Comment: Why the system isn't quite right

TWO comments that were made after members of the States gathered at the weekend for a ‘blue skies’ look at what the forthcoming States Strategic Plan might include will have given islanders pause for thought.

TWO comments that were made after members of the States gathered at the weekend for a ‘blue skies’ look at what the forthcoming States Strategic Plan might include will have given islanders pause for thought.

The first was from the Social Security minister, who said: ‘There is a difference from the last term and more recognition of the fiscal reality.’

As a politician noted for being considered in his comments and preferring to speak based on fact rather than conjecture, it seems a given that there is more financial realism in this Assembly than the last.

Islanders will hope so, especially given the importance of the financial transformation programme and the fact that its timetable of delivery has already had to be adjusted to take account of delays in its implementation.

The test of that new fiscal reality, however, will come in January when the Policy Council goes to the States to provide an update on the process and a debate is held that will determine whether this Assembly is wedded to the FTP and determined to achieve the costed savings or not.

The other comment of note from the ‘blue skies’ meeting came from the Treasury and Resources minister, who said: ‘We are trying to get all of us to think beyond the next term and what challenges are beyond 2016.’

It is not that many years ago that the States was very limited in its outlook and that has gradually changed with the introduction of strategic planning, prioritised capital expenditure and other initiatives but not, as yet, extended to departmental budgets.

Nevertheless, government is looking towards much wider planning horizons and the FTP itself was scheduled as a five-year process.

The difficulty with this, however, has already been highlighted by the current Assembly. Have a general election with a large turnover of members and the new States – not unreasonably – wants to decide whether it is on board with the previous strategy.

That has held up debate of the States Strategic Plan and resulted in the need to reopen the FTP debate.

Planning and vision are vital for this community’s welfare but the system isn’t right yet.