On Tuesday 12 October, the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel (CSSP) held its first public hearing for its review of the Government Plan 2022-2025.
During the hearing, the Panel asked questions of the Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Susie Pinel, Assistant Minister for Treasury and Resources, Deputy Lindsay Ash, as well as the Treasurer of the States.
The Panel were advised by the Comptroller of Revenue that 8,000 tax returns had been left unfiled this year, compared to 4,000 last year. The Comptroller of Revenue suggested that this may be due to an “exodus” of taxpayers leaving the Island. Despite the reduction in taxpayers, it was highlighted that Revenue Jersey still anticipated a £40 million increase in revenue from personal income tax.
Chair of the Panel, Senator Kristina Moore, said: “While the Minister has assured us that Treasury and Exchequer take a ‘middle ground’ when producing forecasts, the panel remain concerned that fluctuations – such as those highlighted in the number of income tax returns received – brings the accuracy of these forecasts into question.
“While we recognise that this is being investigated by Revenue Jersey, we have further questions about the number of taxpayers that have been lost to the Island, we particularly wish to understand from which sectors and service areas they have been lost.
“This is an urgent question: just this week members of the Panel visited Haute Vallée School and heard first-hand how difficult it is to recruit teachers. With ongoing staffing shortages in other key areas like healthcare, social work, and hospitality, we need robust information when forecasting budgets and the Government must understand the general impact this situation will have upon the functioning of our society.”
Other key outcomes from the hearing are:
- A lack of focus on tackling inequality. The Panel noted that spending against the Common Strategic Policy objective of Reducing Inequality was forecast to fall by 39% in 2022. Although the Minister confirmed that this is partly due to an expected falling in spending on the Co-Funded Payroll Scheme, no alternative spending in this area was identified at the hearing.
- Identification of savings. The Panel found that some effort was made to identify savings at a strategic level, but that work is ongoing to implement this across the organisation and meet targets.
- Action on housing. The Panel found that the Plan does not contain a scheme for dealing with the housing shortage, despite previous suggestions by the Panel that stamp duty be reviewed, or an assisted purchase scheme be developed.
- Identification of public good. The Panel was disappointed that, when asked to identify tangible public benefits in the Government Plan, the Minister was only able to identify that it was an ‘optimistic and pragmatic’ plan and a ‘good forecast.’
- Customer charter. The Panel recognised that a customer charter, modelled on the European Union Taxpayer’s Charter, has been completed by Revenue Jersey, ahead of the 2022 deadline.
Scrutiny Press Release.