Merging public services across the Channel Islands could curb growth in their combined £1.5bn spending bill, improve what is offered and protect against external pressures, a new study has argued.
The report compiled by Critical Economics has proposed that a new non-political forum is set up with representatives from both Islands to drive forward a pan-Channel Islands’ vision.
Its work suggested that States of Guernsey and States of Jersey spending on services could top a combined £2bn by the end of the decade.
“The merging of services on a pan-CI basis could well curb the inevitable growth in public expenditure,” the Vision CI Case Study report states.
“CI residents may be able to benefit from more specialised and efficient services delivered locally rather than having to travel to the UK and rely on Mainland services. Already, there is every likelihood that the UK is going to face severe resourcing issues over the next couple of decades. This is manifesting itself in a number of areas but, particularly, in healthcare.”
Pictured: The report was published this week.
It sets out four of the most popular areas proposed for cooperation since it first went public with a framework report in 2020.
A flexible employment pool across the islands was one suggestion, with free movement for workers within the Channel Islands.
“The Covid Pandemic has only hastened changes in work practices and lifestyle choices, let alone the growth of artificial intelligence which will impact on all the islands both positively and negatively,” it said.
“Flexible employment and ‘skills for the future’ are important areas which could be dealt with on a pan-CI basis due to the world shortage of labour generally.”
Delivery of education and training was another area suggested.
“In terms of vision, there could well be a time when the traditional school model will change and the use of remote learning will become the norm with schools gradually being replaced by centres for ‘soft skills’ training. Such a change would justify a common approach across the Channel Islands particularly in the provision of e-learning facilities. Additionally, the growing shortage of teachers across the islands is not only a local but a national and international problem.”
The islands could also work together on climate change, while addressing the demands of an ageing population was another possible area for cooperation.
The number of people aged over 80 in the Channel Islands is likely to nearly treble, from 9,000 to around 20/25,000 over the next 20 years.
“This will significantly increase health costs and impact immensely on CI resources as a whole with a real danger of service duplication in each island. Another factor is the shortage of long-term care facilities and personnel which will inevitably draw economically active residents away from other economic sectors. A pan-CI strategy would be eminently sensible particularly in developing innovative home care and artificial intelligence solutions.”
Other areas that could be covered include a single law and order administration covering all islands and co-ordinated marketing.
The report sees several benefits, with cost savings in public services coming from things like centralised procurement and eliminating duplication.
A pan-CI approach could even be an enabler to a tunnel project, it suggested, citing the case study of the Faroe Islands, where a network of 44km of tunnels links the archipelago where 50,000 people live.
Pictured: The Critical Economics report refers to a tunnel between the islands.
Critical Economics said that dialogue between States committees in the islands has “never really stimulated open, innovative, back-to-basics thinking”.
“Hence, the creation of the Strategic Forum made up of members with a range of backgrounds and experience with no pre-determined opinions and drawn from all age groups within the Channel Islands’ is the proposed direction to take.”
It proposed the forum should be funded equally between Guernsey, including Sark and Alderney, and Jersey.
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