Politicians were left questioning whether any of last year's Government Plan is safe from cuts, after it emerged an agreement to spend 1% of the Government’s annual budget on arts and culture is at risk of being torn up.
The warning that the Government Plan will likely have to be heavily amended in light of the pandemic – effectively rescinding some plans voted in by politicians last year – came from Treasury Minister Deputy Susie Pinel yesterday.
Her comments followed repeated challenges on whether the agreed funding for the struggling arts, heritage and culture sector, which was voted in 27-15 by the Assembly last year following reports that cultural assets were at risk of closure due to chronic underfunding, would be maintained.
The Minister, who was among those to vote against the proposal last year, declined to state whether the commitment would be kept in this year’s Government Plan, saying that the original plan it was part of was written before covid in 2019, and that the new one would involve “managing costs and expenditure in a number of areas, and culture arts and heritage are not excluded from this.”
Pictured: Treasury Minister Deputy Susie Pinel spoke of "difficult decisions" having to be made in the new Government Plan in light of covid.
She continued by saying: “We support the arts and respect the States' decision, but as a Government we have to make difficult decisions in the interests of Jersey.
“That is what we are doing, and the whole package as in the Government Plan will be lodged on 12 October.
She added that this was the situation for projects “across the board”.
While no details of any proposed funding cuts were provided, Deputy Montfort Tadier, who is Assistant Minister for Culture, claimed to have seen information regarding the new Government Plan.
He asked the Treasury Minister if she could “explain why the figures for 2022 and beyond show a significant shortfall in the 1% of funding in the arts sector.”
Pictured: Deputy Montfort Tadier argued that the Treasury has "a duty to honour the States decision for 1% of funding for the arts in 2022 and beyond."
Other frustrated Assembly members such as St. Helier Deputy Geoff Southern voiced their fears that what the Minister was actually announcing is “that no budget is safe and that what we’re proceeding with now is the lowest common denominator, salami slicing budgets left, right and centre.”
Following this, St. Saviour Constable Sadie Le-Seur Rennard exclaimed, “Could the Minister tell me why we are even voting for anything when we are going to be overruled as backbenchers?”, citing the hospital as a previous example of similar treatment.
St. Helier Deputy Rob Ward posed similar questions to the Chief Minister, asking him if he agreed “that any delay or failure to implement any proposition or amendment to the common strategic policy is a threat to our democracy?”
Pictured: Constable Sadie Le Sueur-Rennard and Deputies Geoff Southern and Rob Ward were among those to express concerns that States Members' votes were not being taken into account.
When asked to elaborate on what he meant, Deputy Ward listed arts funding, the Sustainable Transport Policy, the agreement to build a youth centre in the north of town and unreleased STAC minutes as examples of propositions not properly followed up.
Responding, the Chief Minister said: “...There are times when we have to make some priority decisions and, for the sake of argument, it may be the case that one has to prioritise things like mental health and children’s services versus some other more esoteric areas, although they might be important in the context of the financial pressures we are facing.”
The Chief Minister also made note that the Government Plan would not be finalised until Friday, and that STAC minutes would be made public but that this depended on the hours of the clinicians involved.
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