Being difficult can get results for taxpayers

IT DIDN’T generate headlines, but Economic Development has engineered a quiet revolution in how it spends its annual budget of around £6m. All external tourist-related contracts have been cancelled and are instead being serviced locally.

So instead of having publicity and marketing campaigns run by agencies in the UK, Guernsey creative studios are handling the work here. The benefit of that expenditure is retained, rather than being ‘exported’ to the UK.

On the basis that quality and reach aren’t compromised, it’s a move that makes sense and the wonder is it’s taken so long to achieve. It happened because the committee president, Neil Inder, knows a bit about PR, marketing and the creative sector and was determined to make the changes.

There are two points to this. The first is that in the context of the £1.3m. the States spends every day running Guernsey plc, the tourism budget is small beer – just £500,000 a year. The second point gives more pause for thought.

The change happened solely because one individual demanded it should – despite off-island expenditure triggering controversy before the island had even heard of Powerboat Week decades ago. A long-running procurement issue was resolved thanks to one man.

How many other contracts are exported off island because it has always been done that way or because government ‘must’ get the cheapest possible price because taxpayer funds are involved?

What process does government adopt to assess whether a, say, 5% cost difference between on- and off-island expenditure is justified because of the multiplier effect of the money being spent in the local economy?

Speak to some of the private businesses involved in making secondary pensions available under the States-sponsored scheme that’s yet to launch and it’s clear bureaucrats are piling on layers of cost and complexity for no real reason and which could be swept away simply by ‘going local’.

It shouldn’t happen but does because politicians do not adequately challenge or because odd things are buried in ‘operational’ areas which deputies are increasingly warned are off limits and the exclusive province of officials.

As Deputy Inder demonstrates, being difficult can pay off.

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