The deputies behind the so-called 'Fairer Alternative' tax proposals have expressed concern that the next stage of research into potential future tax reforms may be rushed.
Deputy Heidi Soulsby has said that "speed is less important than getting it right" as she has continued to reflect on last month's gruelling States debate which saw proposals for GST thrown out.
Pictured: The Tax Review led to a few decisions being made, but major reforms were rejected.
The Tax Review proposals backed by Policy and Resources were largely rejected with a few other work streams passed by deputies following six days of debate spread over a month.
This means P&R have had to start working on various reviews including looking to cut costs on the island's capital projects portfolio, essential community services, and pension provision for new public sector workers.
P&R also has to set up a sub-group to investigate other changes to the tax system, work with E&I to raise money through transport, parking and licensing, and work with industry leaders to raise £2 million per year from visitors.
Most of these measures - along with a longer-term vision for the island - have to be drawn up before the end of next year. P&R has said some aspects will be ready within a year - which Deputy Soulsby has said would be difficult in her opinion.
Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby arriving at the tax debate earlier this year.
Deputy Soulsby, along with deputies Gavin St Pier and Sasha Kazantseva-Miller, who worked with her on the FA proposals, has said she is encouraged by P&R's apparent commitment to "embracing the directions they have been given by the States". The timeframe P&R have set themselves is concerning her though.
“Whilst it was disappointing that the States rejected Stage 1 of Option D, the Assembly did vote to approve all the propositions in Stage 2," she explained, adding: "It is encouraging that P&R appear to be embracing the directions they have been given by the States but, on a note of caution, speed is less important than getting it right.
"For example, the review of the capital portfolio also directs that consideration be given to alternative funding mechanisms. We were envisaging that being undertaken project-by-project which, to do it properly, will take some time, so I am concerned that P&R think they can complete the capital portfolio more quickly than the March 2024 deadline in the resolution, which is what we had agreed with Treasury staff was practicable.”
Deputy Kazantseva-Miller is also concerned about P&R rushing to make decisions, believing that genuine public consultation would take longer than the time frames given.
Pictured: Deputies Gavin St Pier and Heidi Soulsby published their Fairer Alternatives earlier this year.
“During the recent debate in January and February, a number of colleagues spoke of their frustration that it appeared that P&R’s policy letter did not reflect the concerns that had been so clearly expressed in the first debate on the tax review in 2021," she said. "P&R mustn’t make that mistake again. It needs to carry not only the Assembly with it but also the community.
"That is why, for example, our resolution specifically provided that there needs to be ‘effective engagement with the community’ when reviewing what public services should be provided and how they can be provided more efficiently to deliver savings. Working out how to undertake that community engagement effectively needs some thought and it will certainly take some time to do it properly.”
Deputy St Pier - a former P&R President and Treasury Minister but now sitting on the back benches - again offered to help with any work streams which may benefit from his time and prior experience.
“Since the election in October 2020, I have repeatedly offered to help P&R in any of their work. Whilst they may feel I cannot help, I do know that a number of the Fairer Alternative group have offered to assist and having failed to win support for any of their proposals, I do hope that P&R will now adopt the more consensual approach intended in the Option D Stage 2 resolutions which the States did approve.”
Pictured top: Deputies Soulsby, Kazantseva-Miller and St Pier have worked together on the Fairer Alternative proposals.
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