Guernsey Press

‘This is no power grab’ – P&R defends plans to borrow £200m.

PLANS for the States to borrow £200m. to kick start the island’s recovery were passed following a debate in which the top committee had to defend itself against allegations of a ‘power grab’.

Treasury lead for Policy & Resources Deputy Mark Helyar. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29797689)

The amended Government Work Plan, which sets out the costed priorities for the States for the next four years, was approved overwhelmingly by deputies.

There was anger early on when, after about an hour of debate, Deputy Andrew Taylor tried to guillotine the discussions. That idea was rejected because the majority of States members thought a £650m. wish list of spending deserved more attention.

Some unease was expressed about the amount of debt being racked up, and some deputies baulked at one particular proposition which gave Policy & Resources delegated authority on capital spending up to £568m., but it was approved.

Deputy Peter Roffey said he would be ‘abrogating my responsibilities as a deputy’ if he agreed to that.

Deputy Yvonne Burford said she approved the idea of a plan, but saw this one as a strait-jacket and power transfer.

‘One member said we should give P&R a chance. I’m all for giving people a chance but not when it starts with a figure of £500m.’

Deputy Gavin St Pier had been through the plan closely, and sounded unimpressed.

‘This is the most fiscally incontinent plan I’ve seen in my nine years in the States,’ he said.

‘To drain £258m. from our reserves and borrow an additional £200m., both as part of what is described as a temporary solution, and a way of managing and not removing the underlying structural deficit, with millions added to spending and almost nothing cut from it – it’s depressing.’

‘O blessed day’ said Deputy Peter Ferbrache, quoting from the dystopian fiction The Handmaid’s Tale, declaring it a positive moment for the island. He said it was living plan that was a ‘concrete workable document’ that should not be sniped at.

Deputy David Mahoney, a member of Policy & Resources, dismissed allegations that the plan was something of a P&R plot.

‘There is no P&R skulking in the shadows waiting to spend everyone’s hard-owned cash, and plotting to launch massive PPP incentives.

‘This plan wasn’t cooked up with the eye of a newt and the wing of a bat thrown in, all of the ingredients were added by the people sat here today.’

Deputy Mark Helyar said members could not have their cake and eat it, and he wanted to assure his colleagues that changes to delegated authority had no nefarious aim.

‘The purpose is to save money it is not to spend more, it’s not a power grab, it’s to ensure that power is not distributed to committees who wish to spend their own money from their votes as they wish to.’

The wide-ranging general debate, which covered numerous topics, including housing, the Dairy, Brexit, and the finance industry, lasted until mid-afternoon.

Summing up, Deputy Heidi Soulsby promised ‘action’.

‘The preliminary work is already under way and our top 10 recovery actions will move at pace. Islanders want visible, tangible action and that is what this plan can deliver.’