Deputy Gavin St. Pier is confident that he could work well with Deputy Peter Ferbrache if he is elected to return to the Policy & Resources Committee at the next States' meeting.
"I don't think there is any personal animosity, so I can't see any reason why we couldn't work constructively together," said Deputy St. Pier last night, after announcing his entry into the race for a seat on the Committee against Deputy Ferbrache's preferred candidate, Deputy Bob Murray.
In October 2020, Deputy Ferbrache defeated Deputy St. Pier by 23 votes to 17 to replace him as President of the Committee, avenging his loss to Deputy St. Pier in the election for the same role four years earlier. At that time, Deputy Ferbrache offered to nominate his predecessor for a seat on the Committee, but Deputy St. Pier declined.
"I thought it was right, having defeated me to be the Committee's President, that he should have free rein to lead the committee without his immediate predecessor breathing down his neck," said Deputy St. Pier.
"But we are now two years on…if elected, I would join the Committee with an open mind and a willingness to work with its other members."
Pictured: Express asked the candidates why they were standing in the election, which will be settled by a secret ballot of the 40 States' members.
Express approached both of the known candidates yesterday – Deputies Murray and St. Pier – and invited them to respond to a series of questions about their reasons for standing in the election of a member of the States’ senior committee on 23 November.
Deputy Murray said it was "very kind" to be asked for his views but declined to answer the questions.
"I am just a hard-working deputy who does not feel the need or have the time to be constantly in the media spotlight. I leave that to those that clearly do have the time and inclination," said Deputy Murray.
"As I have already confirmed, the place to discuss my reasons for seeking a position on the Policy & Resources Committee is in the [States’] chamber."
Deputy Murray has the backing of the Committee. And Deputy St. Pier has described him "as a carbon copy of the Committee’s existing composition" – Deputies Ferbrache, Jonathan Le Tocq, David Mahoney and Mark Helyar, who until recently was the leader in the States of the Guernsey Party, of which Deputy Murray remains a member.
Deputy St. Pier said last night that he would bring fresh thinking to the Committee.
"As I will come with a different perspective and experience, I think I can help the Committee avoid group think," said Deputy St. Pier.
"It can be cosily comfortable when everyone enthusiastically agrees with each other. Testing and challenging within committees can be time consuming and even frustrating, but it often also leads to better and more defensible policy making, strengthening the committee’s position."
Pictured: Deputy Gavin St. Pier said he is standing for the vacant seat precisely because his thinking is different from the other members of the Committee.
Deputy St. Pier topped the poll in the island’s first island wide general election of deputies two years ago. But the States rejected him in three elections for seats on various committees and he has since sat in the Assembly with no committee memberships. He said last night that he was ready to play a part on the States’ senior committee "if the States want me to do so".
"I've very much enjoyed trying to provide robust scrutiny and challenge as a backbencher from outside the committee system, although I'm not sure that my doing so has been appreciated by all States' members. Having been on the inside of two key States' decision-making committees for the eight years before the 2020 election, doing so has definitely given me a different perspective, which I can now bring to the committee’s work for the rest of this term," he said.
Deputy St. Pier's previous experience in the States – as Treasury and Resources Minister between 2012 and 2016 and President of the Policy & Resources Committee between 2016 and 2020 – has been greatest in financial affairs and external relations. Those two areas of the Committee's work are already led by Deputies Helyar and Le Tocq respectively, but that does not put off Deputy St. Pier.
"The Committee needs to decide how best to use its members' skills. I’m standing for election to be on the Committee – not for a particular role on it," he said. "I have considerable knowledge of the very issues that the committee has been grappling with since 2020."
Pictured: The Policy & Resources Committee's treasury lead, Deputy Mark Helyar, recently warned States' members that they face a choice between tax rises or public sector job losses and service cuts.
One of those issues is the Committee’s projected hole in States' finances of up to £85million a year. The Committee intends to publish its flagship policies for dealing with the deficit just days after the election of its newest member later this month. It is widely expected to propose the introduction of a goods and services tax [GST] of 5% or 8%.
"I'm not going to comment on a tax package the details of which I've not seen and which is subject to so much speculation," said Deputy St. Pier.
"What I can say is that I co-led, along with former Deputy Chief Minister, Allister Langlois, the personal tax, pensions and benefits review debated in 2015. This made – and lost – the case to keep GST in the tax mix.
"During that process, I learned a lot about the challenges of achieving community and political support for reform of the tax system and I think the current Committee might benefit from that now. The only other person on the Committee who was in the States at that time is Deputy Le Tocq, so the committee is light on experience on that area of policy."
Pictured: Deputy Gavin St. Pier said that most of the remaining members of the Policy & Resources Committee lack experience in some of its key areas of work.
Deputy St. Pier spoke warmly of Deputy Heidi Soulsby, who resigned from the Committee two weeks ago to create the vacancy, citing tensions with some other members of the Committee.
"Deputy Soulsby has not really spoken in any detail about her frustrations and reasons for resigning, so I don’t want to speculate about those too much," he said.
"It's a great shame with all her intellect, experience and talent, and having worked so hard for two years, that she has felt it necessary to leave. But we all to have respect her decision."
Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby remains as a member of the Policy & Resources Committee until her successor is elected on 23 November.
Express recently reported that Deputy St. Pier had registered his interest in the vacant seat but been told that the Committee was not interested in proposing him.
He will be proposed by Deputy Yvonne Burford and seconded by Deputy Marc Leadbeater. Deputy Burford was a member of Deputy St. Pier's former Partnership of Independents party but resigned soon after the 2020 general election. Deputy Leadbeater was previously a member of the Islanders' Association. They now both sit as independent members of the Assembly.
Deputy Murray is currently Vice President of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture and a member of the Development & Planning Authority. He would be required to resign from these roles if elected as a member of the Policy & Resources Committee.
A colleague of his at Education, Sport & Culture, Deputy Andy Cameron, said over the weekend that he was "worried" about Deputy Murray leaving the Committee because of the "serious implications" on the Committee's £105million project to create three 11-16 schools and a new sixth form college alongside redeveloping The Guernsey Institute.
Pictured: Deputy Bob Murray should remain on the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to see through the £105million reorganisation of secondary and further education, according to Deputy Andy Cameron, a colleague of his on that Committee.
Express set up a poll to allow readers to vote on who they would like to see as the new member on the Committee. Hundreds of votes were cast.
Seven deputies featured in the poll: Deputies Burford and Murray as well as Deputy Chris Blin, Andrea Dudley-Owen, Liam McKenna, Nick Moakes and Lyndon Trott.
Deputy Trott topped the poll with more than a third of votes. Deputy Burford finished in second place with the support of around a quarter of voters.
Every other deputy in the list received fewer than 10% of votes. Deputy Murray was supported by just under 6% of readers.
Pictured (top): Deputies Peter Ferbrache (left) and Gavin St. Pier have twice battled for the Presidency of the Policy & Resources Committee; and (inset) Deputy Bob Murray will now face Deputy St. Pier in an election for a new member of the Committee.
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