As the Council of Ministers unveiled their strategic plan – rebranded as the Common Strategic Policy – Senator John Le Fondré outlined five key priorities which will drive government policy for the next four years.
And the Chief Minister said that tax rises were probably going to be necessary to provide the funding required to deliver change, although he did not say where those increases might be.
The CSP, which is the first major document produced by the new Council of Ministers, lists five ambitions ‘unanimously’ agreed by the ministerial team. They are:
- To put children first.
- To improve Islanders’ wellbeing and mental and physical health.
- To create a sustainable, vibrant economy and skilled local workforce for the future.
- To reduce income inequality and improve the standard of living.
- To protect and value the environment.
Senator Le Fondré said the ‘focus we give these priorities will make a real difference to Jersey’.
However, funding these proposals has not yet been discussed, as Senator Le Fondré said he wanted to ensure ‘tax increases are kept as low as we can’ and that it was ‘probably likely that there will be something coming down the line’.
Next year, ministers will propose a new ‘Government Plan’, which will replace the Medium Term Financial Plan and provide more detail of planned government activities and funding mechanisms. Meanwhile, the 2019 Budget proposals are due to be released on Monday.
Senator Le Fondré added: ‘With regards to funding [the priorities], there will be a number of things coming through.
‘One is what we are proposing in Budget 2019. One is the savings that [States chief executive] Charlie [Parker] will have to, and is beginning, to deliver.
But, being realistic, from the point of view of taxation. I have said we need to keep tax increases as low as we can but there is an acceptance that probably there will be pressures to push things up.’
He cited fuel duty as one potential area to be looked at, particularly as ‘over time revenue from that is going to fall due to electric vehicles’ and added that there might have to be a ‘trade-off’ when funding is discussed.
The key priorities of the Common Strategic Policy have been underpinned by six ‘common themes’, which include promoting and protecting Jersey’s interests, improving St Helier and preparing for an ageing population.
Senator Le Fondré also revealed that a policy development board was close to being established to tackle the Island’s population policy.
Within the CSP, there is a commitment to improve the ‘quality and affordability’ of housing.
‘I want to get a number of boards in place in fairly short order – one of these will be population,’ the Chief Minister said. ‘Terms of reference are being drafted for that and it is probable that board will have some people from outside the States Assembly on it as well.
‘We were aiming [to lodge a new population policy] within 12 months and we are working towards that. It is important – affordable housing, population and mental health were probably the three big issues from the hustings.
‘The CSP is an ambition – it is a set of priorities we are working towards through which people can hold us to account.’
The policy, which can be amended by States Members, is due to be debated on Tuesday 20 November.