The States of Guernsey has released an opening statement on the Government Work Plan debate.
The Vice-President, Policy & Resources Committee said: “Today is an important day for our community. It is a day when we focus fairly and squarely on our Islanders and our Island. A day when we set out what Islanders can expect, and when, for the whole of this political term, in the hope that we don’t get another public health crisis in the form of a global pandemic or a political decision similar to Brexit, neither of which we have created but could clearly not ignore.
Before I get into more of the detail, the process we have followed, the outcomes we are seeking, I want to remind the Assembly what kind of government, community and economy we decided we want to be.
This is the Assembly’s Plan to ‘work in partnership to recover our economic prosperity, build on our inclusive community values and capitalise on our many strengths to make Guernsey a safe haven based on sustaining health, wealth and community.’
This is the opportunity to build; to build on our successful management of the pandemic; to
build on our recovering economy; and to build on our reputation. To build we must invest:
- in our economy and our people
- in our public spaces and housing and
- in our infrastructure and our marine and terrestrial environment
The interconnections between the economy, social inclusion and environmental sustainability are critical, and if balanced in the right way will help Guernsey build a competitive, sustainable, safe and secure wellbeing economy.
The Assembly’s Plan, the Government Work Plan, invests resources heavily in a cohesive, integrated and focused plan that encompasses every States initiative outside of the usual business, through to the end of the term. That includes our continued focus on the must-do work of COVID-19 and Brexit, but also recovery, capital projects, extant Resolutions, prioritised legislation, and, last but not least, the re-shaping of government.
The Plan also recognises that our economy is linked closely to that of our friends in Alderney – with whom Guernsey is effectively in fiscal union – and of Sark. The Islands’ Assemblies are mindful of the mutual benefit in Guernsey, Alderney and Sark having strong economies, and where appropriate and practical will seek to work together in order to strengthen those economies.
I’d like to thank those colleagues in the Assembly who have worked with us as we have developed this plan. It has been an intense few months. We have had workshops, Presidents’ meetings and briefings during which your input has been invaluable. I am especially grateful to the members of the Government Work Plan Sub-Committee, who examined the emerging recovery actions and provided us with their recommendations. We didn’t all agree on every action, but challenge was respectful, and consensus was reached.
There has also been engagement outside the States that has helped inform the Plan in front of us today. This has included those who speak for our economic sectors, and those who carry out vital, hands-on social and environmental work in the community. They include business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and Institute of Directors and third sector organisations such as the Guernsey Community Foundation, Age Concern, GDA, Safer, Liberate, La Societé Guernesiaise and the Biodiversity Partnership Group. We could have done more if we had been able to take longer but we know from previous terms that a consensus government arriving without one single manifesto to get behind, needs to move more quickly than we have in the past to establish that shared list of work for the term.
And so this wider engagement will continue once this Assembly agrees its Plan, as we work in partnership with the private and third sectors, co-designing operational solutions and commissioning their services in a more effective way, as we re-shape government to serve the community better.
Yes the Policy & Resources Committee is presenting this policy letter, but we have been acting as facilitators, not dictators, in putting this policy letter together. It has been an Assembly effort.
Now, I think it is worth taking a moment to consider the position we are in today. The context against which this Plan has been developed.
We are forging a path out of COVID restrictions and to a time where we can live responsibly with COVID, thanks to our successful vaccination programme and the management systems we have in place. But we all recognise that as a government COVID will consume a significant amount of resources for some time to come. It’s not going away any time soon. The new normal, if there is such a thing, will involve significant monitoring of public health threats.
We continue to manage the effects of Brexit. Meeting international standards is an essential part of what government does – our jurisdiction’s autonomy, international identity and adherence to international obligations must be maintained within the changed global landscape. This priority area is complex and multi-faceted, and as such it requires a significant amount of States’ resource.
Even before COVID and Brexit came along, Guernsey faced challenges including climate change, an ageing demographic and growing inequalities between Islanders.
But COVID has magnified those inequalities, hitting some parts of our economy and some Islanders harder than others. It has lengthened waiting times for elective operations, increased rates of domestic abuse, and impacted the mental health of those who would ordinarily be the more resilient in our community.
And of course, managing COVID’s impact has had a profound detrimental effect on States’ resources. And I don’t just mean financial, but human as well. Perhaps even more so. Vaccinating, testing, contact tracing, providing business support, running the help desk and developing new systems and policy responses including Emergency Regulations – has required us to reconfigure and re-prioritise our workforce to carry out this vital work, and this
will have to continue. It has meant that some projects have had to stop. Our human resources, our staff, are stretched just when the Island needs extra resource to facilitate recovery. Those who have had an active role in defending our Islands against COVID are also exhausted. They have done an amazing job but we need to accept that you can only stretch a rubber band so far until it snaps.
So, while aspirations are high, the challenges are great, time is short, and finances are tight.
It is against this context that we have developed the Plan before us today. And I’d just like to go over what is in the Plan and how we’ll we make it work.
So, what will this Plan do? We know what it can’t do – it cannot tackle everything we would like to do as we simply do not have the resources to implement complex strategies and entire, multi-faceted programmes of new policy work, and capital builds, all at once. In an ideal world with unlimited resources, we could strive for utopia. But I’m afraid that’s not our reality. We must prioritise and focus on where we can make the most difference and get the best bang for our buck, or Guernsey pound.
This Plan focuses our resources on our immediate economic, social and environmental needs based on evidence from our community and urgent needs identified by the Committees of the States. But at the same time, it also sets our Islanders and our Island on the road for a thriving, sustainable future.
The Bailiwick’s future rests in its people and this Plan focuses on what Islanders need to flourish and prosper and it does so by focusing on the wider determinants of health. These are much broader than focusing just on the immediate need for health and social care but recognises that to thrive we need a good standard of education, skills, economic opportunity, housing, safety and a healthy environment.
When Islanders thrive, the economy thrives and when the economy thrives, Islanders thrive. A ‘virtuous circle’ that recognises these synergies underpins the Plan. Its 16 outcomes align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a basis for governmental policymaking to spur economic growth, ensure health and wellbeing, reduce inequality and protect the environment.
The Plan supports our Island’s core economic drivers while enabling growth, regeneration, diversification and innovation. It cuts red tape and reduces unnecessary burdens on business while meeting international standards, through proportionate, risk-based regulation.
The Plan invests in the Island that sustains us all – enriching and regenerating its economy; improving its digital connectivity, physical infrastructure and transport links; and protecting its natural assets. It addresses a trend of underinvestment in the Island’s infrastructure, where the States have fallen short of their own capital investment targets.
While on the subject of infrastructure I must address the understandable frustration expressed this week by the Douzaine of St Sampson’s. This Plan has identified as actions some of the issues raised but is realistic and honest in not promising it all. It is also the vehicle for managing interdependencies and impacts of decisions, giving them visibility and forcing the decision on whether to resource to completion and if so, what doesn’t get done. This is why we are recommending a governance structure that supports the cross-committee decision making and operational working that will deliver the outputs and outcomes.
This Plan is very much about prioritising – taking action on the essential and pressing needs of our community. This is why we have a Top Ten list of recovery actionsfor immediate urgent resourcing which zero in on those wider determinants of health.
We will take immediate action on physical and mental health implementing new occupational health schemes and a pilot mental health centre. These are gaps that have been identified for some time now and, particularly given the effect on islanders of the last 16 months, they are required as a matter of urgency.
We’ve heard a lot about our NICE TAs drugs programme, which, as members will know I led as HSC President in the last term. Again, we would all love to provide every possible pharmaceutical remedy to everyone, no matter the cost, but we have to look across all our needs as we learn to live with COVID and respond to its impact. So, while we will modernise the hospital that provides Islanders with those much-needed, postponed surgeries and we will focus on improving primary and community care, other advances must come later when as an Assembly we have determined how to fund them sustainably; a decision that was not made by the last Assembly.
Employment opportunity, education and skills, and housing are also part of those wider determinants of health that come into the Top Ten. We will support the finance sector and boost tourism and set out and resource proposals to grow Islanders’ knowledge and skills, whatever their age.
We all know how urgent the housing issue is right now – demand is up, and supply is not matching it, with consequent increased house and rental prices. Our young people already disproportionately impacted by COVID are again bearing the brunt of this and we are struggling to recruit key workers in public and private sector roles because the housing market is over-heated. Government is going to have to intervene. The Plan will deliver the urgent measures necessary to address these housing pressures.
Housing is tied to another Top Ten priority – population. We will assess the fitness for purpose of our population and immigration framework, recognising the need to balance economic concerns with maintaining the Island’s quality of life that sustains us all.
In addition, we will build upon our criminal justice strategy by developing a phased, inclusive justice framework that recognises the relationships between family, social and criminal justice.
And the Plan acknowledges how a healthy environment is highly valued by the community and is an economic enabler and therefore includes initiatives to assess Guernsey’s marine environment, about which little scientific data exists, and secure the extension of the Paris Agreement on climate change to Guernsey. And as a flagship example of our forthcoming commissioning strategy to make government more effective and efficient, we will help ensure the Island’s environmental protection with a new, Nature Commission.
As you can see, the Government Work Plan is not all about the economy, nor is it all about health and social concerns, and neither is it all about the environment. All these aspects are important and interconnected, and working with the Committees of the States, the Policy & Resources Committee has tried to facilitate this greater understanding and present a co- ordinated, phased and resourced Plan of ‘workstreams’ to deliver those strategic outcomes we have agreed. We are recommending each recovery work stream has a cross-committee
governance structure to support us in delivering our mandated responsibilities to lead the policy planning process, and promote and facilitate cross-committee policy development.
The Committee has again reviewed the prioritisation of legislation for drafting, noting the impact of Brexit and future impact of international MoneyVal inspections. The working group that makes recommendations to the Committee has continued the regular engagement with Committees and has used that information to re-assess each item while the Plan was being developed. The recommendation laid before the Assembly now aligns with the Plan in a way that has not been done before.
Our mandate to focus on the execution of the decisions of the States is one that the Committee will discharge resolutely. What we decide here, at successive Meetings and on a myriad of policy matters, will continually update the Plan, which is a responsive mechanism to the immediate and longer-term needs of our community. However, the resourcing requirements will continue to be assessed and managed by the Committee against the
strategic outcomes and competing resource needs of actions already planned by the Assembly.
I’ve focused on the ‘what’ of the Plan. Now I’d like to focus on the ‘how.’ It’s a big all-encompassing plan. And boy there’s a lot in here that we are saying we will do in a few short years with limited resources. So how exactly are we going to achieve it?
It is very clear that doing things the same old way we have been doing them won’t be the answer. Islanders know this! They have been saying so for years. It was an election issue and appeared in many manifestos. And we, as Members of this Assembly, need to act now to remedy this.
This Plan calls for us to do things differently, with greater vision, innovation and collaboration – new ways of working.
Despite our aspirations to do everything for those we represent, we just can’t do it. That’s not about lack of vision but simple fact. We can’t continue to overpromise and underdeliver.
But the good news is, working with those who have specific expertise can result in delivering more and better initiatives through partnership working. Guernsey may be small, but we have a wealth of expertise here on-island. Sometimes the private sector is better positioned than the States to take forward an infrastructure project, for example. Guernsey also has a thriving third sector, one that already works closely with Islanders and accomplishes great things. This Plan calls for a new model of partnership working and commissioning that will leverage these resources to deliver more effective projects and programmes.
As soon as possible, we will review the machinery of government, with an eye toward understanding why we were so successful in getting things done during the pandemic but can struggle with our core business.
We will need to be strategic about the financial and human resources that we do have. Yes, resources are now stretched very thin as I have already said. That does not mean just buying in more resources is the answer though. The truth is the people aren’t out there anyway. For the sake of the implementation of this Plan as a whole, Committees will need to continue to share or re-deploy their staff resources as needed, which they have already done so well in our COVID management programmes. Our States’ transformation programme must also
continue apace with even greater focus on preparing for the reduction in workforce that lies ahead given our demographics. If we are to increase our Islands’ workforce we need them to be economically active and driving GDP rather than adding to a growing State sector.
And this leads me to The Funding & Investment Plan. This sets the financial framework for this Plan and this term of government. It sets out a framework for funding both the day to day services delivered by Guernsey’s public
sector but also the priorities of this Assembly and the investment, both necessary and desired, in our island infrastructure The work undertaken to develop this Plan has been thorough and detailed but estimating
income and expenditure over a five-year period can never be precise, particularly in the current climate. That is why the Plan should not be read as a precise budget for this term of government but, as set out in Proposition 8, a framework within which funding will be secured and financial resources allocated.
It has been designed to be affordable within the current tax structure and the resources available to this Assembly.
Members of the States should not conflate what we are seeking to do through the Funding & Investment Plan with what we are working on in developing the proposals in the Tax Review. The Tax Review will set a longer-term sustainable tax base for raising the revenues government will require.
Deputy Helyar will speak further on how the Plan and the Tax Review complement each other later. However, I just want to stress that we have tried to develop a Funding & Investment Plan that supports the delivery of government’s priorities – this is the funding that’s required if we are to progress all of the policies and initiatives set out in the GWP.
Now, Propositions 9 and 10 set out what will be required to make this Plan work.
Firstly, Committees need to ensure that resources are directed to the priorities we agree today. This includes through budget submissions.
While Proposition 11 is flexible enough to accommodate the costs related to the priorities changing, we can no longer accommodate bids for service developments which have not been prioritised as part of this process.
If these are required, then we will need to consider them as part of the GWP next year, or the year after that. This is how we will ensure that we direct our limited resources only to agreed priorities.
We also all need to take responsibility for the delivery of savings. We cannot require the public service to find savings and then not make the difficult decisions necessary to realise them.
The framework does assume that savings will be delivered. If that is not the case then it will have an impact on the amount available to spend on our priorities. It is that simple.
I will just focus on borrowing now. The Funding & Investment Plan sets out the resources available to this Assembly to fund its priorities. Section 7 examines the funds available and makes recommendations as to how they should be used. The Committee considered several different options before agreeing on the recommendations set out in the Propositions. In doing so, we tried to balance the funds we already have, the needs of the community as identified by this Assembly through the work of the GWP and the position of successor Assemblies with the need to borrow.
The fact is that if we wish to progress the capital priorities set out in the Plan, we have no alternative but to borrow and to explore different delivery and financing models in order to help make our scarce resources stretch further.
We have set out a ‘no borrowing’ option in the Plan (Figure 27, page 176) which shows that without agreeing to new borrowing or the use of the existing bond proceeds, the States will have about £52m to invest in capital projects over this term.
On top of that, we all know that our infrastructure spending has fallen behind and that there is a need to invest during this term – we will need additional funds to do so. The very real and immediate impact of a decision not to borrow is that when we continue the debate on secondary education, we must have at the back of our minds that, as things stand, we don’t have enough money to fulfil any Propositions agreed or complete phase 1 of the hospital modernisation. In fact, it is worse than that. Assuming we want to leave some funds in the bank for the next assembly, after we’ve funded the minor capital already agreed, this year’s deficit and the recovery one-offs, we’d only have about £52m left for capital. This isn’t enough for the must do’s (£80m) or finishing the in-train projects (£60m) let alone a school or a hospital.
What we have ensured is that our proposals are costed and affordable – including the repayment of these funds. Assuming we carry on making cash surpluses of approximately £15m for another 20 years, total accumulated surplus would reach approximately £380m over 25 years. This would be enough to pay back the original bond and new borrowings of £200m but is subject to the Proposition being agreed to enable General Revenue to be used to cover borrowing costs as the conditions of the bond does not currently permit this.
Sir, to conclude, the Government Work Plan has the wellbeing of our Islanders and our Islands at its heart. Despite the short timescale in which it has been developed, it has been very carefully crafted to provide for recovery, sustainability and resilience across the board, and it features phased actions that support, complement or enable one another to best drive the outcomes this Assembly has already determined. The whole of this Plan is greater than the sum of its parts. And it is phased in such a way to make best use of the States’ resources.
Last week I spoke about squaring the circle and how this has been proved to be impossible using a rule and compass. This is one of three classic problems of the ancient Greek world, alongside doubling the cube and trisecting an angle, all of which have proven to be impossible.
But there is another pearl of wisdom that should be added, what I like to call the Gollop Rule, as it is a phrase commonly used by said Deputy and that is you can’t have the penny and the bun.
This plan has been very carefully costed for the next 18 months and estimates for the full political term to help us make the very best decisions we can. There is a contingency to deal with unknown unknowns but it is not generous. This means that any changes made to it will impact the Plan as a whole and, to copy a phrase used by Deputy Trott last term, they won’t be lost in the roundings. So, anything else added in will mean something else has to give.
Sir, I’ll end as I began. The last 16 months have had a huge impact on Islanders in so many different ways. Those with conditions which meant they had to hide away for months before we had a vaccine, businesses who had to close because their customers could not arrive, students who has their university education completely disrupted, teachers who had to completely change their way of working and last but not least, all those who have spent the
last year and a half directly managing the pandemic. No one has been untouched by what has happened.
We owe it to all our Islanders to come together and deliver what they need. The Committee is confident that we have collectively arrived at the right Plan for Guernsey at this moment in time. It takes action, it will boost Islanders and the Island itself, and it lays the groundwork for our collective, bright future.”