Budget 2018

Here is the speech I made in the States about the 2018 Budget.

Sir, I will speak firstly on the budget so far as it relates to the Committee for Health & Social Care and then in a personal capacity.

Firstly I thank P&R for their appreciation in this report in relation to the savings made by the Committee to date and our commitment to managing our budget. Members will see that the Committee has accepted a £3.6m reduction in its budget from 2017. This represents £2m already banked and as set out in the successful amendment laid against the MTFP earlier this year and a commitment to a further £1.6m for next year. This represents a 3% saving against an overall savings target of 1%. The programme of system grip and service improvement has made this possible. This will continue and become embedded in business as usual.

However, we have to realise that the work done to date demonstrates that there are inefficiencies in the system, but this must not distract from the very real pressures of an ageing population, medical inflation and high expectations over the coming years. More on that when we publish our policy letter. 

I should also like to assure Members that we are committed to transforming our services and making the savings we can. However, this will not be at the expense of a fall in standards, a deterioration of the environment or, most importantly, the safety of our service users.

Just as an aside, and in the immediate future, we do have concerns over the impact of winter pressures which are likely to kick in at the beginning of the year. In particular, the bad flu season experienced in the southern hemisphere in their last winter could potentially put considerable strain on the system. 

In terms of the Policy & Resource Plan, we are pleased that the recommended priorities that we provided to P&R have been accepted by them and form part of the final 23. In particular the Health and social care regulatory policy and health and wellbeing policy will have a major part to play in moving towards a more sustainable model of health and care and which will become clearer when our policy letter comes out. In particular, we are particularly excited about what the Bailiwick Health and Wellbeing Commission could achieve and thank P&R for approving the matched funding in relation to this initiative. This will represent a significant commitment towards prevention, which is crucial to the sustainability of health and care in the Bailiwick.

Moving on to other specific areas of interest to the Committee, whilst we have not been involved in the discussions, we welcome the establishment of a social investment commission. However, whether that is enough to assure the long term sustainability remains to be seen. There is clearly a duplication of effort when it comes to back office support amongst the many charities that exist and one way of providing greater resilience would be for there to be consolidation of the sector. Another would be for government to help provide some of those resources in a joined up way. Again, this is something we will reference in our policy letter.

In terms of excise duty on alcohol and, more particularly paragraph 5.76, we have indeed received a letter from P&R since the budget was published with regard to providing a clear direction in the same way as is given for Tobacco.

I have advised the P&R President in response that the Strategy, which HSC took over from Homes Affairs earlier this year, concludes at the end of 2020 and so it is likely that a formal review will not be considered or concluded until after this political term. Therefore, we may need to look at this separately from that process.

It should also be pointed out that we consider that an increase in excise duty may well be just a blunt instrument in dealing with alcohol use. As part of the P&R Plan and included in our submission to P&R under health and wellbeing promotion we include a key initiative in relation to the D&A Strategy to be a consideration of minimum unit pricing. We think it may be worth looking at excise duty as part of that work.

In terms of a sugar tax, the principle has been considered by the Committee who wish to pursue this further and our officers are in discussion with their counterparts in Jersey to look into the application of a sugar tax that could be implemented across the Islands. The evidence for such a tax is growing but that does not necessarily mean it will take the form of that which will come into force in the UK in April next year. We need to consider what works for the Islands.

Speaking personally, aside from all the great things we are doing at HSC, the most important section of this budget is on page 20. The Economic Development Policy. Until we know how we are going to support our economy, the States of Guernsey Budget is really just an exercise in treading water. The fact we have sensationalist journalism now on mainstream media that is selective of its stories for headline news shows how important it is under the current climate.

Deputy Ferbrache has raised expectations that his policy will be radical and I do hope he is right. We have a budget balancing raising income and saving money and there really is nothing wrong with that at all, but what it lacks is the support for growth. That’s nothing new. We do little to support businesses, expect those that are State owned of course. 

I get incredibly depressed when I see considerable resources put into a GDPR paper that is basically a copy of the UK, a population management regime that was past its sell-by date before it became law, and Brexit, which may not even happen at all. A lot of time and resources spent on more bureaucracy.

What we need is a business friendly environment. I called for a red tape audit in the last term and I think this was completed by C&E after I left. Therefore, I do hope that within ED’s policy letter are recommendations to rescind unnecessary red-tape and support business the best way government can, which often means to leave it alone as far as possible. Tomorrow we will be asked to approve yet more legislation but I can’t recall the last time legislation was rescinded other than because it was being replaced.

So, we seriously need a policy that supports economic growth but at the same time a growth mindset, to put in old fashioned language, a can-do attitude. That’s not just in Government but in business and the wider community. At HSC we are doing our bit and that will hopefully become apparent when we publish our policy letter, but it needs collective effort to get the economy moving. The recent so-called revelations over so-called tax havens should be a wake-up call that, instead of focusing on regulations and red-tape which won’t satisfy anyone, we need to take a positive approach to support a thriving economy, before it is too late. 

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