Spend wisely, ministers – we are all taxpayers now

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From Kevin Keen.

THE announcement of the lowest rise in day-to-day States spending for 20 years is probably good news, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer.

For a start, there is a bumper increase planned for 2008, and the £480 million spend for last year is 88% higher than the £255 million spent ten years before (inflation over that period was 48%).

Finally, it is important to know how any savings have been achieved. For example, has expenditure been funded from other sources like the Criminal Offences Confiscation Fund (not included in the States accounts) or by neglecting the maintenance of important assets like the roads and housing stock?

The reality is that the States seem to have as much chance of controlling their expenditure as getting Paris Hilton to give up partying. Why? In my opinion the reason is pretty much the same for both Miss Hilton and our government: they both have too much money.

Who is going to take tough decisions when there is a big pile of cash in the bank and a seemingly very easy way to get more?

What is to be done? Well, first the States should take away the false sense of security provided by the £510 million Strategic Reserve. They could start this by repaying the £233 million loan from the pension schemes provided for public-sector workers which the States currently intend to pay back over 80 years. In my view it is completely irresponsible to expect our children and grandchildren to find this money.

Secondly, the JCRA could be instructed to look at ways to bring the benefits of competition to the whole of the Jersey public sector. The JCRA has apparently had a major positive impact with Telecom, Postal and the private sector; what could they do for the costs and efficiency of Health and Education?

Thirdly, the States could change the relevant public finances law to require a 75% majority of States Members to support any tax or duty increase where the wage bill of the public sector is planned to exceed their RPIX target. This would encourage politicians to get rid of their ‘jobs for life’ policy and final-salary pension schemes, which in the real world are totally unsustainable.

Government spending matters to taxpayers – and since 6 May 2008 that means it matters to us all.

Vue des Champs,

Clos de la Porte,

St John.

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