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Statement by the President of the Policy & Resources Committee

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Wednesday 04 September 2019

General Update

Since my last general update to the Assembly, there has been much to remind us that while we enjoy comparative stability, the wider world is subject to uncertainty and change.

Events are evolving rapidly in the UK but one such change since my last update is that the United Kingdom has a new Prime Minister. I wrote to him on his election, congratulating him, and reminding him of the Bailiwick's long-established constitutional relationship with the Crown - one which ensures that the UK's parliamentary backbenchers cannot legislate for Guernsey, any more than we can legislate for the UK. 

I also referred to the positive working relationship with the UK Government during the Brexit process to date, and my hope that this continues, irrespective of political developments in the UK. 

As we have consistently said, a disorderly exit is not in Guernsey's interests. However, while we continue to work towards preparation for a 'deal', it is becoming increasingly apparent based on the UK and EU political climate that a No Deal Brexit is more likely as this remains the default legal position in UK and EU law until such time as that is changed.

While such an exit is not be in Guernsey's interests, as a responsible jurisdiction, we have been planning, with other Committees, for such an event, in parallel to our 'deal' planning for the past two years.

This means we are now well placed in the time leading up to 31st October to again ramp up our plans for No Deal in response to this.  

We are able to benefit from the experience gained and work undertaken in the run up to March's original exit date, review preparations and make improvements to these plans.

Committees can access funding through the Brexit Transition Fund, established in the 2019 budget to assist with such preparations.

We continue to focus on minimising any potential disruption on critical strategic areas:

As agreed by this Assembly in February, we have been negotiating with the UK on the extension of the territorial scope of the UK's membership of the World Trade Organization to include the Bailiwick. Approval has now been received from the UK Secretary of State for International Trade and the final steps to formalise the extension are now being organised.

Extending the UK's WTO membership will be an important step for our economy, providing access to global rules on the trade in goods, services and Intellectual Property with other WTO members, including EU Member States and the majority of countries worldwide.

In addition, progress has been made with ensuring Guernsey's interests are included within existing free trade agreements and any new ones in future.

We continue to work closely with the UK Government, the regional authorities in Hampshire and the port authorities in Portsmouth, in step with both Jersey and the Isle of Man. We have also maintained dialogue with the regional authorities in Normandy and the port authorities in St Malo.  This crucial engagement will continue as we approach 31st October.

Sir, the Bailiwick's territorial seas increased in size on 23rd July, giving Guernsey, Alderney and Sark greater rights and control out to 12 nautical miles. 

As Deputy Brouard outlined to the Assembly in July, the Committee is now focusing on the next stages of work to agree the individual co-ordinates for the boundaries between the jurisdictions of the Bailiwick and between the Bailiwick and France - and to seek the transfer of rights over the foreshore and seabed from the Crown to Guernsey. 

The Committee is leading on other areas of policy prioritised by the Assembly.

This includes the regeneration of Leale's Yard. The Committee is conscious of the concerns raised by some Deputies during debate, and has taken those on board. Already it has approved a funding request to expedite a Development Framework which we understand the Development & Planning Authority intends to deliver by April 2020. This Committee's work to discharge the Resolution rests significantly on the resulting Development Framework. Notwithstanding this, it is exploring how to best embark upon work to recommend actions to enable the progression of development at the Leale's Yard Regeneration Area, without undue delay.

The Committee has started to consider its response to the States' Resolution directing further analysis of ongoing activity to support those in the in-work poverty trap. It is currently minded to bring a policy letter to the Assembly ahead of the April debate on the Future Guernsey Plan.

The work on Seafront Enhancement Area is progressing and the Committee also intends to bring an update policy letter to the Assembly before the end of this term. The Committee expects to be able to set out an appraisal of the potential options for the resourcing, management and governance of the Seafront Enhancement Area programme, including the delivery mechanism for development.

Relevant to that work is the States' capital portfolio. Viewing the totality of the States' investment as a single States' portfolio is enabling Government to ensure it is investing in the right things, to get the best possible value from the resources available.

The ultimate objective of the capital portfolio is to support the achievement of the vision set out in the Policy & Resource Plan and the delivery of the strategic objectives for the States through investment infrastructure and systems.

We are at a critical time in the planned delivery of four large programmes: Hospital Modernisation, Future Digital Services, the Revenue Service and Education Estate Development - all of which support the transformation of our public services, with a combined value of some £300m, planned to be phased over the next 10 years.

Up to the end of quarter 1 of 2019, a total investment of around £47m has been approved for the continued development and delivery of 20 major capital projects.

There has also been further commitment of c.£15m for the period of 2018/2019 on smaller projects to maintain our assets in order to continue to provide our public services, including £2.6m on Medical Equipment and £5.1m on Roads Maintenance.

Funding is being made available but this has not always been translated into tangible progress. The Policy & Resources Committee does not make any apologies for putting in place an appropriate process to ensure that the States has the necessary evidence to make key strategic capital decisions and to obtain value for money. However, it is now time to build on our firm foundations and deliver the projects and programmes within the portfolio.

We are determined to continuously improve the way infrastructure and major projects are delivered in order to support government's priorities and improve the lives of our community.

Having reviewed the current portfolio the following factors have been identified as the main causes of slow progress in delivering some of the projects that have been brought forward by Committees:

We must all address these issues in order to see real progress over the term of the next capital portfolio from 2021 to 2024, and we need to continue to work at the States-wide level, so we don't make the mistake of considering individual projects in isolation.

Sir, I will conclude with a short update on the Future Digital Services Programme.  This was approved by the States in July.  As the Assembly noted then, this is a step-change in the provision of technology to the States and as such is both far-reaching and complex.  Progress with our Strategic Partner, Agilisys, is going well and the operational commencement date is planned for next week. This is the date that Agilisys takes responsibility for the delivery of those services.

This transition period will continue for two months prior to full contract signature and will be the start of an ambitious, but achievable, programme of digital transformation that will deliver enhanced services to Islanders and within the States of Guernsey.  

As this initiative moves into delivery phase we will provide Members with further specific briefings on the detailed steps and monitoring arrangements for this vital project. The first of these briefings will take place in October

Securing a technology strategic partner is an essential step to secure efficient capability for the States. However, it is just one step; none of us can get lulled into a false sense of security; creating over reliance on our technology partner to deliver all aspects of our technology and transformation ambitions will be a mistake.  A partnered relationship works only if we all play our roles as partners; politically, the public sector and Agilisys.

We will succeed together but to do so, we will need to clear and committed to our transformation objectives and ensure we provide the right resources from the public sector and the right support politically.

Deputy Gavin St. Pier

4th September 2019

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