Before the debate on the government’s financial plan for the next three years began yesterday, ministers approved seven of the 21 amendments lodged, including two which they adopted without changing.
The amendments will only come into effect if the Government Plan is agreed as a whole.
One of the unaltered amendments was the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel’s call for stamp duty to be increased on properties worth over £2m. If the overall plan is agreed, stamp duty will rise from 6.5% to 7% on properties valued between £2 million and £3 million; from 8.5% to 9.5% on homes between £3 million and £6 million and from 9.5% to 10.5% on properties worth more than £6 million.
The other was Constable Mike Jackson’s proposal for £300,000 from the Climate Emergency Fund to be spent on ‘tree-preservation initiatives’ in 2021, with a further £75,000 to be spent every year from 2022 to 2024.
The five other amendments that were accepted after being tweaked by the Council of Ministers were:
- The Children, Education and Home Affairs Panel’s call for funding for the introduction of a public sector ombudsman to be reinstated, with £1 million to be allocated between 2022 and 2024.
- The same panel’s call for an extra £159,000 be made available to fund the Jersey Premium that supports disadvantaged children.
- A final amendment lodged by the panel proposing that £100,000 was made available to reverse a suggested cut for 2021 to the Care Leavers’ Offer, which was introduced this year to provide extra support for children in Jersey’s care system.
- Deputy Rob Ward’s amendment to provide extra funding for Beresford Street Kitchen, which assists people with learning disabilities and autism. Ministers agreed to allocate an extra £150,000 to bring the total to £300,000.
- Deputy Kevin Pamplin’s call for funding for a ‘poverty commission’ to investigate levels of hardship within the Island, with ministers agreeing to set aside £150,000 within Statistics Jersey’s budget for this.
Before the debate, Chief Minister John Le Fondré spoke of the impact of the pandemic on the Island.
‘This year has brought unprecedented challenges, both for our Island community and for the world at large,’ he said.
‘No one could have known while we were voting on last year’s Government Plan, in December 2019, that more than 5,500 miles away, in Wuhan, China, the first people infected with Covid-19 were beginning to show symptoms. Last year, it would have been difficult to predict the immense global impact the Covid-19 pandemic would have. I do not need to remind Members of its very real, personal impact here in Jersey.’
He added that he believed that flexibility of the Government Plan which, unlike previous financial plans is re-approved on a rolling annual basis, had helped the Island to tackle the crisis.
The Covid-19 outbreak is expected to cost Jersey £400 million in 2020 and 2021, and result in lost tax revenue of £400 million between 2020 and 2023.
Ministers have put in place measures for a £500 million ‘revolving debt facility’ with local banks and would like to stop the annual taxpayer grant to the Social Security Fund, which bankrolls the welfare system, to free up £235 million by 2024.