Scrutiny hears of possible changes to Community Costs Bonus

21st July 2023

Today, the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel (the Panel) questioned the Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Ian Gorst, in a Quarterly Public Hearing.

The Panel questioned the Minister on the Mini Budget and the measures to tackle the Cost-of-Living in the Island. The Panel heard:

  • Changes to the Community Cost Bonus following the current cycle are likely. The Assistant Minister for Treasury and Resources and Minister for Social Security, Deputy Elaine Millar, said some elements of the Community Cost Bonus in its current form are 'not quite right'. Possible future amendments to the bonus may include the break-up of the payment from one 'lump-sum' to multiple throughout the year, as well as adjusting the payment in line with household size.
  • The Minister said that one key area of concern identified by the Cost-of-Living Ministerial Group was the expense of childcare. Work is being done to identity which interventions may or may not be necessary here.
  • When questioned on the mechanisms available to the Minister to help address the root causes of inflation, the Minister said that although "mechanisms are more limited than you might expect", work is underway in the area of food competition to help ease inflationary pressures.
  • There will be an announcement soon on free GP visits for children.

The Panel also heard:

  • The Minister is working with his department and the Assembly to look for a way forward following the Independent Taxation amendment recently debated and voted upon by the States Assembly. He said that 'rather than focussing on the contradictory nature of decision", he will be "focussing on what members said during the debate". Through workshops and analyses, the Minister will look for a solution that meets the spirit of Independent Taxation whilst allowing for a joint return option. He hopes to have something to bring forward by the end of the year.
  • A key area of focus for the delivery of the Value-for-Money Programme will be Health. A Health Recovery Plan is in place focussing on recruitment and retention, workforce spending, efficiency in utilisation of theatres, review of patient incomes, and making maximum use of laundry facilities.
  • The Minister aims to deliver £10million in savings for 2023. The Panel expressed concern that delivering this target through a reduction in allocations of budget across departments will be detrimental to the delivery of key services.

Deputy Sam Mézec, Chair of the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, said: "The Panel thanks the Minister for answering our questions. We will be following closely the work being done to address the shortcomings identified by the Assistant Minister to the Community Cost Bonus, as well as the measures put in place to deliver savings in Health, given the overspend last year within this department. The Panel is eager for more clarity from the Minister when it comes to where specific savings will be made in the Value-for-Money Programme in order to ensure that savings are made where most appropriate, and not to the detriment of key public services."

A link to the watch the hearing is available here.

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