This ambitious, achievable and measurable goal is simply saying that as a community, we can and should have the same aspirations as most of us do for ourselves and our families: to be as healthy and fulfilled as we can be. Economic poverty in Guernsey is normally an indicator of other social problems, often deriving from the poverty of opportunity, aspiration and hope. If we are going to address the issues that matter most to people and if we are going to build the Guernsey that will offer the same quality of life that we have today for our children and our grandchildren, we must consider social development. Social policy is not about social problems that impact other people, but it is about all of us and what kind of community we want to live in.
A thriving private sector performing its primary role as wealth creator in the economy remains critically important, as only a successful private sector can create sufficient wealth to fund high quality public services. But economic growth should be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Having a simple, clear goal for the island will give us the framework we currently lack – one which enables us to make choices and prioritise the use of limited public finances. This is essential if we are to control government spending.
To achieve this goal will require unequivocal leadership, fast track delivery of the reform of public services which has now begun and more effective working between the government, business and non-business sectors.
However, for the moment, all these fine words remain largely just that – fine words. So in the next States, we need to up the pace of implementation and ensure that all these policies are appropriately resourced and prioritised. This will be challenging given all the competing demands on resources – both in time and money. But these really are the things that will change people’s lives and help them to realise their ambitions and aspirations. And once we have done those, we should not forget that there is more to do in terms of ensuring equal rights irrespective of gender, colour or sexuality – as well as supporting families with family-friendly policies.
We must be realistic in terms of what can be achieved in a four year political term – but that should not prevent us taking any action at all, especially as these are the things will help take Guernsey towards a goal of being the healthiest and happiest community in the world, with a sustainable environment and a secure, successful and stable economy.
The States have been supportive of the island’s primary sector – financial services – by creating the right legal and regulatory frameworks that have enabled that industry to thrive. Funding has also been provided to help market the finance sector and island through Guernsey Finance and the new initiative, Locate Guernsey. Traditional industries – farming and hospitality – also receive some support, including the additional funding given to Visit Guernsey. New digital businesses have been supported and encouraged with the funding invested to launch Digital Greenhouse.
In the next term, if possible, I would like to see some support for small business – whether that is protecting local tradesmen from unfair competition from off island or trying to find a suitable location for some small light industrial-type units.
When the ‘zero-ten’ corporate tax regime was introduced in 2008, the only companies taxed were banks – and then only in respect of part of their business. The previous States (2008-2012) made no changes to this regime. In three of the four budgets I have presented as Treasury and Resources Minister, I have led the extension of corporate tax to large retailers, general insurers, bank custodians, trust and fund administrators. This brings in an extra £15m a year in tax from companies.
As we see with global companies such as Google, Facebook and Starbucks almost daily in the news, corporate tax is a hot and contentious topic everywhere, not just in Guernsey. However popular it might be to promise you that there are better alternatives, it is in fact a complex and evolving area. It is essential for our economic success that Guernsey continues to offer business a stable, competitive corporate tax regime. In the meantime, the zero-ten regime remains the least worst option for Guernsey.
My track record for determinedly but quietly achieving successful corporate tax reform is unrivalled – and if re-elected, I will continue to seek opportunities for further reform.
The Personal Tax, Pensions and Benefits Review agreed to reduce tax allowances for high earners, moving us towards a personal income tax system where ‘20% means 20%’ for those in our community with the highest incomes. I support this decision and if re-elected will work to implement it as quickly as practicable. It is also important that we deliver on the commitment in the Personal Tax, Pensions and Benefits Review to consider in detail the interaction between the tax and social security contribution systems, ensuring greater alignment in the way income is treated in both systems. We must not forget that for some, especially the self-employed, the marginal rate of taxation is around 30% on every extra pound earned up to the social security upper earnings limit. During my term as Treasury Minister, we have also begun the process of bringing together the collection of tax and social security contributions into one system. This is a massive project which will take some time to deliver but it is something which has been necessary for some time.
But we can and must do more in order to live within our means. With ever increasing pressures as our population changes, this is much easier said than done. We will only be able to do so by relentlessly identifying and focusing on our priorities and delivering public service reform (which has now begun.) This reform must also include the transformation in the way we provide health and social services – our single largest area of spending. Following the 2015 work jointly commissioned by the Health and Social Services and Treasury and Resources Departments, this process has also started. It is critical that momentum is maintained in the next States’ term.
Our financial assets are well invested and managed. This was strengthened in 2014, when for the first time we placed £142.5m into the island’s own sovereign wealth fund, the long-term Core Investment Reserve – invested for future generations.
We now need to apply the same rigour and discipline to our trading and property assets to ensure that islanders, as the owners, receive an appropriate return. Income from these assets will then help relieve pressure on all of us in our capacity as taxpayers. For example, Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Water customers are common to both and this provides an opportunity to improve the efficiency of both organisations, without increasing prices, by ensuring they share their billing process.
I supported the Integrated Transport Strategy. It was bold and ambitious – but clearly met significant opposition. In view of this experience, we must recognise that if the community is to adopt more environmentally friendly practices (e.g. for transport or energy use) they must be cost effective and practical. For example, I support: the idea of States’ low cost loans for use by householders to improve their energy efficiency; our size may make us an ideal test bed for technologies – and if so, this should be encouraged and facilitated by government.
In the 2014 Budget, we tried to help by temporarily reducing document duty on lower value properties, although this, in fact, had little impact. In 2015, the States directed that a wide ranging review of the housing market should be undertaken as this will help us better understand the supply and demand for housing. However, pending this work being completed, I would like us to look urgently at two further initiatives:
• Assisting first-time buyers with deposits by a States-backed loan scheme;
• Establishing a States-owned bank to offer islanders’ savings and loans products appropriate for local needs. (NB I have already begun this work with the Commerce and Employment Department.)
I also supported a three secondary school model. I did so because, based on input from the local teaching profession, I believe that having 3 slightly larger (i.e. around 600-750 students) will produce a broader curriculum choice and better educational outcomes for all students than having 4 smaller, emptier schools (because we don’t have the pupil numbers to fill them.) There would be no change to either class sizes or the policy on the pupil:teacher ratio. This would also produce a much better use of resources. I believe that financial support for the 3 Colleges should be used to fund bursaries for those unable to afford the fees – it should not be used to give scholarships to those who can. Finally, I believe that the College of Further Education requires greater recognition for the important role it plays in our education system.
Secondly – and more importantly – the policy has sent out all the wrong signals: it has signalled to the population that there must be lots of people who want to come and settle in Guernsey – otherwise why else would you need a policy to limit numbers? The reality is that the cost of housing has historically – and will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be – the most effective barrier to hordes of people wanting to settle in Guernsey. The population cap has also signalled to business – albeit implicitly – that we do not want growth or, in other words, we are not ‘open for business.’ That runs counter to strategies to diversify and grow our economy – including, of course, the establishment of Locate Guernsey.
I endorse the new population policy driven as it is by the number of economically active in our population, balancing our economic, social and environmental objectives.
By providing stability in our tax system and instilling flexibility into our population regime, we can demonstrate that Guernsey is truly open for business.
It will be important to ensure that the parish’s interests are protected and not overlooked in the new Island Development Plan due to be agreed later this year. I am aware that many parishioners made representations to the planning Inspectors to protect the character of the parish. If re-elected, I would look to represent the parish’s interests when the Island Development Plan comes before the States for approval.
As its name suggests, this new senior committee will be responsible for coordinating policy and resource allocation across the whole of the States. To avoid it – and government – becoming dysfunctional, it is important that this Committee comprises a balanced political team capable of working together in a collaborative and collegiate manner.
As President, I believe I would be best placed to help deliver the island’s goals including, if adopted by the States, the one I have set out above that in the next 10 years Guernsey aims to become the healthiest and happiest community in the world, with a sustainable environment and a secure, successful and stable economy. I want to use my experience and successes in the last four years to provide leadership and help deliver an ambitious goal for Guernsey, ensuring that the future can be different.
It is not possible to cover every topic that may be of interest to every voter. So if you would like to know my views on other matters of interest to you, please contact me using details below.