention (is) to achieve that, but that was all subject to consultation with the industry.

"We also need to consider the other recommendations within that report for the best outcomes of children."

Any plan to help young people in their recovery from coronavirus: "The Deputy (Pamplin) will be aware of initiatives such as the Kooth app which have already been launched and many islanders students are already taking part to support them with their mental health.

"There is also a redesign of CAMS in order to provide a more reactive outreach service to provide those aspects for young people. 

"This is why the inclusion review is so important because whilst CAMS obviously deals with the higher demand clients, the idea of providing more of an early prevention approach will hopefully address wellbeing and mental health issues at a lower level."

Deputy Russell Labey becomes a Minister for the first time since coming into the States Assembly in 2014.

He said he was surprised to take on the role, as it wasn't something he sought.

"The call came as a surprise at 3pm on Saturday from the Chief Minister. I said thank you and I'll think about it.

"I've got two friends staying here who have a home in Scotland and got marooned here before Christmas with Nicola Sturgeon's blockade. I told them about the phone call and they were telling me they want to move to England and the range of government-funded finance models that were available to them, they were amazed, and such was the help available they were able to put an offer down on a house.

"All I've ever hard in the first term when I stood in 2014 to 2018 on questions about the housing crisis, the answer was always it's just supply.

"But it isn't just supply alone. It's supply and assistance. I began to think if we could offer potential buyers more assistance because they can't shop around, they can't move out of town to where the bands get lower to find the place they afford.

"So if we can combine supply with real assistance, do we dare to hope that we might be able to offer our young people the realistic opportunity to buy a home if that is what they want to do?"

In taking this role, he steps away as Chairman of PPC and the Planning Committee.

The new Minister also asked questions from States members on:

How he intends to stabilise rents or bring them down: "What they (the Housing Policy Development Board) have done is put rental stabilisation on the agenda, they have also put on the agenda investigating reform of social rent. We've got to work on tenants' rights, the security of tenure.

"For some people, we want them to view their tenancy as a long-term tenancy, that they're secure there. I want to work with the landlords in the private sector and their tenants. We want to try and not get entrenchment. We want to find common ground and make some progress on helping people in their tenancies."

Does he think there should be a landlord licencing system: "It's faulted. I struggled to find anybody who could tell me exactly what is happening with licensing or a register of landlords. I think we have to do something like that."

What he understands to be his role within communities: "I believe that the potential is there to give a voice to, for example, the elderly. I think it's about pulling threads together. In terms of the third sector, the parish community stuff. The intention is not to stop those workstreams, but maybe pull them together and give them a voice."

How he plans to support housing providers to satisfy the demand for the over 55s without rezoning more greenfield sites: "My position has always been that if green fields have to go, then let's make it the green fields that are the least productive.

"I'm sorry if in St Peter, that means it's not right in the village centre and it might be more towards the airport, but isn't it better to build, if we have to on green fields, ones that are not so good for agriculture."

Would he favour the States intervening in buying sites and putting them to affordable home developments: "The (Housing Policy Development Board) report goes into recommending a tough line on stopping land banking and where sites have been rezoned, compulsory purchasing them if development is not forthcoming.

We've got a target to hit with these 7,000 units by 2030 and we might have to get tough."

Deputy Labey has told States members that the Housing Policy Development Board report should be released within the next couple of weeks. It is awaiting sign-off from the Chief Minister.

Bailiff Tim Le Cocq says he would like the elections for chair of PPC and chair of the Planning Committee to be sorted later today or tomorrow.

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