Search for £120m efficiencies following approval of plan

THE government will seek to find £120 million of public-sector efficiencies over the next four years following the approval of the Government Plan by the States yesterday.

Senator John Le Fondré
Senator John Le Fondré

Members voted heavily in favour of the financial document, with only the five members of the Reform Jersey party opposing it and Deputy Steve Luce abstaining.

Under the plans up to £386 million of debt could be taken out by next year and £235 million will be diverted from the Social Security Fund to help pay for the effects of Covid-19 by the end of 2024.

Also, £120 million of efficiencies will be targeted during the Government Plan period of 2021 to 2024 – £20 million more than previously.

It is forecast that the pandemic will cost Jersey £400 million, as well as result in lost tax revenue of £400 million between 2020 and 2023. Altogether 11 amendments were passed before the plan was approved yesterday morning.

Chief Minister John Le Fondré said that a ‘significant part’ of the looming debt would be paid off due to the States decision earlier this year to move prior-year taxpayers to paying on their current-year earnings.

The move will see 45,000 affected Islanders asked to pay their lifetime tax liabilities sooner than they would have, generating cash for the Treasury Department earlier.

He said: ‘While we have borrowed, we do have a plan for repaying. We need to recognise that there is no magic money tree. We have to make sure that we are efficient with public money.’

Treasury Minister Susie Pinel added: ‘You have my assurance we will minimise the borrowing, as outlined in the Government Plan.

‘We’ll also be funding new economic growth through a series of initiatives that will drive through recovery.’

Members also approved Deputy Pinel’s finance law in a series of votes, which will bring into effect her budget for 2021.

Measures include raising the income tax allowance for Islanders, an alcohol duty freeze and an extra 5% being applied to the price of cigarettes.

The law will also see independent taxation fully introduced in 2022, under which husbands and wives will be able to declare their income separately.

First-time buyers will also pay less stamp duty on new properties bought through assisted-purchase schemes.

Finally, the States passed Social Security Minister Judy Martin’s proposition for £11.3 million to be diverted from the Health Insurance Fund to help pay for the Jersey Care Model and digital health projects.

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