Guernsey’s most senior politician has warned the island “will be faced with some difficult decisions about funding public services” if the growing financial deficit is to be limited.
Deputy Peter Ferbrache, President of the Policy & Resources Committee, noted that despite a “truly marvelous spring and summer” the community has had to “wrestle with increased costs pressures on our services”.
“Budgets are drained, the demand for services is veracious, the expectations of our citizens are high. All of the services and all of those demands are to be paid for. Our real reserves… are limited. We will in reality run very short of money. Our deficit is growing.”
In a speech to the returning States Assembly this morning, Deputy Ferbrache also emphasised that Committees’ demands for increased spending, revealed to P&R through the budget setting process in August, “far outstrip” initial expectations.
But he said comfort could be taken from the expectation that Guernsey’s level of inflation and energy prices are “not expected” to match those seen across the UK and Europe but mitigating action should be taken to contain future increases.
Deputy Ferbrache added that difficult decisions should not be delayed, not least the impending review of taxation.
Pictured: Deputy Peter Ferbrache painted a bleak picture for the coming months.
He insisted that “a wide range of tax options have been explored” to plump up the public coffers, including the completed review of corporate taxation which has been returned to P&R.
A presentation on corporate taxation options has been prepared, and all States members have been encouraged to attend.
Despite concerns about maintaining public services with available resources, Deputy Ferbrache said those least able to pay should be “protected in a practical manner”, but realism about potential achievements should be employed.
Deputy Andy Cameron asked if steps would be taken to freeze private and social rental housing prices, mirroring a similar recent commitment from the Scottish government to do so.
Deputy Ferbrache said he couldn’t give assurances “on the hoof”, adding that he was unaware of “any statutory provision” that would allow the States to enact those measures.
He said the possibility of introducing property taxes as part of any new measures were unfinalised and insisted that “everything has been looked at and considered” in the tax arena.
On helping ‘middle Guernsey’, Deputy Ferbrache claimed the Treasury was investigating practical relief measures for a broad range of households.
“But, there are difficult times ahead and we are in difficult times,” he said.
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