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Spending cuts will form part of Government Plan, Chief Minister confirms

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SPENDING cuts will form part of the Government Plan due to be lodged next week, the Chief Minister confirmed while stating that the leaking of important documents was something he took ‘very seriously’.

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Earlier this week, the JEP exclusively revealed plans to make huge public sector cuts after drafts of the Government Plan were leaked.

In response to questions about the leak in the States yesterday, Chief Minister John Le Fondré refused to confirm exactly how much could be slashed from departmental budgets.

Instead, he said the figures in the leaked documents – proposed cuts of £100 million – did not represent the ‘final agreed version’ of the plan to be published next week.

And he warned that he took the ‘leaking of confidential government documents very seriously’, adding that such actions undermined the ability of ministers to make robust decisions in confidence.

On Monday, this newspaper revealed that the Government Plan was expected to include cuts of up to £100 million, with one minister alleging the figure had been set without any ‘input or control’ from him while also branding it ‘austerity and service cuts’ under the banner of modernisation.

The leaked 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.

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.

Asked during questions without notice yesterday by Deputy Geoff Southern if the Government Plan would therefore effectively be an ‘austerity budget’, the Chief Minister simply responded ‘no’.

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Senator Kristina Moore, who chairs the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, asked Senator Le Fondré to confirm therefore that £100 million of savings were not in the Government Plan and essential services would not be affected and impacted by the plan.

The Chief Minister said: ‘I can confirm that savings will be made in the Government Plan – I would refer to them as mainly efficiencies. Services will not be impacted on the end user customer and indeed we are putting in significant investment where needed.

‘There will be a briefing for States Members on Thursday and the Government Plan will be lodged next week.’

The Government Plan replaces the existing Medium Term Financial Plan and will set out in detail how public money will be spent delivering day-to-day services and the strategic priorities set out in the Common Strategic Policy.

That policy sets five priorities: putting children first, improving Islanders’ wellbeing and mental and physical health, creating a sustainable, vibrant economy and skilled local workforce for the future, reducing income inequality and improving standards of living and protecting and valuing our environment.

Meanwhile, during Tuesday's sitting, Members agreed that a report should be published every six months outlining how much was being spent on States consultants. Deputy Kirsten Morel’s proposition was unanimously approved, meaning the Chief Minister must regularly release a list of consulting contracts worth £20,000 or more.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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