Spanning the next four years, the government’s plan incorporates the strategic priorities of the Council of Ministers but has drawn criticism, including from a high-ranking minister, over unprecedented debt levels totaling £ 1.74 billion, which would be one of the results if the proposal was supported by the Assembly.
And 26 amendments have been tabled by member states, with the potential to change it significantly (full article on pages 8 and 9 of the Saturday – December 11 PEC).
Review groups, including the General Service Review Group, have also issued several reports.
CSSP chairwoman Senator Kristina Moore said she believed members should proceed with caution, comparing the economic advice included in the report to the decisions they were asked to make.
She said: “The plan calls for huge borrowing and considerable capital spending at a time of considerable economic uncertainty.
“We are concerned about the broad changes in the budget and the government’s preference for capital projects over service delivery. “
The plan outlines a potential borrowing of £ 1.74 billion by 2025 to pay off the island’s new hospital, pay off Covid debt and cover pension liabilities, though debt levels could be significantly reduced if members supported an amendment by the former chief minister and current minister of external relations. Ian Gorst.
Senator Gorst has proposed reducing the scale of borrowing by £ 345million, or 20% of the total amount. The planned spending is too high, he says, with Jersey’s economic success hinging on “controlled and balanced public spending and zero or low levels of public debt.”
Among the recommendations issued by the CSSP is a call to the Chief Minister to commit to greater accountability on projects related to digital initiatives and government investment in information technologies.
“We are concerned about the sweeping budget changes and the proliferation of other projects,” said Senator Moore. She added that she supported Senator Gorst’s amendment to limit borrowing and would repeat many of the arguments made in an attempt – narrowly defeated in an Assembly vote in October – to cap the amount. loans for the hospital project.
“It is telling that a minister feels the need to step in and come up with an amendment like this and has very different views from his cabinet colleagues,” said Senator Moore.
The government’s plan has also drawn criticism from the Reform Jersey political party, whose leader Senator Sam Mézec has highlighted the number of ministers who are members of the recently launched Alliance party.
Senator Mézec said: “After four years in power, we believe that this government plan cements the record of the current government / Alliance party as a failure.
“Hardly anything has been proposed in this legislature that has significantly reduced income inequality, which was to be one of their priorities, and despite the declaration of a climate crisis, there is nothing tangible about it. plan to reduce our carbon emissions.
“Despite the commitment to ‘put children first’, there is no sign in this plan of attempts to get our education funding levels to where they should be, and our debt levels are bottoming out. extraordinary summits, with conceited projects like the new government office. ‘
Progress Party MP Steve Luce said while his party supported many of the amendments proposed as part of the plan, there were “mind-boggling” spending levels and an inability to deliver much smaller sums thanks to the government efficiency programs.
He said: “The Debt Amendment [brought by Senator Gorst] would certainly help, but as a party we have to decide if we can support the Alliance Party manifesto. ‘
An Alliance party spokesperson refuted the suggestion that the government’s plan was the Alliance’s manifesto, adding that the party had no further comments on the government’s plan but would provide more details on its policies at the start of the new year before the general election. in June.
The session of the Assembly of States will begin with questions on Monday afternoon, with debate on the government’s plan set to begin on Tuesday morning.