I have been Deputy of St Helier No 2 district for the past 17 years and during this time, I have worked hard to represent all residents, both collectively in the States, and individually when problems arise. I remain the most active backbencher in the States in terms of questions asked and propositions lodged.
Throughout this time I have consistently promoted progressive policies and challenged the wrong-headed actions of ministers. From my early days campaigning to save school milk, improving workers’ rights, establishing redundancy payments and securing funding for the Town Park, my efforts have met with increasing success.
I am most proud recently of my success in working with others in the scrutiny process to reverse the cut to support for single parents in income support. This was a cynical move to save money £10m from the budget which was railroaded through the States in the face of evidence that this group was shown in the Income Distribution Survey to have the lowest incomes of all.
The stand-out achievement, however, in conjunction with my party colleagues in Reform Jersey, was the adoption by the States of the living wage. This, I believe, will vastly improve the quality of life for those on low and poverty wages over the long term. Already we see the start of applications to be accredited as a “Living wage Employer” from companies who recognise that treating their workers with respect improves commitment, raises standards, and lowers training and recruitment costs as employees demonstrate their loyalty to a good employer.
This is the way forward for the economy.
Our task now is to improve the lives of all low and middle earners who have seen their incomes frozen or stagnant for the last decade. To do so we have to address the twin evils of low wages and high rents. We have begun to address the problem of low wages by obtaining improvements to the minimum wage, but there is still much to do to ensure that being in work is genuinely rewarding.
The issue of unaffordable house prices and rent levels will take longer to solve and requires a robust and effective migration policy if we are even to make a start. The creation of Andium Homes and the policy of rental levels set at 90% of the private sector, simply makes rents unaffordable. In the sort term, we propose a freeze on social rent levels, and a tax on empty properties while we research a way to bring down rents to sustainable levels.
Reform Jersey is committed to reduce income tax rates for those on low and middle incomes, and to end the cap on social security. These two actions alone will raise up to £50m in additional revenue to fund essential services.
I have the energy, enthusiasm and know how to continue to fight for social justice, so please vote for me, Geoff Southern, in St Helier No. 2 District.
Vote for the team – Vote Reform Jersey on May 16th.