Guernsey Press

States has ‘lost control’ of GCRA, says HSC president

The States has ‘lost control’ of its competition regulator, according to one senior deputy.

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HSC president Al Brouard. (33182989)

Health & Social Care president Al Brouard made the assertion as he welcomed an announcement from Economic Development that a review was to be carried out into the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority.

Having requested a review last year, Deputy Brouard said that if he had a time machine, he would go back to the beginning of the century – when the regulator was originally set up – and change the parameters within which it was required to operate, or even vote against it altogether.

He told the Assembly that Guernsey Electricity’s recent price hikes had been caused by a correction of a failure on the part of the regulator to allow the utility to plan for necessary infrastructure investment.

‘I am cross that we’ve got to this position,’ he said.

‘I want the review to show whether the GCRA is a valuable resource or whether it’s a drag on the economy and taxpayers.

‘We have lost control of the GCRA.

‘It sits too far away from government, it does what it likes, when it likes and I think it needs to be far more accountable’.

By contrast, Deputy David De Lisle expressed his concern that regulatory controls had been ‘swept away’ by a decision to transfer some of the GCRA’s responsibilities to the States’ Trading Supervisory Board, leaving – he believed – consumers unprotected against potentially unfair government charges, such as mooring fees, and price rises among States-owned utilities.

‘Price-setting needs to be removed from the States’ decision-making and placed in the hands of an independent regulator,’ he said, arguing that the GCRA needed more funding.

This prompted Deputy Peter Ferbrache to say he did not understand Deputy De Lisle’s economics.

‘He never wants any increases at all but he always wants the States to do more,’ he said.

‘What he forgets is that a lot of people who pay for regulation are the businesses that he wants to protect.’

Deputy Gavin St Pier identified concrete as one specific commodity whose pricing the GCRA should investigate, as it was a big contributory factor to the high cost of construction, which was frequently being highlighted as a brake on much needed house-building.