‘We will continue to look to make savings’
WORK will continue in an effort to streamline the civil service and find efficiencies, regardless of whether a goods and services tax is introduced, according to the senior committee’s lead on pay negotiations.
Speaking during an online question and answer session on Tuesday, Dave Mahoney referred to the ‘double-edged sword’ of needing to raise more money through increased taxation and needing to ‘find some savings somewhere’.
‘We are doing that,’ he said. ‘We’re looking at staff costs, the rate of pay and whether we use outside consultants. Those things are all being looked at.’
The politicians on the panel, including Policy & Resources president Peter Ferbrache and treasury lead Mark Helyar, along with Employment & Social Security president Peter Roffey, all admitted that no claim could be made that all savings had been identified.
However, Deputy Mahoney suggested that some of the inefficiencies being cited by opponents to a GST had been exaggerated.
‘We’ve had some useful suggestions from some people,’ he said, ‘but they really don’t raise the kind of money needed. They skirt around the edges in terms of the amount of money that we’re looking to raise. So while they are good, they are really not the fix to the main problem that we have.’
Deputy Helyar said more could be done to reduce expenditure, but acknowledged that some such measures might not prove popular.
‘One of the biggest costs that we have is benefits that we pay to people who perhaps don’t need them,’ he said.
These costs would need to be investigated in future, he said, and solutions could include the means-testing of pensions.
Deputies Roffey and Ferbrache took the opportunity to state their own opposition to that particular idea.
Another concern addressed by the panel was the possibility that once introduced at 5%, as proposed, the rate of any GST would be likely to increase over time.
P&R’s arguments in favour of a GST have included the benefits of having a broader range of levers by which to respond to external economic events, rather than relying on income tax alone.
This would seem to indicate that GST is – or at least, has been – viewed as flexible, should flexibility be required.
Deputy Helyar pointed out that no politician was in any position to make promises about how a GST might be altered in future.
‘The problem that we have legally and constitutionally, is that no States can bind a States to come in the future,’ he said.
‘So, while we can promise all sorts of things sat here, we don’t know who will be elected in the next election and we don’t know what decisions they will make.’
Meeting on an alternative is close to selling out
ONLY 30 tickets remained yesterday for a forthcoming public presentation on corporate tax, according to its organiser and principal speaker.
Former treasury minister Charles Parkinson will present his case on Monday evening for adopting a corporation tax at 15%, along with a moratorium on any introduction of a goods and services tax.
His formal amendment to the tax review policy letter to be debated at this month’s States meeting has not yet been published.
The venue is the Seigneurie Room at St Pierre Park Hotel, which has a capacity of 200. There will be an hour-long presentation followed by 30 minutes for questions from the floor.
Deputy Parkinson will be joined by the seconder of his amendment, Deputy Liam McKenna, and St Martin’s constable and former president of the Guernsey Motor Trade Association Dave Beausire. A fourth guest has been invited but has yet to confirm.
Tickets for the event are free but must be booked via the online ticket portal Eventbrite.
Both deputies are among a group of nine who have announced their support for the Say No To GST campaign, which has organised a protest march and rally on Sunday 22 January and a protest on the steps of the Royal Court on the first morning of the tax review debate, which is scheduled to start at 9.30am the following Wednesday.
The Policy & Resources’ tax review policy letter already contains a proposal to investigate ‘raising further revenues from the corporate sector without unduly negatively impacting Guernsey’s competitive position or compliance with international standards’.
Deputy Parkinson has said he wants this work to be concluded before any GST comes in.