Guernsey Press

What would you cut? P&R asks committees

PRINCIPAL States committees have been asked to come up with plans for significant savings as a potential alternative to a goods and services tax, in the face of stiff opposition to the levy from a majority of deputies.

A serious business. P&R president Deputy Peter Ferbrache talking to two of the people who turned up for the first tax review drop-in. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 30494028)

Mark Helyar, the treasury lead on Policy & Resources, has instructed the main committees to outline what 5%, 10% and 15% budget reductions would look like for their departments.

The move has been interpreted by some politicians as a fall-back strategy in case GST or higher income tax proposals fail in the States this summer.

Civil servants are now assessing sweeping cutbacks to public services, or in some cases whether new charges could be introduced.

Peter Ferbrache, the president of Policy & Resources, said the exercise would help focus the minds of his political colleagues.

‘If we don’t get any tax increases, I don’t know how we’re going to fund public services in the longer term,’ he said.

‘It’s not doomsday day tomorrow or next year, it’s further ahead than that.

‘So I’d like to see every department come up and say “if we had 5% less money we could do this, 10% that, and 15% that” and then people can see.

‘Because there will undoubtedly be, if there aren’t tax rises in the foreseeable future, a need to cut services.’

Deputy Ferbrache was speaking following the first drop-in event on Saturday on the tax review at the weekend.

The St Peter’s community hut was crammed early on with a queue going out of the door, and there was a steady stream of people throughout the two hours.

A poll carried out by the Guernsey Press suggested that the majority of attendees were against GST.

But there were some glimmers of hope for the politicians leading the review, because one-third of respondents said they could support a GST, or could be swayed.

Deputy Ferbrache said he sensed a possible change of mood and that the public were ahead of most politicians.

‘People are saying they realise there is a need for more revenues because people are living longer.

‘Some people accept the need for GST. We’ve made it very clear that we haven’t got a fixed view, we’re just saying these are the facts, we’re open to every kind of suggestion that people make and we will consider it.

‘Some people are saying there should be income tax increases, I think most people are saying there should be a mixture of tax provisions.

‘I would say there’s probably more opposition in the States, I haven’t gone and asked them, so I don’t know if they’ve rationalised it like the public have done.’

The political representatives at the drop-in alongside Deputy Ferbrache were Deputies Mark Helyar, Heidi Soulsby, Jonathan Le Tocq, David Mahoney, and Peter Roffey.

Deputy Ferbrache urged more deputies to put their heads above the parapet on the unpopular issue.

‘I’d like every States member to say in early course what their provisional view is.

‘To be fair it’s [the debate] not until July and information will come up between now and then, but they could give their provisional view about whether on not they are in favour of GST, or what package they would put forward.

‘Some people have done that already, but I’d like all States members to do it.’