Government will have to sharpen its focus and develop a much greater appetite for risk in order to recover from the disastrous economic impact of the pandemic, the States' senior committee has said, as it today unveils its "prodigiously ambitious" roadmap for the next four years.
The Policy & Resources Committee has this morning published the Government Work Plan, which supersedes the previous committee's Revive & Thrive Strategy and consigns the Future Guernsey Plan to the past.
The policy letter outlining Stage One of the new plan, which sets the direction for the political term, has been submitted this morning and focuses on three priorities - responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, managing the effects of Brexit, and delivering recovery actions.
“The need is great, time is short and finances are limited," said P&R Vice-President Heidi Soulsby, who has led the policy planning against a darkening financial position.
There is an estimated general revenue deficit of £59m over-hanging from 2020, with 2021's pre-lockdown forecast shortfall of £23m now expected to be considerably higher.
Pictured: Stage One of the plan contains a list of recovery actions, which will be refined in the second stage. Following further engagement and assessment, the Stage Two policy letter will set an order of priority, along with resourcing and funding requirements. That will be debated on 21 July 2021 ahead of the States' Budget in November.
"The Assembly will need to address the ongoing impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit as well as pre-existing challenges such as climate change, inequalities among islanders’ living standards, waiting lists for healthcare and Guernsey’s ageing demographic," said Deputy Soulsby.
"To achieve this while also discharging its responsibility to keep islanders safe, secure and able to meet their basic needs, the States must focus resources only on work that is necessary and can be most effectively delivered by government.
P&R will ask the States to approve the rescission of 135 extant resolutions which have been deemed either out-of-date, undeliverable or already addressed by subsequent States decisions. These include Education, Sport & Culture's bid to rid itself of all the policy decisions it inherited on the transformation of education and P&R's desire to reverse the agreed transferral of probate away from the Ecclesiastical Court.
Pictured: There are currently 535 extant States resolutions, some of which date back to before the turn of the century. Stage One of the Government Work Plan aims to trim this down to 400 in order to free up and focus resources.
Deputy Soulsby said there is no room or resource for vanity projects, and that the States must accept a greater appetite for risk than it has previously.
"The urgent need to recover and enable further economic stability and prosperity will provide employment and secure the revenues to fund important social and environmental policies; implementing those social and environmental policies supports Guernsey’s competitiveness, which in turn supports economic recovery.
“The ambition of the new Assembly is prodigious so it will need to make difficult decisions and these proposals prepare the way for this."
One of the new policies that most exemplifies the Government Work Plan's proclaimed ambition is its intention to 'unlock entrepreneurship'.
"This action will conclude an enterprise plan on further steps to support and attract start-ups and scale-ups - ensuring that Guernsey is able to offer a compelling package to enable start up and scale up businesses to establish or move to the island.
"This will include the potential for enterprise investment schemes; a review of the Open Market; the development of investor/entrepreneur visas; the exploration of opportunities to encourage test bedding, including through legislative changes; and the completion of a second red tape review."
Investment is expected in the finance industry, while the committee is hoping to shortly finalise an air and sea travel policy review that has been stuck in transit for years.
The multi-million pound installation of a second electricity cable link direct to France is set to be on the agenda, as are a number of social projects.
This is likely to include the development of a wellbeing centre, while it is understood the States will support the recently-launched social prescribing initiative. The introduction of NICE drugs is still expected to be paid for, while Children and Family Services from a number of locations could be moved into a single, multi-disciplinary hub.
Even if only a few of the projects are ultimately taken forward as priorities in the next four years, it will come at a significant cost, and the spectre of the restructuring of taxation review looms on the horizon. It is expected to be completed in time for the 2022 Budget debate, when the States will decide how to fund its capital priorities.
A word on Education, a matter on which the wording may be critical. Its place in the list of emerging projects no longer refers to 'transformation' - instead it is prefaced only by a desire to 'Conclude Secondary and Post-16 education policy review'.
With ESC already publicly stressing on multiple occasions that the island's finances have changed drastically in the last 12 months, there are several health warnings now in the public domain that secondary schooling will not be transformed to the extent many hoped for following years of prevarication and political infighting.
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