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Our Island Our Future: Community engagement on Tax Review begins this week

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Monday 07 February 2022

All households to receive leaflet outlining the challenges faced in funding public finances because of the changes to our population

Over the coming weeks, the major challenges Guernsey and Alderney face in funding public services in the future, as the shape and make-up of the population changes, will be the focus of community engagement by the States Members leading the Tax Review.

As Islanders live longer and have fewer children, a significant shift is underway.  The percentage of our population which is working/economically active is shrinking and that is forecast to continue.  The number of over-65s will increase by several thousand over the next two decades.  As a result, the forecast shows the shortfall in funding public services will rise to £85m per year.  This is an extremely large sum.  For example, it is more than the entire annual budget for Education, Sport & Culture which of course funds the running of all States primary and secondary schools, post-16 education, adult learning, museums and cultural sites and much more.  This change in population is taking place in many countries which are all having to take significant action to address it. 

The community engagement which begins this week will see all households receive a leaflet, setting out the background to these challenges and the options for solving them. The leaflet invites Islanders to attend one of a series of Tax Review Roadshow drop-in events which are being held across the Bailiwick over the coming months.  The first is at the St Peter's Community Hall on Saturday 12th February from 1pm - 3pm.

Ahead of this, a live Tax Review media presentation and Q&A is being held at 5pm on Thursday 10th February and will be livestreamed on the States of Guernsey's Facebook page and broadcast on BBC Guernsey.

A new website also launches today, Our Island, Our Future | States Of Guernsey.  This new website hosts a raft of information, FAQs, video and other content on the Tax Review.  Over the coming days and weeks, more information will also be added to ourfuture.gg on other programmes which also look at the long-term sustainability of the public service, including the Government Work Plan, Public Service Reform, and transformation programmes at Education and Health & Social Care.  Together with the Tax Review, all of these programmes have a key role in the delivery of public services in the future, and so the new website will bring them together under the new banner of 'Our Island, Our Future'.  The new website will be shared and promoted on social media.

Alongside the engagement with the wider community, a series of dedicated Tax Review presentations and meetings are being held for States Members and business representatives from a range of sectors, and these are already underway.

Deputy Mark Helyar, Treasury lead for the Policy & Resources Committee and Chair of the Tax Review Steering Group said:

"This summer, the States will be asked once again to make a decision on how to tackle the increasingly urgent problem of funding public services in the future.  We've talked about the seismic shift that is our changing population make-up.  This is not the fault of any generation of Islanders, but it is a reality and must be addressed. 

The problem and the solution are not simple, and so ahead of that debate and in line with the direction given to us by the Assembly we are now beginning a busy period of engaging with the community.  We want to do everything we can to inform and explain to Islanders why we believe we need to act, the advantages and disadvantages of our different options.  We want to talk it through with them, face-to-face, be open to their challenge and answer their questions."

Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the Committee for Employment & Social Security and member of the Tax Review Steering Group said:

"This is about ensuring that future generations can access the same kinds of public services we take for granted: health, care, pensions, education, law enforcement, infrastructure.  These are not nice-to-haves, these are essential services.  We've already waited too long to do something about our ageing population, despite knowing full well that it's coming.  The longer we leave it, the more drastic the action we'll need to take.  We must do the responsible thing, and the right thing, and ensure these services can continue to be funded.

The reality is that means raising more revenue, and that can't be sugar-coated.  But it can be done in a way to make the tax and social security systems more progressive, and to remove some of the inequities that have developed in those systems over the years. In fact the modelling shows it can be done in a way which actually makes those on the lowest incomes in Guernsey better off compared to now.  I don't think that up to now we have conveyed that message with sufficient clarity. It is only because of this protection for the least well off in our society that I support these proposals."

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