Community invited to submit suggestions for reducing the cost of public services

Friday, 23 June 2023

Islanders are being invited to put forward their suggestions for how they believe the cost of providing public services should be reduced.

Their suggestions will form part of the research carried out by the Reducing the Cost of Public Services Sub-Committee, formed following the Tax Review debate in February, which is working to deliver recurring cost reductions of at least £10m - £16m per annum, within five years.  The Sub-Committee is due to report its recommendations to the States Assembly at the start of 2024.

The need to identify ways of reducing costs is one piece of a wider effort to ensure public finances are sustainable for future decades.  Currently it is forecast that there will be a shortfall in funding public services of around £100m a year by 2040.

The shortfall is driven by changes in the make-up of Guernsey's population.  More people are living longer, and people are having fewer children, which means demand for services, particularly health services and pensions, is rapidly rising but the number of people in work - who are currently the main contributors to the funding for public finances - is getting smaller.  

On top of that, there is a need to invest in our critical infrastructure so that essential services can be delivered in fit-for-purpose facilities.  Priorities such as the affordability of housing, growing the economy, and meeting international obligations are also essential costs that need to be met.

The change in the make-up of the population combined with these other pressures makes for one of the biggest challenges we face, and other jurisdictions are also having to take extraordinary steps to counter similar trends.  Guernsey will need to address its deficit through a combination of measures, but a clear message in the Tax Review debate is that as much as possible must be done to reduce costs as part of the response.

Previous States Assemblies have gone through major savings programmes, such as the Financial Transformation Programme carried out between 2009 and 2014, which delivered annual savings of more than £28m in the States baseline expenditure.  However, while those savings have improved Guernsey's financial position against where it would have been, it has not prevented the rise in costs that continues to be pushed upwards by the growing demand for services, driven by the changing population.

The Sub-Committee is now asking for input from other States Committees, Deputies and public sector employees, but it wants all Islanders to have the opportunity to put forward their suggestions, because we all contribute towards public services, we all use them and we will all be affected if we cannot close the deficit.

On Monday (26 June) a short survey will launch asking Islanders to submit up to three suggestions, of up to 500 words each, which fall into one of the following categories

  1. Generating new or increased income 
  2. Restructure of services, including outsourcing and commissioning 
  3. Reducing, stopping or restricting access to services such as through means testing  

The Sub-Committee hopes to receive a wide range of suggestions, recognising it will not be possible to take them all forward for various reasons.  It may be there is no alternative way of providing the service, or it may be because there are regulatory or statutory requirements the States has to meet, or it may simply be that they are unlikely to deliver the cost reductions needed.  But the Sub-Committee wants as many ideas as possible and believes there will be some which are worth pursuing to achieve the level of cost reductions it is aiming for.

Deputy Dave Mahoney, Chair of the Sub-Committee said:

"This is the first time we've cast such a wide net as we invite suggestions on the subject of how we reduce costs, which services should be stopped or restricted, and how Islanders would want to see their public sector generate new income.  While it's hard to predict at this stage what sort of suggestions we'll get, I'm hoping that overall we get a good insight into how the community wants us to tackle this very significant challenge.  

Many people are happy to offer their take on how the States can bring down costs on social media or by contacting their Deputies, but even if you wouldn't ordinarily share your views, I'd encourage you to take this unique opportunity to bring ideas to the table."

Deputy Sasha Kazantseva-Miller, member of the Sub-Committee said:

"During the tax debate, deputies received many emails from islanders about how to reduce costs. We want to give everyone in the community a chance early on in this process to put forward any suggestions they believe would genuinely reduce costs for the States and ultimately the taxpayers. We hope that this different approach will demonstrate our commitment that no idea will be left off the table. But it's also an exercise we need to tackle quickly, and so we are asking people to get their responses in by the 14 July, that's a three-week window, so we can then press forward with reviewing the suggestions we've received."

The survey will be available online at from 9am on Monday 26 June and will be open for three weeks, closing on Friday 14 July.  People can also submit their suggestions by post by writing to:

Reducing the Cost of Public Services Sub-Committee
Sir Charles Frossard House
La Charroterie
St Peter Port