Source: Channel Islands – Jersey
Today the Council of Ministers has lodged the proposed Government Plan for 2021 to 2024.
This plan, which will be debated by the States Assembly during the week commencing the 14th December, represents our vision for Jersey and our commitment to protect our Island’s future.
It sets out how we will keep protecting Islanders from the risks to health and livelihoods posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, while ensuing we also meet the objectives we set out in our Common Strategic Policy.
When we introduced the first Government Plan last November, nobody could have predicted the impact that COVID-19 would have on our lives, on our community and on our economy.
The pandemic has substantially disrupted the work of Governments across the globe, and this has also been true for Jersey.
It has impacted on our income and created a significant increase in our expenditure.
It has compelled us to re-examine the delivery of some projects, to re-prioritise how we use our resources, and to re-think how we invest in our Island.
Protecting Islanders, especially those at highest risk, remains our first priority and we will continue to manage the healthcare challenges presented by COVID-19 as part of this Government Plan.
We’ll provide investment and extra resilience to essential services, fund the Nightingale Wing, distribute PPE, and do what is necessary to supress the virus until a vaccine can be provided.
To drive our economic recovery, we’ll continue to provide support to local businesses through new economic stimulus measures and growth initiatives, including establishing a Fiscal Stimulus Fund, subject to States Assembly approval.
We must also be prepared to address the long-term impact on our public finances.
This plan sets out the measured steps that Ministers will take to address predicted deficits in 2020 and 2021, through sensible borrowing and repayment, with a long-term plan to balance budgets by 2024.
To cover the costs of responding to the pandemic, Ministers are proposing borrowing up to a maximum of £336 million next year, in addition to the Fiscal Stimulus Fund of £50 million.
Should the States Assembly approve current plans to move to Current Year Basis taxation, then the future repayments of the 2019 tax liabilities for Prior Year Basis taxpayers will repay much, if not all, of this debt.
We’ll also continue to provide necessary investment in our essential services, especially in healthcare and education, to provide sustainable and lasting improvements.
The commitments made in the Common Strategic Policy, which underpin all of Government’s work, have not been forgotten.
Our Island’s children and young people have been particularly impacted by the pandemic, with negative effects on their education and personal development.
So, we’ll be introducing the COVID-19 Schools Catch-up Programme to ensure that we address the loss of schooling suffered by primary and secondary school students, alongside continued investment in mental health and wellbeing, which will also have suffered as a result of the lockdown.
Our Health Care Services have been successful in mitigating the impacts of the public health emergency so far.
But we must continue our programme of investment and change, ensuring that we have in place a health and care system that is capable of responding to our needs in a way that is fit for Jersey’s future.
From 2021 we will begin to implement the Jersey Care Model, which will enable a shift to a more preventative health service, through community and home-based services, enabling us to better cope with forecast demand from demographic change and to provide Islanders with a more accessible patient-orientated healthcare service.
While Jersey businesses have shown resilience and tenacity in the face of the economic challenges of the pandemic, we must continue to support them through recovery and as we look to grow and diversify our economy.
With recommendations from the Economic Council due to be received and considered in late 2020, we will develop these recommendations on longer term economic renewal for consideration by States Members and Islanders during early 2021 and begin implementation with the support of a new economic growth funding allocation.
Islanders whose employment and income have been impacted by the pandemic will continue to be supported, to ensure that disparities in income inequality do not increase and standards of living do not worsen.
And the Government Plan sets out our commitment to helping unemployed Islanders find work with the support of targeted Back to Work programmes.
We will also ensure that we provide a home… fit for future generations with our new Island Plan, which will enable us to live up to our commitment to the Island’s environment.
This Government Plan also accounts for continued improvements to organisation-wide change within Government.
The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of working together as One Government and using new technology to respond flexibly and at speed. In 2021 we will continue to invest in public-sector employees, modernise our workforce and reform how we work. This will enable us to deliver better outcomes and more efficient services.
I know there will be yet more challenges facing our Island and our community in 2021.
While some, like the global pandemic, will be unpredictable, there are many that we can anticipate and prepare for.
This includes the potential risks to the Island from a ‘No Further Negotiated Outcome’ relationship between the UK and EU as the Brexit transition period ends on 31st December 2020.
Detailed contingency planning has been underway for quite some time, and takes into account the full range of possible outcomes from EU/UK future scenarios.
We are adaptable and agile.
We will meet the challenges of Brexit in the same way that we met the challenges of Covid-19, and with the same success.
I want to take this opportunity to once again thank all of my Ministerial colleagues and the dedicated employees working across the public sector for their energy, skill and commitment in the production of this Government Plan.
It is a vision that will see Jersey safely through any coming challenges and provide the lasting improvements to Jersey that all of the Council of Ministers are committed to achieving.
In summary, we have faced the greatest threat to public health and to our economy since the Occupation.
We know that in every jurisdiction across the world, COVID-19 has decreased revenues and increased expenditure.
To meet this challenge, we have mobilised an unprecedented financial package and provided our healthcare professionals with the resources they need to keep Islanders safe.
We have supported local jobs with one of the most generous co-funded payroll schemes in Europe, a 2% reduction in social security contributions, and a voucher scheme supporting consumer spending on our high-street.
We have also continued our much-needed capital programmes and investment to frontline services.
The total impact of all of what I’ve just said, equates to more than a billion pounds.
Despite these challenges to revenues and the pressures on expenditure, we only need to borrow £385 million next year.
This may sound significant, but we have also outlined a responsible and clear plan for this figure to be repaid, without any permanent rise in taxes.
In the coming months we will be making further announcements on our office strategy, will be lodging a new migration control strategy, and will be debating the preferred Hospital location in the States Assembly.
These significant pieces of work will complement the measures set out in the Government Plan, and provide the direction for meeting our commitments to Islanders in 2021 and beyond.
I’ll now take questions from the media.