The plan is Senator Terry Le Sueur’s first since he became Chief Minister. It is also the first that the present Council of Ministers can claim as their own. Its success – or lack of success – will therefore be the measure against which they will be judged.
In spite of intense debate over a protracted period, the plan which finally emerged was not too far removed from the document tabled by ministers. There were, however, some notable triumphs for some of the backbenchers who lodged amendments.
Ministers were, for example, obliged to accept that £10 million must be earmarked for the long-delayed town park and that funds will have to be found to pay for a financial ombudsman who will adjudicate on cases involving ordinary investors – two developments which are likely to be greeted favourably by a great many Islanders.
There will, on the other hand, be concern about one of the headline figures that has emerged from the plan. We are told that next year the Island will face a deficit of £64 million, a sum £13 million higher than earlier estimates, largely because of one-off capital projects. With revenue and capital spending next year expected to be £620 million, we can expect to run into the red to the tune of more than ten per cent of expenditure.
Deficits have never in the past been part of the ‘Jersey way’, but it seems that, for the medium term at least, we shall have to get used to coping with them.
The Business Plan is, of course, largely about cash, but we should not lose sight of the fact that it also presents a programme of significant legislation. This is indicative of major States debates which can be expected in 2010.
Among the items highlighted are a new police force law, the terms of which will include the establishment of a much-needed police authority, and a new migration law that will, if adopted, allow the creation of a register of names, addresses and residential status.
Also in the plan is the schedule of public properties that are to be sold to raise some £1.5 billion. This windfall will be welcome – but so, too, will be the announcement that one site of historical importance originally identified for disposal, Library Buildings in Library Place, has been reprieved.