Jersey C.I. – There was an awkward exchange in the States chamber on Tuesday – the first ever sitting to be streamed live – when Deputy Geoff Southern suggested the Education Minister, Deputy Rod Bryans, was misleading the assembly.
It was all to do with how much newly qualified teachers get paid in the UK and after the Deputy Bailiff muttered something about serious accusations it all died down.
But it was an easy misunderstanding to arrive at and I know because embarrassingly I made a similar mistake (on-air) after an Education Department briefing on the subject a few months ago.
Is the confusion because Deputy Southern and I are simple creatures (possible) or has it something to do with the way that plans to lop £8,000 off new teachers’ starting salaries in Jersey are being pitched.
Deputy Southern has reservations about the idea but the Council of Ministers are unmoved (see why here).
Their stated top reason for pressing ahead is that new teachers in Jersey earn up to £16,000 more than in England & Wales, where new teachers get £22,000.
And ministers say their proposals – for a £30,000 starting rate – will merely reduce the “Jersey premium” by half, to £8,000.
What’s more, they say Jersey’s 5% sales tax (compared to the UK’s 20%) makes life cheaper here AND they say the UK’s income tax rate of 25% is an awful lot more than Jersey’s 20%.
All told, the young bucks will still be quids in.
Hmm. All that seems a bit spinny, or just wrong, for a number of reasons….
- After London, Jersey has (and not by a long way) the most expensive property market in the UK. It’s disingenuous to wave that £22,000 figure about. Salaries in Jersey are, as the ministerial comments eventually concede, far more commonly compared with London, not Merthyr Tydfil.
- If the sales tax situation is so much better in Jersey, how come everything (apart from cigarettes) costs the same in Jersey as in the UK… or more?
- The UK income tax rate, for this pay range, is not 25%, it’s 20%, just like… umm.. Jersey.
- When this comes into effect, post 2018, Jersey’s tax rate won’t be 20%, it will be 21%, because of the health charge.
So let’s ignore the £22,000 nonsense, get the calculator out and see if we can put this in black and white, sans spin….
(Look at the tax rates! And they call Jersey folk tax dodgers? Harrumph.)
(MPS stands for Main Pay Scale)
The above numbers are what you might call back-of-a-fag-packet, but the assumptions are consistent and the results accurate enough for illustrative purposes.
And they make the official fog seem unnecessary. Here’s the story in a nutshell: new teachers in Jersey have indeed been getting paid (a lot) more than their colleagues in London and will continue to do so, albeit to a much lesser extent, after the proposed salary cut.
Unions might take a different view but the current States assembly has passed far more unkind spending measures.
Luckily, the only people affected don’t know it yet. They’re still at uni.
Yet when they do come to consider living in a small island hundreds of miles and a flight away from family and friends, they might make different calculations in 2018 than would be the case today.
Indeed, in another debate this week, the Council of Ministers are opposing the lifting of the health tax cap for the wealthiest.
Their thinking? Rich folk might think twice about coming to Jersey if they have to pay 1% towards health on all their earnings rather than just on the first £164,000.
Applying that logic to cash-strapped graduates, it’s entirely possible that new teachers will view salaries of £38,000 and £30,000 differently.
In short, recruitment could become more difficult (or less easy).
Sure, ministers point out that £30,000 is still more than they’ll get in the UK, but only by 10% or so, and in Jersey we also have the easyJet tax. For most young British graduates, afterall, this place is a long way from home and their mates.
So if teacher recruitment is not to suffer, Education may have to target more adventurous sorts who prefer surfing to nights out with all their old uni mates in Brixton.
Even then, that 10% more in the pay packet might not be enough.
Turns out graduates with a relaxed attitude to distance and a penchant for surfing have other options.
New teachers in Australia get paid A$62,282 a year. That’s…
Which is more than in the UK; will soon be more than in Jersey; and is definitely enough to set you up somewhere like this…
A three-bed house with a double garage in the sun with plenty cash to spare for the price of a one-bed flat in Jersey.
Yikes. Time, perhaps, for Education to pitch Jersey’s truly unique selling points.
“Come and work in Jersey, an island of simple pleasures, where you can have a kebab on Mulcaster Street after a boozy day-trip to St Malo.
“Nurse the hangover in a pricey bedsit watching webcast re-runs of Deputy Geoff Southern in the States.
“(Oh, and the smokes are cheap.)”
Failing that, as seems likely, Education will just have to keep on paying top whack for the teachers it really needs.