Alderney’s proposed budget for next year demonstrates a determination to get the best deal for a healthy and prosperous Island community despite unexpected emergency interventions.
Challenges throughout 2022, particularly in healthcare, have handed the States of Alderney unexpected opportunities to turn difficulties into shaping a new way forward.
An unexpected £1.3m windfall in a 2022 mini housing boom was handed to Alderney, including document and property transfer duty, fuel duty and vehicle import licence fees.
Some of this money will be used to offset the equally unexpected challenges of maintaining primary healthcare in the face of Island Medical Limited’s announcement to cease its operations and the Policy and Finance Committee decision to fund a professional and resilient ambulance service.
Combined, these have caused a £680,000 spike in 2022 spending forcing the Island’s Treasury to set aside around £500,000 from reserves in 2023 as a worst-case scenario to cover the exceptional shortfall. Included in the spending figures are large sums that paid for services such as GP locums that otherwise wouldn’t have been in place.
By setting aside reserves, fears have been averted that such demands on finances would lead to a huge increase in Alderney Property Tax. Instead the majority of homeowners will face a modest increase of between £1 and £3 a week on Property Tax bills.
Overall, the APT increase is 9%, far less than had been feared when the States assessed its costs for GP and ambulance locums to cover the island’s vital healthcare services in the current year. Public utilities providers, who would have passed on APT tariffs to customers, have been exempted to mitigate further financial pressures on residents, and there is no increase on water rates which are maintained at 2021 levels.
Finance Committee Chairman Chris Harris. said: “The sudden need for the States to take responsibility for the Island Medical Centre and the restructuring of the ambulance service presented an acute and immediate problem with unprecedented pressure on our budget.
“Any increase in property tax is unwelcome but the efforts of professionals across the Bailiwick has led, ultimately, to an excellent and consistent level of healthcare for all Islanders this year and into the future.
“The use of reserves is not a decision we have taken lightly and is not a sustainable strategy. However, we are fortunate that exceptional revenue generation in the last two years has given us the flexibility to use some of this to alleviate the burden on residents that may otherwise have been unavoidable.”
Cost savings that do not affect frontline services have also been identified alongside a programme of working more closely with Guernsey on shared services to deliver economies by avoiding duplication where possible.
In addition, planned investment of existing reserves and active consideration of new revenue streams will help to pay for future demands for health and social care in an ageing population.
“We regret that the budget for 2023 does not make for entirely positive reading and we are acutely aware of the issues that need addressing,” added Mr Harris. “We are doing so in a planned manner and we can approach the coming years with a continued sense of dynamism and determination towards a prosperous Alderney future.”
The budget now goes forward to the States of Alderney meeting on October 12th for debate.