States Members approve four-year Government Plan
CHIEF Minister John Le Fondré’s Government Plan was approved by the States yesterday, paving the way for £100 million of efficiencies to be made in the public sector by 2023.
Other features of the four-year plan, which details more than £900 million of spending and is likely to define this Assembly, include the establishment of a £5 million Climate Emergency Fund and tax hikes on fuel, tobacco and high-strength alcohol.
Relatively few of the 22 lodged amendments to the plan were passed by the States, which rejected proposals to revive a loan-deposit scheme for first-time buyers and to reduce GP fees for vulnerable Islanders.
But backbenchers did succeed in blocking the extension of chargeable hours for using public car parks in St Helier and restricting a planned increase in the long-term health care charge to 0.5% rather than 1%.
A number of former ministers, including Deputy Steve Luce and Senator Kristina Moore, voted against passing the plan.
Senator Moore, chairwoman of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, said she was ‘disappointed’ that proposals to delay the £40 million efficiencies plan for 2020 were rejected.
‘I will not be supporting this Government Plan,’ she said. ‘It’s been marvellous some Members have supported some amendments but I’m most disappointed that we didn’t get to delay debating the efficiencies so we could have proper scrutiny of this. We still don’t have clarity on how these efficiencies are going to be raised.’
She added that she was concerned the plan would add to the woes of Islanders struggling with the cost of living in Jersey, pointing out that 30% of adults were reportedly finding it hard to cope financially.
‘This Assembly has sought to increase the amount of money being taken out of those people’s pockets,’ she said.
‘More money is being spent on running government and computers than is being spent on core services. The income-forecasting group has downgraded forecasts not once but twice since the Government Plan was produced.
‘Surely that sets off alarm bells about where we are heading over the next four years and signals that we need a change of direction.’
Senator Le Fondré said that the Common Strategic Policy, which set the Government’s core priorities for this term of office, was approved unanimously and the Government Plan would provide the finances required to achieve those goals.
‘I should thank everyone in this Assembly and Scrutiny for their participation in this process. The Government Plan is better for this and we have all learned something from this,’ he said.
‘We now know there is much more to do but I believe that investment will make a huge difference. Let’s focus on the positives – that it will make a difference to children, the economy, health and wellbeing, reducing income inequality and tackling climate change.’
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