Guernsey Press

‘We cannot afford a nanny state’

Is the States trying too hard? Horace Camp suggests that GST wouldn’t be needed if our government didn’t try to do so much

(Picture by Shutterstock)

FOUR hundred and fifty. A number which I read in this paper last week that has haunted me since. Don’t you just hate it when someone throws out a number to make a point but just doesn’t give enough context to make it understandable?

Between 2011 and 2021 the number of nursing and medical staff increased by 450. I think that’s about 8% of all public employees. I think because it’s hard to find the numbers on the website, even when it is up and running.

I have tried to find the number of ‘nursing and medical staff’ employed by the States but failed miserably. I am therefore going to pick the number for 2011 out of thin air and say 2,000. Growing to 2,450 is about a 20% increase in headcount. That would be what I call a lot. No wonder Policy & Resources needs to raise more money because at that rate of growth we will be adding 50 a year for the next decade.

It also explains the pressure on our housing market, which has been aggravated with the rental subsidies. I saw an anecdotal post on Guernsey People Have Your Say suggesting that landlords set rents which are affordable only to those with the subsidy. Effectively taking them out of the range of those, mostly local, who do not qualify for the subsidy.

I’m also told many nursing and medical staff positions are hard to fill and expensive agency nurses are used instead. Given that the world we recruit from also has a shortage of nurses I would assume positions will still be hard to fill and as the Health & Social Care workforce grows then unfilled positions will be covered by even more expensive agency staff. HSC may need to find more green fields to concrete over to provide accommodation for what could soon eclipse the civil service for most bums on seats.

The 450 was rolled out to support the need for GST and to confirm that the rest of the public service hasn’t grown in that 10-year period. As hard to believe as that seems. I wonder if they took into account the IT staff who moved to Agilisys? If so, full-time equivalent numbers may have come down but the cost to the States will not have reduced overall?

Something tells me that continually raising more money to feed the health system will only work for a time. At some stage the people of Guernsey will have no more metaphorical blood to be squeezed out of them, even though HSC will still be chanting ‘Feed me, Foxy, feed me more’.

Could it be that as a small island community we can’t afford the levels of care set by the States of Guernsey? I would like to know if it is the exceptional cases that push our finances to the limits or is it just the number of bad hips and knees?

It was lovely reading that our average per capita net income was the third highest of OECD countries but I wonder how many of you reading this feel rich when compared to the English or the French who are lower down the list?

The problem with all these numbers is that they are completely pointless. A couple in Guernsey with a combined take-home pay of £55,000 is rich according to the aforementioned list, but a couple in Cornwall on £40,000 is probably less stretched and not paying £24,000 a year to rent a shoebox flat.

It’s the same with GDP, which will come up often in the GST debate. As a percentage of GDP, we are told we are lightly taxed. But GDP is basically only the sum of all earned income and goods and services. It has no direct relationship to cost of living and the pound in your pocket. We seem obsessed with growing GDP but pay no heed to how much money anyone needs to live and be happy.

I almost became a supporter of GST just because I read a piece by a leftie Jersey politician, Sam Mezec, which describes the Jersey GST as a failure. On the basis that in my eyes Sam is always wrong I wavered for a moment and reconsidered my stance.

But by some crazy fluke of the universe I believe Sam is right this time. GST is the losers’ tax needed by politicians who have failed to cure the actual problem, or even identified it. If you can’t fix it, throw money at it.

What is the problem? Well, the problem is universal throughout the States and is certainly not only a health issue caused by bad demographics. The problem is the States of Guernsey tries to do too much. When did the nanny state insidiously drive out and replace Guernsey common sense government?

The States once expected people to be responsible for their own affairs and in return would step in when people needed help or protection. But now the States provides for all in return for money and the power to interfere with every aspect of an islander’s life.

And it’s getting worse. By the time you read this, the States will have given itself the power to force people to keep their land neat and tidy. No doubt it will have to be policed at some sort of cost and it will give power to neighbours from hell with a different view of what constitutes tidy to go to town on this one.

Health and Education try too hard. In 2011 we could manage with 450 fewer nursing and medical staff. Were we poorly treated in 2011? Could we still adopt 2011 ways? And in schools does every child have to have the option to study everything or could we cut the offering at, say, A-level with fewer subject options but options that are well-resourced?

I don’t think we can afford a nanny. Especially one with the possible power to skew rents sky high by injecting generous subsidies into an already over-heated market?

Bit by bit, inch by inch, the States is making us dependent upon it. Eventually the States will provide all, which will be financed by a 100% tax on income with a small allowance of pocket money for those who want to make a decision on which flavour of sugar-free, boiled sweet they wish to buy.

When will we be changing our anthem to Stepford, Cherie?