Guernsey Press

Sensible for P&R to have alternative, says key supporter

A KEY ally of the Policy & Resources Committee on tax has backed it to develop an alternative scheme which excludes GST – but is warning it would be a worse deal for poorer islanders.

Employment & Social Security president Deputy Peter Roffey runs the gauntlet of anti-GST protesters on the first day of the States tax debate. He has praised P&R for drawing up an alternative to its original proposal, but still believes the one including GST will be better for those on lower incomes. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost., 31768237)

Peter Roffey said it was sensible for P&R to draw up contingency proposals to raise more income in case the States, as expected, rejects GST when it resumes its landmark tax debate in two weeks’ time.

‘But not because I think there is another way of tackling the emerging structural deficit which is anywhere near as fair or progressive as the one already presented,’ said Deputy Roffey.

‘On the contrary, I’m convinced any alternative package of taxes, raising a similar amount of cash, will prove to be far less beneficial to those on modest incomes.’

P&R announced on Tuesday that it was working up an alternative plan. Its original plan was strongly criticised during nearly three days of debate in the States last week.

P&R has also received a revised version of Deputy Heidi Soulsby’s self-styled ‘fairer alternative’ plan after the initial version was defeated in the States by 16 votes to 24.

But Deputy Roffey said that all alternative plans suggested so far lacked credibility.

He said he still had full confidence in P&R’S original plan, including GST, a new 15% income tax band and an overhaul of social security contributions. P&R projects it would raise an estimated £55m. a year but leave less-affluent islanders better off.

‘There are all sorts of ways of raising taxes, but after two years of turning over the stones I am fully convinced that all the other options tend to be far worse in terms of their impact either on Guernsey’s competitiveness or low-income households or both,’ he said.

‘I’m convinced members of P&R will all be arguing for the States to accept the original package as by far the best one on offer. I know I will be. However, I do understand why they feel the need to put together an alternative just in case those efforts fail.’

Deputy Roffey dismissed claims that P&R’s original plan was now heading for certain defeat in the States.

‘I think I always knew it was going to be a tough gig and so it has proved.

‘But in my heart of hearts, I can’t believe that when push comes to shove the majority of my colleagues will leave the States with insufficient income to provide the basic services the people of Guernsey need and deserve.

‘Maybe I am being naive, but how can I believe anything else without doubting the sustainability of the States in their ability to govern our community?’

Deputy Roffey was invited to P&R’s meeting on Tuesday at which it decided to work up an alternative tax plan.

It is understood that P&R has meetings arranged with numerous other deputies who want to contribute to its alternative plan.

‘It is incumbent on all States members to try to find the best way forward. As others have said, walking away with no result would be problematic,’ said Deputy Roffey.