What price to put on saving lives?
Economic development wields axe of efficiency on beach lifeguard services

In recent years, Jersey Tourism has invested significantly in advertising campaigns to attract visitors to the Island. A selling point has always been the quality of Jersey’s beaches as well as those tasked with protecting them. (Indeed, the TV adverts depict a lifeguard service vehicle surveying a stretch of shoreline.) Despite this, not even lifesaving can escape the wave of cost cutting that is sweeping over the public sector at this time.

Last month it emerged that the States of Jersey were in talks with the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) – who may now take over the service. The proposals include an £80,000 annual cut to the lifeguard budget. Economic Development Minister, Senator Alan Maclean, has admitted that the revised service would be provided on reduced wages and may be removed from some coastal spots entirely.

Details of exactly how the charity would perform the revised service are not yet known. One thing is certain, rescuing a drowning bather whilst holding a collection bucket may prove difficult. The question also needs to be asked – what will the new lifesavers look like? Will chiselled athletes, complete with trademark sunnies and thongs, be replaced with spotty teenagers in bibs and clipboards? (“Excuse me, sorry to interrupt your sandcastle, do you support any causes?”)

Looking at the broader picture, money saved here will go to other worthwhile initiatives. For one, there’s the police force’s overtime budget for providing security services at a much-needed Whaling convention in July (of huge relevance to the island (?)). Also, we must find resources to afford another £250,000 batch of Tamiflu and an assortment of hanging baskets to go with the new tarmac and lay-bys at Cheapside.

Maybe the States are considering the implications of having rejected C Le Masurier’s bid to invest £40m in the Odeon site and surrounding area? Fewer lifeguards patrolling Jersey’s beaches may free up cash to employ skivvies to catch chunks of the cinema as it slowly decomposes.

A petition against the changes has been co-ordinated by the owners of El Tico and Laneez Surf Centre. Will it be enough to instigate a government re-think? Time will tell.