I am writing this after a very busy States week that was dominated by the debates on the Common Strategic Plan (CSP), the Budget and a key proposition from Reform Jersey....
It was a mixed week. First of all I was very pleased to be part of Reform Jersey for the work we have done to promote debate on some key areas.
I had two amendments to the CSP. The first was to increase schools headroom funding to 15% from 5%. This is the money schools use on resources materials to teach with. It is a real problem for schools and this was my first attempt to address it by getting it into the CSP.
The debate focused on wider funding of schools and a commitment from the Education Minister to address this. Unfortunately, this meant that members felt they could vote for a Council of Ministers amendment to my amendment. This removed the commitment to 15% and instead proposed we will “Be able to attend schools that are well-resourced, including good levels of financial headroom so that schools can positively support the achievement of the best outcomes for all children”.
This amendment was passed with voting here. Therefore, I lost my attempt to make a specific commitment to levels of funding.
On a positive note, the conversation about school funding is now firmly in the public domain and we have a future commitment from the Minister. I will continue to remind the Assembly of this, and scrutiny will have it on our agenda.
The second amendment was to commit to a purpose built youth facility around the area of millenium park and anne court. Again the Council of Ministers wanted to amend this to make a non specific commitment. However, this time the argument was won following some good speeches, support from across the Assembly and a good debate.
I was very pleased to see the proposed amendment to my idea withdrawn; and the vote go 43 to 0 in favour of my amendment. Voting here.
I look forward to now driving this project through and getting the facilities so desperately needed.
Reform Jersey, via our Chairman Senator Sam Mézec brought a key amendment to the budget. This would have created a single form of personal taxation. Where everyone was given the allowances that marginal rate tax payers receive. It would have meant 43,000 taxpayers having a tax cut, and 3,500 more affluent taxpayers paying a little more.
There was a very interesting debate. Too often the misunderstanding of party politics raised its head. When we got to the detail and looked at the actual policy we gained a great deal of support. However, the promise of a review of tax in the coming years was enough to allow too many members to vote against our proposal for the general promise of some form of change in the future. The vote was lost 33 - 12. I thank the 12 members who had the courage to make the change now and not wait for an unspecified date and non specific promise. Voting here.
The final proposition from Deputy Southern for Reform Jersey was an amendment to the Public Finances Law that would allow the release of 50 million pounds from being transferred into the Consolidated Fund for 2019 priorities.
The debate was long and hard fought. The Council of Ministers used all opportunities to speak against this change, utilising significant officer support as they did. The very overt presence of the Chief Executive concerned many members.
The vote was eventually lost by a single vote. Voting here.
This was a disappointing outcome. Particularly as five members were absent, one abstained and one left due to a declared interest that the Deputy Bailiff and Bailiff had both judged as not a problem.
This was a huge opportunity missed to offer a solution to the public services dispute and unshackle us from an MTFP that gives another year of limits to spending regardless of income.
There has been a lot said regarding those who were absent from the vote and the one abstention. I feel that we are elected to vote on key issues. I understand if people are ill, but there was common awareness of the likelihood of the debate going on all week. One more vote would have swung it our way.
So, we will continue to bring forward propositions and to be true to the pledges made during the election campaign.
I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.