Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Barclays' Sark closures under way

Sir David (l) and Sir Frederick Barclay

Firms on Sark owned by the millionaire Barclay brothers have begun closing, leaving a quarter of the island's population facing unemployment.

The closures came about because the brothers did not approve of the choices made by voters in the channel island's first democratic election in 450 years.

About 140 people were employed in the Barclays' hotels, shops, estate agents, building firms and restaurants.

Members of the island's new government defiantly said: "The show will go on."

Twins Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, 73, who own the neighbouring island of Brecqhou, as well as the Telegraph Group, want radical electoral reforms on Sark.

They object to the hereditary post of seigneur, as well as the seneschal who acts as both chief judge and the speaker in the island's government, the Chief Pleas.


Kevin Delaney, business manager for Sark Estate Management, which runs the Barclay's Sark interests, told BBC News that by electing candidates mainly opposed to radical reforms, the people of Sark "have effectively written the longest commercial suicide note in human history".

He said the estate has no need to sell the properties and intends to hold on to them.

But Seneschal (chief judge) Lt Col Reg Guille said: "The last time the people of Sark were told how to vote was in 1940.

"We got our independence back in 1945 at the point of a bayonet.

"The people have voted. They've chosen their government."

'Numb and scared'

However there is concern for the people who have lost their jobs as there is no welfare state in Sark.

Lynn Nelson, who ran the Island Beauty Salon in a property rented from the estate, said: "People are absolutely devastated, numb and scared.

"They don't know how they are going to provide the next meal for their family."

We've got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and move forward to a shiny new democracy
Conseiller Paul Armorgie

The manageress of the Aval du Creux hotel said she was informed of its closure on Thursday afternoon.

She said she, her husband and 11 other staff had lost their jobs and did not know what they were going to do next.

But she said she did not blame the Barclay Brothers who had invested "millions of pounds" into the island's economy.

Jan Guy, one of Sark's tourist advisors, said less than 20% of the island's accommodation had been affected.

Politicians in Jersey have pledged their support for islanders who have lost their jobs and there have been offers of financial support from individuals in Guernsey.

Conseiller Paul Armorgie, one of the newly-elected members of Sark's Chief Pleas (government), said: "The show will go on.

"We've lost one of our benefactors but we've got to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down and move forward to a shiny new democracy."

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