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FOCUS: From free school meals to eco incentives...Politicians push for Gov Plan changes

FOCUS: From free school meals to eco incentives...Politicians push for Gov Plan changes

Tuesday 01 December 2020

FOCUS: From free school meals to eco incentives...Politicians push for Gov Plan changes


Free meals for all primary school pupils, financial incentives for environmentally-friendly purchases and the appointment of an official complaints watchdog are among the key items politicians are pushing to get added to the Government Plan.

The Government Plan sets out a blueprint - and a budget - for all the projects and initiatives Ministers want to see completed between 2021 and 2024.

It was published back in October and, since then, around 20 amendments have been put forward by various States Members and Scrutiny Panels tasked with reviewing the plan's potential pitfalls.

They are all set to be debated, along with the Government Plan itself, in less than two weeks' time on Monday 14 December. 

Express delved into the amendments and the rationale behind them to bring you this round-up...

Environment

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Pictured: Senator Kristina Moore wants GST to be refunded on solar panels and other “cleaner energy alternatives”.

Senator Kristina Moore is proposing to refund GST on eco-friendly items such as solar panels, air source heat pumps, double glazing, as well as electric boilers, cars, scooters and bikes to encourage financial incentives islanders and businesses to move onto “cleaner energy alternatives”.

Deputy Rob Ward - who Reform Jersey recently assigned the 'shadow' portfolio of Education and Environment - is suggesting reducing the fuel duty paid on second generation biofuel, which is currently the same as for normal diesel, to 0 %. 

The St. Helier representative says the proposed change will create “a level playing field” regarding price and encourage the move to sustainable fuel as the island works towards carbon neutrality.

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Pictured: Rob Ward wants a new bus pass scheme for under 21s.

Deputy Ward is also proposing to use the balance remaining on the Climate Emergency Fund for the creation of a bus pass scheme that would give islanders under the age of 21 unlimited free access to the bus network. This would only cost £20 to the individual to cover the administration of the scheme.

Deputy Ward has previously made several bids to introduce cheaper bus travel for young people - targeting the younger generation, he says, will instil "a lasting behavioural shift away from the reliance on private vehicles" - including as an amendment to the Sustainable Transport Policy which resulted in a deadlocked vote

St. Brelade’s Constable Mike Jackson is calling for the Climate Emergency Fund receive a £300,000 boost to fund tree preservation initiatives and a commitment to spend an extra £75,000 a year on such initiatives.

School meals, education and training

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Pictured: Free school meals could be extended to all fully state-funded primary schools if Rob Ward's amendment is adopted.

Deputy Ward is calling for £573,717 allocated to the covid-19 response to be redirected towards the extension of the school meals pilot to all fully state-funded primary schools. He said the move will "have significant positive impacts on health, wellbeing and the financial position of many families."

He has also made a separate bid to fund Beresford Street Kitchen's £300,000 annual running costs.

BSK enables islanders with learning disabilities and autism to gain practical experience in a whole range of catering, hospitality and printing operations, including customer service skills, barista skills, food preparation, and sublimation and vinyl printing. 

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Pictured: Beresford Street Kitchen enables islanders with learning disabilities and autism to gain practical experience in a variety of roles.

With current cash levels under six months operating costs and key funding coming to an end, BSK might need to close operations, which Deputy Ward said would have “a significant detrimental effect on the current crew members, those on the waiting list and future generations of adults with learning disabilities and autism”.

The budget for the Jersey Premium - a funding top-up for schools based on the number of children in care or those from households claiming Income Support - is due to be reduced by £159,000 in 2021 - a decision which the Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel is trying to overturn so that additional needs on learning and attainment for vulnerable children which may arise as a result of the pandemic are covered.

The Panel is also asking the Government not to reduce the budget for the Care Leavers Entitlement Offer by £100,000. The CEO of local advocacy group for children in care past and present, Jersey Cares, previously warned in an interview with Express that cutting the funding by 40% would risk “irreparably" breaking their trust and affecting their sense of self-worth.

 

Taxes

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Pictured: Senator Sam Mézec wants to get ride of the '20 means 20' Income Tax calculation.

Reform Jersey's Senator Sam Mézec - who recently assumed the role of 'leader of the Opposition', with 'shadow' responsibility for the economy - has put forward a plan to abolish the ’20 means 20’ Income Tax calculation and put all ordinary taxpayers on the Marginal Relief calculation, at a reduced rate from 26% to 25% from the 2022 tax assessment year.

“Inequality is a political choice, which we could change course on if we had the courage to take action to deal with it,” Senator Mézec, who resigned as Children and Housing Minister over concerns the Government wasn't doing enough to reduce income inequality ahead of a no confidence vote in the Chief Minister, wrote in the report accompanying his proposals. 

Meanwhile, the Corporate Services Panel is seeking to increase the Stamp Duty rates for residential properties over £2 million in a bid to raise revenue to mitigate the impact of pandemic on public finances “while only targeting those in an advantaged position of being able to financially service the purchasing of a higher value property”.

According to data provided by the Treasury Department, this would raise an additional £335,000.


Public Services

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Pictured: The appointment of a public services ombudsman able to investigate complaints against the Government should not be delayed.

The Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel does not want the appointment of a Jersey Public Services Ombudsman (JPSO) to be delayed. They have requested that £378,000 be added to the budget for the Chief Operating Office in 2021 for the appointment to take place, citing concerns about the “problematic” decision to defer the project. 

In 2019, the States Assembly agreed in principle to set up a JPSO to hear complaints against the government, but a group of politicians tasked with considering legislation matters that do not fall under the responsibility of a particular Minister decided not to support that view

The current States Complaints Board Chair, which currently hears complaints against the Government, last week joined the voices calling for the appointment of an ombudsman after the Government “obstructed” the work of his panel by refusing to engage with it.

 

Cost of living 

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Pictured: Scrutiny is calling for increases in the childcare and child tax allowances.

The Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel has submitted two amendments to “improve the cost of living within Jersey”.

One of them seeks to increase the childcare allowance for the first time since 2017 from £6,150 to £6,273 for households with children between the age of four and 12. For families with children under the age of four, the Panel is proposing to increase the ‘Enhance Child Care Tax Relief’ from £16,000 to £16,320. 

Their second suggested change to the Government Plan aims to increase the child tax allowance for the first time since 2011. Households with a child under the age of 16 can currently claim a marginal rate exemption increase of £3,000. The additional child allowance available to single parents is £4,500. The Panel is proposing to increase those amounts to £3,060 and £4,590 respectively. 

Both measures - which would cost the Government £500,000 if approved - aim to help families to meet the rising cost of living, the panel said.

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Pictured: Deputy Pamplin wants the Government to research poverty levels in the island.

Meanwhile, Deputy Kevin Pamplin is asking the Government to fund research into poverty levels in the island to inform the development of a Poverty Policy that would be included in the Government Plan for 2022.

The Children's Commissioner recently highlighted the need for such research in an interview with Express in which she explained that she had noticed the word 'poverty' does not appear in the Government Plan.

 

Culture

Reform Jersey's Deputy Montfort Tadier - former Assistant Economic Development Minister with responsibility for culture and heritage - wants to ensure Jersey Heritage gets the necessary funding to complete a long-standing project to repair and maintain Elizabeth Castle. His proposal also includes a commitment to ensure any such funding is over and above the 1% allocation for Culture, Arts and Heritage of overall expenditure. 

It comes after a previously agreed £4m project for the renovation of Elizabeth Castle was pulled from the Government Plan without his knowledge while he was still an Assistant Minister.

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Pictured: Deputy Tadier is calling for funding to be provided for the maintenance and repair of Elizabeth Castle.

The States Assembly had agreed funding for the project - the need for which was identified back in the 1980’s - last year as part of the 2020-2023 Government Plan, but the latest version of the document didn’t include it, leaving Jersey Heritage “surprised and disappointed, if not embarrassed."

Deputy Tadier has also submitted a second amendment to guarantee the arts, culture and heritage sector will receive 1% of the Government’s total budget, as agreed by the States Assembly last year, for 2024 and beyond. 

The St. Brelade representative said he couldn’t fathom why the Government was attempting to go against the States Assembly decision, citing “political shenanigans”.

 

Government finances

Senator Ian Gorst is calling for unspent budgets across the Government in 2020 and 2021 to be returned to the Consolidated Fund - the Government's more general funding pot - to reduce the level of borrowing needed by the Government in the coming years.

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Pictured: Government should sell some of its properties to compensate the amount it has been borrowing according to Senator Gorst and Scrutiny.

In addition, he is asking the Council of Ministers to agree an 'Estates Strategy' before the next Government Plan. This would include a list of potential property sales from the Government's £1bn property portfolio, the proceeds of which would be used to "minimise any future borrowing requirements".

Interestingly, while Senator Gorst is External Relations Minister, he is bringing forward his amendments in his capacity as a backbencher, suggesting all members of Government may not have signalled their approval before the plans were lodged.

The Government Plan Review Panel has submitted similar proposals. They are calling for the funding required from the Revolving Credit Facility - a 'super overdraft' set up to deal with the financial impact of the pandemic - to be reduced by at least one third, for the Government to facilitate a community bonds programme to generate funding and to come up with a plan to sell some of the Government's property assets.

 

Parish matters

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Pictured: St. Helier's Constable wants a review of the funding for public services provided by parishes.

St. Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft is calling for the Treasury Minister to review the funding of public services by the Parishes.

If it's agreed that such a review should be conducted, he is asking for recommendations to be brought forward in next year's Government Plan.

Deputy Mike Higgins is suggesting that a total of £1.2 million of funding be pulled from the police Firearms Range. £200,000 should go to the Institute of Law so they can provide pro bono legal services to those who cannot afford lawyers or legal aid, while the remaining million would go towards the purchase of new headquarters for the Sea Cadets Jersey.

 

 

Click HERE to read the Government Plan in full and HERE to see a list of all the amendments.

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Posted by Dave Mathews on
Reform Jersey already know that free school meals across all schools is being looked at.
So is this another case of picking up Work in Progress to pass on as their own? I hope not.
Posted by Jon Jon on
Don’t they realise all this needs to be paid for! At moment this covid is costing millions with probably further millions being spent next year.Lets sort out this first,see if it’s true a vaccine will work ,get economies going again,until then wait!
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