Primary school closure and paid parking to save money

THE spectres of a primary school being closed, paid parking and higher charges for medical care were raised by States committees after being asked to consider what they could do to cut costs if the tax reform proposals were rejected.

Committees were asked to look at a ‘worst case scenario’ to see what they could do to reduce their committee’s budget by 5%, 10% or 15%.

This work was overseen by the cost of public services sub-committee, chaired by Policy & Resources’ treasury lead Mark Helyar, and included a representative of each committee.

‘Principal committees identified cuts that could be made but all have stressed that these would have very significant consequences for the range and quality of public services delivered in Guernsey and negatively impact on the fabric of the services,’ said the tax reform report.

P&R said it thanked the committees for their responses.

‘Should the States not have an appetite to raise the revenues required to continue to fund the level of public services currently offered, further detailed work would be required by all committees to further understand the options and implications of such drastic expenditure reductions.’

The States funding and investment plan already includes an allowance for savings of £10m. per annum in the baseline budget, but progress with achieving this has been limited and so the committee will look to allocate the remaining target across committees in the future.

‘Initiatives pursued under the banner of the Government Work Plan in this term have added £26m. to the baseline costs of the States to date. The committee considers that in future a cap should be placed on the level of policy and service developments funded through the Government Work Plan with the aim of balancing policy ambition and fiscal realism.’

Among the services identified by various committees were:

Economic Development – A reduction in the marketing and tourism budget and in areas which would reduce its ability to support the finance sector and business innovation and growth;

What the committee said:

A budget reduction of 10% and 15% respectively would have a severely detrimental impact on the committee’s ability to deliver on key work streams identified within the Government Work Plan. We urge members to consider the core remit of the Committee for Economic Development, which is to facilitate economic development and growth within the Bailiwick, to generate incremental employment and tax take for the benefit of the local community. It is this committee’s opinion, therefore, that any further budget reductions over and above 5% would be to the detriment of GDP, employment and subsequent tax take and therefore, a false economy.

Education, Sport and Culture –The closure of a primary school; ceasing funding for the Guille-Alles Library; removal of grant funding from the grant-aided colleges, Sports Commission and Youth Commission, among others; removal or reduction of non-mandatory services such as the Schools Music Service and the Museum Service;

What the committee said:

The committee would wish to stress that substantially more work is required to understand the implications of cuts of this magnitude on the community, the third sector and wider committee mandates. The committee further notes that some measures might be counter-productive given the important role of education and enrichment in supporting skills and development which are integral to supporting the earnings capacity of the future working population, particularly among those who might not be able to access these services without government support.

Education, Sport & Culture highlighted the removal of funding for Guille-Alles Library as a potential saving. (31521295)

Employment and Social Security –

Ending family allowance; reduction in all benefit rates; restriction of access to benefits; change in long-term care provision;

What the committee said:

Restrictions in benefit levels would be hugely unpalatable, and in particular we highlight the role of income support ‘to avoid intolerable poverty’. While the indicative reductions in income support to achieve the hypothetical savings have been provided as part of this exercise, the committee would consider this completely unacceptable in practice.

Environment and Infrastructure –

Charging for roadworks and parking suspensions; bringing in paid parking in some locations; charging for school bus services; cutting beach cleaning, cliff path maintenance, stop maintaining Candie Gardens and other plantations, and a cut in off-peak bus services.

What the committee said:

Our preferred option would be revenue-raising instead of expenditure reductions, and we identified a range of measures for increased prices/introduction of new charges that would generate additional income which would negate the need for a wider range of spending cuts. Cutting services in these areas… would negatively impact both tourism and visitor experience and also the local community.

Health and Social Care –Reviewing the funding of the NICE TAs which affect which drugs are available in the island; increasing emergency department charges; looking at a partial user-pays model for secondary care; reviewing the model for adult community services

What the committee said:

In all it identified cost savings totalling £29.85m. but £4.5m. were categorised as cost-avoidance, not saving money from the existing budget but avoiding the need to increase future budgets.

The large majority of these reductions would come from service restrictions and reductions or a remodelling of existing services. In view of the large spread of services which HSC provides, there are a number of initiatives which could reduce revenue expenditure but would result in lesser service provision and may be counter-productive in the long term.

These suggestions, including asking the community to contribute financially to a wider range of health care services, would represent a shift in the current model for funding for health and care and would require further detailed consideration and analysis to examine the consequences of such a change.

Home Affairs – Tagging as an alternative to custodial sentences; modernisation of fixed penalty notices; bringing in a web-based platform for contact and crime reporting;

What the committee said:

The committee has not provided any new initiatives to the £300,000 of potential savings opportunities it identified at the end of 2021. The committee already operates exceptionally lean services, and believes strongly that further budget reductions risks damaging the infrastructure that ensures the safety and security of the Bailiwick. The committee would describe any cost-cutting exercise that would see budgets reduced by 5% as unachievable and potentially dangerous for the community.

Policy & Resources – Restricting the service levels on the Alderney PSO contract; reducing the size of Revenue Service teams; restriction/closure of public toilets, withdrawing from the Bureau des Iles Anglo-Normandes and the Channel Island Brussels Office, ceasing some IT contracts, reducing insurance coverage to lower premiums.

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