'Power grab' about to be reversed?
‘IT’S not personal,’ deputies queued up to say as they deliberated the removal of more than half a billion pounds-worth of delegated authority on capital projects from the Policy & Resources Committee.
But, given that members had no real evidence that the ‘power grab’ had led to crazed levels of spending, and nobody seemed to have any idea on how to make the process better, it felt a little personal. It felt, in fact, a little like a vote of no confidence in P&R, but made in advance of any decision on GST.
And when a member of P&R, and one of its chief acolytes, attempted to stifle debate and were comprehensively squashed, it seemed even more clear that deputies did wish to put a marker down on performance.
Giving P&R delegated authority to spend up to £568m. on capital projects contained in the 2021 Government Work Plan now seems to be one of those ‘good ideas at the time’. Some deputies even admitted that they now realised they had been ‘naive’ to back the proposal, but frankly had been carried away with the now-defunct ‘Action this day’ narrative that this States once promised to pursue.
So delegated authority hasn’t really made progress more rapid, but neither does it seem to slow things down.
There were denials over the oft-heard line that taking every spending issue above £5m. to the States gives potential tenderers the free gift of a price estimate to fit a tender to.
But, whether the spark was unhappiness over the spending on a rebuild of Alderney Airport, or the risk of collapse or serious overspend on the Ozouets complex – the most contentious, new capital spends to come to the Assembly in recent months – general dissatisfaction with P&R, or simple regret over a vote made 18 months ago, it was an incongruous, but none-the-less entertaining diversion to the Tax Review.
The result, looking split on traditional, but now shifting, tribal lines, could have ramifications for the senior States committee, sooner rather than later.