Reform Jersey brings amendments to the Government Plan to deliver election manifesto pledges
Reform Jersey’s elected States Members have lodged several amendments to the upcoming Government Plan proposition, to include several of the pledges which were included in the party’s 2018 election manifesto ‘Working for a Fairer Island’.
Party leader Senator Sam Mézec said “during the last election, we told voters that our 10 key pledges were our ‘contract’ with the electorate, and that we would seek to bring propositions to get each of them enacted. The difference between party members and those elected as ‘independents’ is that we have a clear costed manifesto which we are working to and which the public can hold us to account on. I am pleased that Reform Jersey States Members have worked hard to make these promises a reality, and I hope we will win support from the rest of the Assembly to make these changes which see a fairer tax system and improved public services for all.”
Abolishing the cap on the Long-Term Care Charge and keeping the rate at 1%
On page 15 of the manifesto the party stated that they would seek to abolish the cap on the Long-Term Care Charge, which sees the wealthiest Islanders exempted from paying the full rate.
The Government Plan proposes doubling the rate of the LTC Charge from 1% to 2%, with a modest increase in the upper earnings cap to £250,000.
Senator Sam Mézec has lodged an amendment which would prevent the rise to 2%, and instead abolish the cap entirely, to ensure all Islanders pay the same rate, and raise £4m per year to support adults with long term care requirements into the medium term.
Senator Mézec said “after a decade of real terms earnings being frozen and rising income inequality, it is wrong that the wealthiest Islanders continue to get an exemption from paying the full rate of the LTC charge, whilst the rate gets doubled for the rest of us. I have always believed that the cap is regressive and unfair, and my amendment will allow the Assembly to spread the burden more fairly whilst ensuring that the Long-Term Care Fund remains in a healthy state for several more years.”
Reform Jersey member Deputy Montfort Tadier added “as it stands, Jersey’s tax system favours higher income earners at the expense of those on low and middle incomes. We want to change that. Instead of increasing taxes for the many, we want to make sure that the wealthy are paying their full 1% of the LTC charge, like the rest, before any taxes go up.”
Cheaper access to GP consultations for vulnerable Islanders
Pledge 7 in Reform Jersey’s manifesto stated that the party would reduce the cost of a GP consultation for those on low incomes.
Deputy Geoff Southern has lodged an amendment that would achieve cheaper access to GPs for Islanders on low incomes, pensioners, pregnant women and children from October next year. The cost of a GP consultation for these groups would be reduced to £10 and would be funded from the Health Insurance Fund, which currently has enough to fund this for the duration of this Government Plan, whilst further work is undertaken to find a sustainable funding mechanism in the context of a new care model (which the recent ‘Jersey Care Model’ has proposed) which seeks to focus on better access to primary care.
Deputy Southern said “the high cost of going to see a GP leads some of the most vulnerable people in our community to either not see a doctor when they are ill, or wait until they are so ill they have to attend A&E. If we are to meet our ambitions on reducing income inequality and improving the health and wellbeing of Islanders, then we must improve access to primary care, starting with the vulnerable as we propose do to with this amendment.”
Social Security Contributions and Parental Leave benefits
Pledge 4 in Reform Jersey’s election manifesto stated that the party would seek to raise the rate of Social Security Contributions above the Standard Earnings Limit and Upper Earnings Limit (the ‘cap’) to match the rate paid by people below those limits. Pledge 5 stated that the party would increase parental leave support to be paid for 26 weeks.
The Government Plan currently proposes increasing Social Security Contributions for employers above the Standard Earnings Limit (SEL) by 0.5% and raising the Upper Earnings Limit (UEL or the ‘cap’) from £176,232 to £250,000.
Deputy Carina Alves has lodged an amendment to increase Social Security Contributions for employers above the SEL by 2% instead of 0.5% (raising £5.5m) and raising the UEL to £500,000 (raising £3.2m), and allocating this extra revenue to increasing support for parental leave benefits. Meanwhile, Deputy Southern is lodging a further amendment, which would see a flat rate introduced for Social Security Contributions for employers, by raising the rate above the SEL to 6.5% (the same rate as below the SEL) and abolishing the UEL entirely. This will provide the States Assembly with a choice in how to deal with the regressive nature of Jersey’s Social Security Contributions rates.
Deputy Alves said “in our manifesto we pledged to make our Social Security Contributions system fairer so we could support ordinary Islanders with things like improved parental leave rights. In recent weeks many have expressed concerns at how parental leave will be funded. Our proposals provide the Assembly with a choice of ways it can be funded without putting a greater tax burden on working Islanders or employers who employ people on average wages.”
Deputy Southern said “the current banding system for Social Security Contributions is regressive and has left us with a situation where workers have rights to take parental leave which many will not be able to afford to take advantage of. Our amendments will resolve this and make real progress on reducing income inequality, which is meant to be one of this government’s priorities.”
Increasing GST on luxury vehicles and reducing it for electric vehicles and renewable energy
Pledge 6 in the manifesto committed Reform Jersey to working towards providing more renewable energy options. Since then, Deputy Rob Ward has successfully brought propositions to the States Assembly and the Parish Assembly in St Helier to get both to declare a ‘climate change emergency’ and commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.
Deputy Ward has lodged an amendment, seeking to increase GST on luxury cars (defined as those costing above £30,000) to 10% and direct that income to the Climate Emergency Fund. He is also asking the Treasury Minister to report on the potential impact on exempting GST from electric vehicles, solar panels and other products and services designed to make homes energy efficient.
Deputy Ward says “if we are serious about reaching carbon neutrality by 2030, then the States needs to take real steps to assist Islanders to be able to make those choices to become more environmentally friendly, without penalising them with taxes and charges which could discourage the sorts of behaviour we want to encourage.”
Reform Jersey member Deputy Montfort Tadier said “all of our amendments are fully costed, which demonstrates that party politics provides a more credible way of shaping the government programme and finding solutions to improve the lives of the people we represent.”