‘So many ways we could fail it keeps me awake’
‘CANCEL Christmas and get down to work’ Peter Roffey pleaded with States colleagues to ensure that the Assembly would come out of January’s tax review debate with some plan to sort out the island’s public finances.
If members would not support the proposals from Policy & Resources, he said, they would need to have their own practical and costed package of measures to make the finances stack up.
The P&R proposals should be published by the end of the month. Deputies would need time to consider them, or draw up their own plans, Deputy Roffey warned. He urged colleagues to be prepared to vote with no consideration to the knock-on effects on their political careers.
‘This Assembly faces a huge challenge and if we flunk it, it will be one of the biggest governmental failures imaginable. There are so many ways we could fail, it keeps me awake at night.
‘Don’t come into this room and just vote against everything because things are unpopular.
‘Nor should any member come in with vague alternatives, like saying you would prefer to do it through property taxes, or higher taxes on income, or a mosaic of smaller taxes, or cutting spending instead. The time for such generality is well and truly over.’
Referring to the opening speech from treasury lead Deputy Mark Helyar, he said it was understandable if the public blamed the States for a lack of restraint on public spending.
‘So many successful candidates two years ago promised a massive reduction in spending and to cut out alleged fat from the States. They bigged up the waste that was supposedly there in the system, which was probably a good strategy for being elected, but in many ways it was incredibly unhelpful.
‘If they still believe their promises, then the option is open to them to propose an alternative strategy in January to cure our structural deficit.’
Deputy Roffey said that there was one package still potentially on the table that he would support, or he had his own ideas on how to cure the structural deficit.
‘It is going to be unpopular whatever we do, putting up taxes is always deeply unpopular, but I have no doubt the alternatives are worse. It is not about political gain, a great deal of Guernsey’s future is riding on it. It is far more important than the survival of any political career.’
P&R president Peter Ferbrache confirmed that the committee’s preferred options would be published before the end of November.
‘Follow and listen to the very wise words on this occasion of Deputy Roffey,’ said Deputy Ferbrache.
‘We are all here to work at what we need to do with the tax review in January.
‘Don’t come up with surprises, don’t say, as one deputy did, that they won’t tell me what they will do because I will pick holes in it. That is thoroughly irresponsible.’