Next week is an important one for Jersey. It’s the week the States Assembly sets the direction of the island’s public finances for the next four years. It’s vital that we get this Medium Term Financial Plan right so we can support the emerging economic recovery and invest in priority areas, like health and education. We believe our plan will help us to deliver a modern, efficient public sector, to support economic growth and to balance our budgets by 2019.
The western world is changing and – even in our small corner of it – we must decide how to respond to the impact of these global trends. Economic power is shifting to the emerging economies; digital disruption is having an impact on every business and every government, however small. The population is ageing and working people are having to shoulder an increased burden.
We are reforming government so costs don’t grow as they have in the past. This allows us to use the money we save to invest in health, education, economic growth and essential infrastructure. This supports the local economy while global conditions remain fragile. We are reprioritising, finding efficiencies, and making sure our organisation is sustainable and working effectively.
Our new fiscal framework will guide ministers in making decisions about tax and spending over the next four years and beyond. It ensures that we will take decisions in line with the advice of our independent economic experts, the Fiscal Policy Panel. It commits to balancing budgets over the economic cycle and to keeping States finances on a sustainable footing.
We don’t want to undermine our strong public finances by employing any more people in the public sector than we need, or by spending more, as someone has to pay for that. I don’t want that burden to fall on my children, or on their children. So we are using technology, reducing staffing, looking after our infrastructure and putting funds into the front line at education and health.
Investing in priority areas
We are allocating up to £40 million per year of extra funding for health and social services by 2019. That’s an extra £97 million over the four years of the plan. It includes £19 million for the increased demand from the ageing demographics; £7 million for greater support in the community; £4 million for vulnerable families and services for children; and £2 million more for mental health services.
In the next four years Education will receive an extra £27m to raise standards, fund the ICT strategy and cater for growing numbers of school age children; plus £55m on capital investment – that’s £40m for Les Quennevais, and £15m for Grainville and St Mary. That money is on top of the fantastic new school building we have already provided for St Martin.
Education projects will be eligible to apply for a share of the £20m provision for economic growth and productivity projects. Supporting skills development boosts economic growth by getting the right skills in place for our main industries, and it helps prepare our young people for high quality jobs.
As well as investment in health, education and economic growth, we are setting aside £168 million for capital projects over the next 4 years. We are depreciating assets over their lifetime, so we can keep up to date with their maintenance and replacement.
We think this is the right plan. It recognises the strategic challenges we face – income rising at a slower rate than in the past, an ageing population – and it proposes sustainable solutions. It’s certainly not an austerity plan. It aims to deliver as balanced and as fair a package of measures as possible.
We know it won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do; targeted investment built on reform, restructuring and achievable savings.