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A letter to St Helier ratepayers

A combination of continued thrift and good housekeeping on the part of Parish staff and the addition of new rateable properties to our rates list meant that last July in the annual Rates Assembly I was able to ask ratepayers, for the 8th year running, to maintain the Parish Rate at 1.15p. While the Islandwide Rate, which represents ratepayers' contribution to the cost of welfare following the transfer of this responsibility to the States in 2008, rose slightly with inflation, the Parish element of the rates bill did not, which hopefully was a small but welcome relief to parishioners with limited financial means, and of assistance to businesses working to recover from the financial challenges caused by the pandemic. Even so, St Helier ratepayers still pay the 3rd highest Parish Rate in the Island – only St Mary and St Martin ratepayers pay more, and I think it is only fair, given the extra pressures on St Helier residents, that we seek to reduce the rates burden further.

This year’s rates bills will be sent out following this year's Rates Assembly which will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 6th July in the Town Hall. Please make a note of this meeting in your diaries and attend if you can. Not only does this provide the opportunity to examine the Parish accounts for the current financial year (to 30th April 2022) but it also allows ratepayers to approve – or otherwise! – the Parish’s spending plans for 2022/23, and thereby to determine what the Parish Rate will be for the coming year. The ability to determine how much we pay in rates, or local taxation, is practically unique to Jersey and is one of the cornerstones of the Parish system.

The past 2 years have presented an enormous challenge with the Coronavirus pandemic requiring huge changes in how the Parish delivers its services; I am most grateful for the tremendous effort that has been made by every member of staff to adapt and, in some cases to change, their working practices in order to comply with the public health restrictions. I also want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of our volunteers, including our Honorary Police officers, for their commitment and support for the Parish in what have been extremely trying circumstances.

Since I was first elected Constable in 2001 I have been pressing successive Committee Presidents and, more recently, the Council of Ministers, to make good the recommendation of a 2000 review into the relationship between the States of Jersey and the parishes, namely that St Helier ratepayers should not be picking up the bills for public services such as litter collection, parks and public toilets maintenance which are paid for out of general taxation in the other parishes. I have also been pressing the Government to focus less on high-profile, prestigious projects such as on the Waterfront and at Fort Regent, and instead to commit regeneration funding to the residential streets of the Parish in several Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIAs). To this end I will seek to establish an Urban Renewal Task Force to achieve these small-scale but vital improvements in our town’s infrastructure.

(This is a shortened version of a letter which accompanied the annual Assessments sent to ratepayers recently.)

Simon Crowcroft, Constable of St Helier