Budget ‘puts too much burden on the taxpayer’
THE ISLAND’S political watchdog has criticised the 2020 Budget as a ‘disappointment’ that puts too much burden on the taxpayer and lacks sufficient savings and efficiencies from government.
Deputy Chris Green, pictured, the president of the Scrutiny Management committee said the Budget was short on prudence, and included aspects that were ‘unacceptable’ and ‘not good enough’.
Deputy Green outlined three main areas of concern.
Firstly he was worried about the ‘little progress’ achieved on States savings, which was the programme to make States departments leaner and more efficient, while still delivering high-level public services.
Savings of more than £20m. had been due to be reaped over 2019, 2020 and 2021, but it is now looking like less than £2m. of savings will be made this year.
The next concern was the declining Capital Reserve, which is the account the States uses to pay for infrastructure developments.
Deputies were urged to resist the temptation to dip into this account.
Thirdly, Scrutiny Management was worried about the growth in public spending, which is £20m., or 5% extra on this year.
Deputy Green said that more discipline was needed because the burden on taxpayers was becoming too much.
On the issue of potential new taxes such as a sales tax or a health tax, Deputy Green said it was unfair to expect the taxpayer to pay more, especially when the States had not fulfilled its side of the bargain to create a trimmer government.
‘My committee is concerned that the idea of introducing new taxes when the public sector has not yet been able to give levels of efficiency it promised at an earlier stage in this political term is unacceptable.
‘Any decision to increase the tax burden should only be taken after all reasonable steps have been taken by this government to minimise waste and maximise efficiency.’
Another key plank of the Budget is what to do about Aurigny and it’s multi-million pound losses.
On this matter, Deputy Green was harsh about the political leaders.
‘We’ve known about these challenges for years, but it’s only now when we get to something of a crisis point that the lead committee of the States brings these propositions and suggestions for tackling these issues when there was ample opportunity to do so earlier on in this political term.’
As a silver lining was Deputy Green was pleased to see that an over-arching government strategy was planned, that would require collaborative working from the various committees involved.
Summing up, Deputy Green did not hold back.
‘It is, of course, not easy to save money but we cannot expect the public to pay more in tax until the public sector has demonstrated it willingness to become leaner, and that for me is the greatest failing in this Budget.’
Comment Page 18