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‘Promised savings of public sector reform fall well short’

News | Published:

A REORGANISATION of the island’s government, which was meant to deliver more than £20m. savings over three years appears to have been de-railed.

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The public service reform was meant to deliver massive savings over 2019, 2020, and 2021.

In 2019, the savings were budgeted at £4.6m., but in reality they are now looking to come in at around £1.4m.

An amendment to the Budget by Deputies Emilie McSwiggan and Dawn Tindall shines a light on the figures and considers where things might have gone wrong.

‘We have to be honest about this because the States, in January 2020, will debate the funding pressures Guernsey is likely to face from now on, for at least the next couple of decades.

‘If we allow ourselves and the public to believe that there are tens of millions of pounds that can be stripped out of the public sector quickly – that is, in time to meet those pressures head-on – then we will fail to confront the real tension between the public demand for more and better services, and the public demand for the same or lower taxes.

‘The cost of unrealistic targets is that they introduce false hope into one of the most pressing and difficult debates that we face as a States.’

In 2018, the island’s senior committee, Policy & Resources, set out nine areas where a shake-up of government under the umbrella of public service reform would save money.

These were organisational & service design, future digital services, procurement, managing sickness, overtime and allowances, property rationalisation, revenue service, transforming education, transforming health & care services, and the Home Affairs improvement programme.

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According to Deputies McSwiggan and Tindall, the results so far have been poor, and there are questions over the direction of the costly and time-consuming process.

‘Giving P&R the delegated authority to invest up to £10m over two years might seem like an attractive prospect if savings of over £20m can be achieved within three years, as forecast in the 2019 Budget.

‘However, the rate of savings in 2019 has been much slower than forecast, and the Budget offers no evidence to suggest that this will increase materially in 2020.

‘The return on investment from public service reform looks to be much lower, or at least slower, in practice than was forecast in 2019.

‘As such, it is appropriate for the States to reconsider whether the costs and benefits of delegating further authority to P&R, to spend on the initiatives it is responsible for, still stack up.’

The amendment proposes that P&R should apply its delegated authority to a wider range of reform-related initiatives, in line with what it considers to be the most pressing priorities.

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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