Public will change minds on GST – P&R president

GUERNSEY’S senior politician has predicted that public opinion on a goods and services tax will change and that the consumption levy will still be part of recommendations to come before the States next year.

Policy & Resources president Peter Ferbrache believes the island will change its mind on GST. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30083631)
Policy & Resources president Peter Ferbrache believes the island will change its mind on GST. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30083631)

Peter Ferbrache, the president of Policy & Resources, accepted that currently most of ‘middle Guernsey’ was against a GST, but he anticipated a shift.

‘I think that will change over a period of time. I think that people will realise that if they want decent services, if they want old people to be looked after, if they want us to continue as a decent society, we’re going to have to grasp that issue.’

P&R has to report back to the States with detailed proposals for a restructure of the tax base by no later than July 2022.

Corporate tax will be under greater focus than planned originally, but Deputy Ferbrache was upfront that a GST remained a key option.

‘The majority view at the moment is they are against the consumption tax. So we have got a learning exercise to go through over the next seven, eight, nine months.

‘If there’s a realistic alternative to a consumption tax, let it come forward.

‘At the moment, my own view is that I doubt that, but all the comments that have been made in this debate should be carried forward and analysed.

‘We’ve got to be realistic and speak truisms. I doubt that the conclusion will be different – there’s not too much magic in life, it’s about reality.

‘One thing that life has taught me is that economic realities do not go away.’

In a long speech that included references to Simon and Garfunkel, Dad’s Army, Charles Dickens, the film Logan’s Run, and Marianne Faithfull, the gauntlet was thrown down to deputies demanding significant savings in States costs and cuts to public services.

They were asked to be more specific about where the axe should fall.

‘Which police officers would he cut, which nurses would he cut, which fire officers would he cut, which services would he cut?’ asked Deputy Ferbrache.

‘Because to cut a workforce by 400 people frankly is, with great respect to Deputy Dyke, preposterous, it’s just not achievable. That doesn’t mean we can’t do something, but we can’t do that far.’

On property rationalisation, Deputy Ferbrache said selling Lukis House, La Mare de Carteret High School and the former Education Department HQ in the Grange would make money. But he challenged his colleagues to state which other properties they thought should be sold off.

‘I’m quite happy to sit down with him any day next week and go through the list and he can put me right on what properties we can sell and what money we can get.

‘And I’d like him to say publicly afterwards what the result of that was.

‘I’d like him to say which people, which committee he would cut off, which services he would restrict. I’d like him to say that – because I’m genuinely interested in listening.’

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