Jersey’s top ministers claimed the impending £145 million black hole in the Island’s finances was more about misreporting by the media, rather than a serious problem at a business breakfast event today.
Next week the Council of Ministers will try and persuade States Members to agree a program of cuts, reforms and new charges in a bid to balance the books by 2019 in their Medium Term Financial Plan.
A black hole of £145 million is expected to open up in States finances by 2019 unless action is taken – ministers have come up with plans for £70 million worth of savings to spending on staff, £20 million worth of efficiencies and £45 million in new charges to be levied on health and sewage to help balance the books.
Last week the Chief Minister Ian Gorst confirmed for the first time that there would be compulsory redundancies to try and cut the States wage bill and union members have voted to take industrial action over the cuts.
But this morning, Treasury Minister Alan Maclean suggested the Island would only head into the red because of the money it was pumping into health and education services – and on that basis he described the media’s use of the term 'black hole' as emotive, and asked “why let the facts get in the way of a good story?”
Senator Maclean was on a panel with Senator Gorst at an ‘Ask the Ministers’ event organised by the Jersey Chamber of Commerce.
He promised that the proposed new health charge would be brought in slowly through 2017 and 2018 by which time he believed the Island’s economy would be stronger, and that the ministers didn’t plan to bring in any “significant” new charges until there was evidence that reforms in the public sector were working.
In response to a question from hotelier Mike Barnes, he said he would like to see more services which are currently provided by the States to be moved to the private sector, but pointed out that many public services were already run efficiently – citing the lifeguards as an example of a States-run service now contracted to the RNLI, reducing costs and providing opportunities for local employment.
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