£100m in cuts planned, according to leaked documents
LEAKED drafts of the Government Plan reveal proposed public sector cuts of £100 million, with one minister alleging the figure had been set without any ‘input or control’ from him and branding it ‘austerity and service cuts’ under the banner of modernisation.
The documents also show plans to increase government spending – which was capped at £735 million by the previous government – to £914 million next year, and rising to more than £1 billion by 2023.
In a highly confidential email seen by the JEP, which was sent to the Chief Minster, fellow ministers and the States’ most senior officers, a prominent minister called the £100 million cuts programme ‘astonishing’. He also claimed it was not considered by the Council of Ministers before being put in the four-year plan.
He added that the ‘implications on our community’ of this ‘austerity’ programme seemed not to have been considered either, leaving him with ‘very significant reservations’ about the ‘current direction of travel’.
The documents also reveal plans for a 1% increase in Islanders’ contributions to the long-term care scheme and the creation of a £5 million ‘climate emergency fund’, which would be supplemented by increases to road fuel duty.
Senior sources within the States have reported that the Chief Minister has been involved in ‘extremely heated exchanges’ with council members over the level of government spending and the fact that ‘very substantial changes are being made [to the Government Plan] at the eleventh hour’.
A leaked copy of a previous draft of the plan shows that the figure for ‘efficiencies out of the public services cost base’ was first set at £76 million, only to be increased ‘a few days later’ to £100 million.
‘I note this draft also now includes a section called “modernising government” which contains many objectives which I regard as wholly or partly political, especially a commitment to the astonishing figure of £100 million as part of a rolling efficiency programme,’ the minister in question wrote in his email.
‘Please will you advise me when this section received consideration by CoM, as I don’t recall it. For my part, I have very significant reservations over the “modernisation” and the current direction of travel. I don’t wish to be bound or made accountable to this section’s conclusions and policies, over which I have no input or control.
‘I can’t see how this meets the wellbeing requirement in the new Public Finances Law – where are the implications on our community articulated?’ the minister added, calling for the whole modernisation section of the plan to be taken out and considered separately by the States.
‘This section looks to me like more austerity and service cuts, which I am opposed to. I would prefer this entire section were considered in a separate document, which can receive separate scrutiny and political debate.
‘I will be reserving my position on this section.’
The documents seen by the JEP do not state how the proposed ‘efficiencies’ would be made.
According to sources involved in the process, the Government Plan was initially scheduled for presentation today, but last-minute arguments between ministers forced a delay.
It is not yet known whether the objections raised to the £100 million of proposed cuts will result in a revised figure being included in the plan’s final draft.
When asked for an official publication timeline for the Government Plan, the government press office said that a ‘lodging date had yet to be set’.