All told, ministers are urging the House to sanction expenditure of £754 million. In spite of departments facing a call for spending cuts of marginally less than one per cent, a significant increase in spending is being proposed.
The precise size of the increase is, however, difficult to calculate. Depending on what is included and what is excluded, it amounts to between five and just under eight per cent.
As Members consider the plan – and the 15 amendments which have been lodged – they should be aware that it is essential to settle on a programme that meets the challenge of these testing times. In particular, each of them must remember that the Island faces a series of potential deficits in the £50 to £70 million range in the next three years.
With the deficits and the longer term stability of the Island economy in mind, many people inside and outside the States Chamber will be wondering if year-on-year increases in public spending can – or, indeed, should – be sustained, even if the one now on the table is accepted.
Meanwhile, there are likely to be lively exchanges as the detail of the plan and the amendments are debated. Some of token amendments, such as the proposal to save just over £11,000 by abolishing free lunches for Members and the proposed axing of the Communications Unit, will do little more than waste valuable time.
Others, such as the appeal for £10 million to complete the Town Park by the end of 2011 and the attempt to block the sale of ‘family silver’ properties, including the piece of heritage that is Library Chambers, will be passionately argued and deserve the fullest consideration.
In addition to spending, this week’s debate will deal with key elements of legislation that ministers hope to see drafted next year. Among them are the long-awaited law that would deliver a much-needed independent police authority, legislation against carrying knives in public, the civil partnerships law for gay couples, and intellectual property provisions.
These, too, are matters of great import which, like the nuts and bolts of the spending proposals, are more than worthy of comprehensive examination on the floor of the House.