Guernsey Press

A binary choice – but what's the question?

THE States’ treasury lead politician Mark Helyar tells it straight on the facing page today.


Last summer’s tax review consultation was, in many respects, a bit of a disaster for Deputy Helyar and the wider Policy & Resources Committee.

In the end, they had to concoct a plan to pull their report from debate to stop political colleagues placing a potentially fatal full stop against the idea of a goods and services tax.

Now, less than six months later, our senior deputies are poised to relaunch that tax review campaign. They will know now for sure, rather than merely expect, that this is one hell of a sales job for anyone, let alone nervy politicians conscious of the implications on their careers. Deputy Helyar admits as much in his letter.

‘It is not a message people want to hear. It is a message I would much rather not have to deliver. In fact, it is a message quite likely to shorten my political career.’ Certainly it's very likely that voters will remember any GST vote, even three years down the line, at election time.

The benefit for the States at this time is having already gone through one iteration of a tax review, where all they met was a resounding ‘no’ from the public, members can enter this review from a slightly more informed viewpoint.

They have all-but proven that the debate has been distilled to the so-called ‘binary choice’ of GST or extra income tax. Any thoughts that any other revenue-raiser or government savings can play a significant part in finding £85m. each and every year are surely now gone.

But will the debate prove to be GST versus income tax? What happens if, once again, it becomes a binary yes/no debate on raising taxes at all?

Rather like last year's Education debate though, P&R does not actually have to convince the public that it’s making the right moves and doing right by the island. It needs to convince 20 members of the States, including the committee members one pre-supposes will be supportive.

So while the arguments for and against GST matter very much, on this occasion the starting point of deputies will be critical. Are they for turning, or are many of the anti-GST votes already locked in?