Jersey election: Views on GST and reform

Ballot Box Jersey will vote for senators, deputies and constables on the same day for the first time

Jersey has its own parliament that is able to legislate on everything from taxes to education and the environment.

On Wednesday voters will go to the polls in what will be the first time in recent history that the people of Jersey will be able to vote for the majority of the States assembly in one go.

Four of the 10 senators, all 29 deputies and all 12 constables are up for election on 19 October.

All but four of the constables and three deputies have been returned to the States unopposed, but all four senatorial seats are being contested.

There are 13 candidates hoping to win a seat in the States of Jersey with an island-wide mandate.

The role of senator is the one with the greatest mandate, with the four candidates usually getting more than 10,000 votes each.

In 2008 Ian Le Marquand topped the pole with 14,238 votes. He is now half-way through his six-year term of office.

The four senators elected on 19 October will serve a three-year term of office.

BBC Jersey asked each of the candidates for their view on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and how they think the States of Jersey should be reformed.

Candidates were given 100 words to answer each of the questions and their answers are shown in full below.

Election issues 2011

Candidate View
Philip Bailhache Philip Bailhache

GST: GST, whether we like it or not, is here to stay. Almost every other country has it in some form and very few have the rate as low as 5%.

It is an effective and reliable way to raise revenue. It should not be allowed to rise beyond 5% for the foreseeable future. It should be simple, broad and low.

That means no complicated exemptions which would only add civil servants in the tax office, push the rate on other goods up to 6 or 7%, and cause extra work for small businesses.

REFORM: The first requirement is to reduce the number of members. When ministerial government was introduced following the Clothier report, the recommendation that numbers should be reduced to 40 or 42 was not implemented.

The result is that some members have not enough to do and feel excluded. I think that there should be 42 members, but that the Constables should be retained.

They are an important link with the parishes. That would leave 30 other members who could be elected through a number of larger constituencies (10-15) returning two or three deputies.

Freddie Cohen Freddie Cohen

GST: I was instrumental in delivering exemptions for medical products and have long supported removing GST on healthy foods.

Now this has been debated by the States there is a real chance of removing GST from healthy and local foods.

It is not a complex exception and is easily deliverable in a small island. GST generally must remain at 5%.

REFORM: Firstly the States should not reform itself. The States' decision to remove four senators was a shameful and undemocratic act. The States unilaterally removed the rights of islanders and reduced the number of candidates they could vote for without consulting the electorate.

An independent commission should review the States system and recommend the best way of delivering a better States system together with consideration of the best way to cut the number of States members.

This should then be put to the electorate through a referendum and only if it is supported by a referendum should it be implemented.

Rose Colley Rose Colley

GST: I think that GST is here to stay but should not increase beyond 5% and food and utilities should be exempt.

REFORM: There must be a reduction in the number of members. Electoral Commission must report and options be put to a referendum (which must be binding).

I would favour the retention of the Constables and some island-wide mandate going forward.

Linda Corby Linda Corby

GST: GST should never have been introduced in the first place. Now it is in place it should not be raised, and food and essential items should be made exempt.

REFORM: I believe that Clothier should have been introduced without all the cherry picking. We do need a reduction in the number of States Members and I believe that the States Members pay should be frozen along with their expenses for at least three years, the public should not be the only ones expected to tighten their belts.

The public should also vote for chief minister.

Lyndon Farnham Lyndon Farnham

GST: GST must not be allowed to increase above 5% until the States have their own spending under control.

Consumption taxes, although regressive, are generally the fairest types of taxes.

However, as the level of GST has risen to 5% there is a strong argument to exempt food and other essential items.

REFORM: The size of our States Assembly should be reduced by about a fifth. I also believe that of the three categories of States member, deputy, constable and senator, the office of senator is, by virtue of its island-wide mandate, certainly the most representative and therefore the most democratic and accountable and must be retained.

Any further changes to the constitution of the States Assembly should first be considered by an independent body who must secure the greatest possible acceptance by the public, by referendum if necessary, of any new arrangements proposed.

This body should also ensure that the views of the electorate are reflected as effectively and as fairly as possible in relation to the make-up of the States Assembly and electoral reform.

Mark Forskitt Mark Forskitt

GST: GST is a regressive tax and I believe in progressive taxation. I campaigned against its introduction because of that.

I would rather have consumption taxes on unessential, planet and life damaging, and luxury items. There is no sign of that happening soon locally, so I support the next best option on the table - removal from essentials like food, domestic power and water.

We could have avoided increasing GST if we had found a way to tax non-resident non-finance companies. That imbalance is deeply unfair on locally owned businesses. Correcting this is key to reducing or removing GST, unless we introduce the consumption taxes above.

REFORM: Cannot do properly in 100 words.

Connetables should take on responsibility for scrutiny but not have a vote in the assembly. Retain right to speak and bring propositions. Move their policing role to Chefs de Police, in effect be the revising and advisory function of a second chamber.

Proportional representation for all multi-member constituencies. People want island-wide mandate retained. Constitutional changes should be subject to a referendum.

Ian Gorst Ian Gorst

GST: Whilst I recognise that it is unpopular I have and continue to support GST as one of the methods of filling the deficit or 'black hole' and thereby allowing Jersey to balance its books. I have however voted in favour of food exemptions and will continue to do so provided low income families are not disadvantaged.

REFORM: I am a supporter of the senatorial seat and of the Connetables. The problem that the States has continually faced is that no agreement has ever been able to be reached by a majority of members on a workable solution. That is why I voted in favour of the Electoral Commission, so that an independent body could provide an independent solution. I then support that solution being put before the electorate in a referendum. We need to change and we must change, but we must ensure that change is not derailed again as it was with Clothier.

Francis le Gresley Francis le Gresley

GST: I have been consistent in voting against GST exemptions as I have been convinced by the arguments that compensating low income households through the benefits system is the best way to mitigate the effects of this tax.

I have some sympathy with the view that GST should not be charged on healthy foods, particularly locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables. The States recently agreed that the minister for health should produce a list of "healthy foods" so that more discussion can take place on this subject.

I would like to see the basic rate reduced as soon as our finances improve.

REFORM: The States on the 15th March decided that the composition of the Assembly and the election and voting processes should be dealt with by an Electoral Commission and that any recommendations for reform should be put to the electorate in a referendum. This is the correct way forward and I think it would be wrong for the new Assembly to open up this debate again.

A review of the machinery of government could run in tandem with the work of the Electoral Commission but should not be allowed to dominate States business over the next three years.

Sylvia Lagadu Sylvia Lagadu

GST: At first glance GST appeared to be a negative tax, however to operate as a 'purchase tax' on non-essential lifestyle goods would be more appropriate than the Social Security 'living tax', although (it) should never be charged on essential goods and products like food and medical supplies. Therefore on the basis of replacing Social Security (it) would be good, otherwise generally it's a harmful tax.

REFORM: The restructuring of the Assembly where there are more island-wide mandates and less parochial positions, with constables being the responsible representative for their respective parish only. The departments should be represented with an island-wide mandate, having the assistance from the parochial positions.

Darius Pearce Darius Pearce

GST: GST should be repealed at the earliest opportunity. Its existence is evidence of the economic failure of the government to contain growth in expenditure to within the level of growth in the economy.

It is harmful to the local economy not only contributing to the cost of goods locally but severely limits consumption by Jersey people. Economic growth depends not on how much money is in the economy but whether the money is circulating, taxation draws money out of circulation.

REFORM: The States have become bloated and are now an unwelcome burden to the people and the economy of Jersey. What is required is substantial trimming of the fat. Politicians need a fundamental reorientation so that they understand that they represent the public, not the civil service. The drive to ever greater spending and employment is at the heart of States policy and also the heart of every major difficulty the island faces.

David Richardson David Richardson

GST: This is an unavoidable Jersey's sale tax. Brussels can no longer point a finger at us and say that we have an unfair advantage.

At 5%, GST is a quarter of the sales tax of our European neighbours so we can't complain it is too high. As it stands GST is a simple tax to understand.

If GST was taken off some groups of items and not others then this would only add too much complexity and result in an increased number of civil servants to collect it along with all its attendant costs.

REFORM: I believe that the States Assembly should be a two house system run very much along the lines as the systems found in Bermuda and Bahamas. Deputies (elected on multi-seat constituency basis) and senators in one house, (34 approx in total number). Their role would be to enact, debate and vote on legislation and policies. The constables would sit in the other. Their role would be to veto legislation, and would have a very important role in ensuring that the laws that are enacted are in the interest of their parishioners and islanders alike as well as fulfil their parish obligations.

Stuart Syvret Stuart Syvret

GST: GST should not be charged on food. Nor should it be charged on household energy bills. Rather than increasing GST, the States should save money, and if additional taxation is needed, raise it from those who could most afford to pay a little more. In particular, we must find ways of taxing the profits of companies that do business in Jersey.

REFORM: The States has spent too much time and too much money talking about reform. The real problem with politics in Jersey is that the great majority of ordinary people do not have real power over their government. We will never be able to choose the policies by which we are governed, unless and until we embrace party politics. Of course the establishment always argue against the idea of parties. They do so because they are a ruling party - and they don't want any organised opposition to them. The Constables must leave the States.

Chris Whitworth Chris Whitworth

GST: I am very uncomfortable with GST, which hits the poorest members of our society the hardest. It is also unfair in that it taxes similar products differently depending on their sale price.

Due to our States Members favouring more and more tax take from the general public as opposed to big business, GST is now the easiest option for raising revenue and makes for lazy politicians, who no longer need to explore more creative ways to ensure our finances balance.

If elected, I would pursue alternative areas in order to reduce GST with the ultimate aim for its complete removal.

REFORM: For our island to become a better place to live, work, and be prosperous in an uncertain and changing global economy, it is essential that we have a government fit for purpose.

Therefore, we must discard our disjointed and dysfunctional system and adopt a totally new composition with only one type of States Member and a sizable reduction to at least half the present number of States Members.

Only once we have the right set-up can we then hope to attract the suitably qualified people we so desperately need to govern this island in the 21st Century.

BBC Jersey

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