Future Strategy Update

From Deputy Heidi Soulsby:

“Members will recall that Deputy Ferbrache, in his first statement to the Assembly in October mentioned that I would provide an update in the following 3 months in relation to specific areas on which I am taking the lead for the Policy & Resources Committee. I agreed to do what I was told and gave notice to the Bailiff 2 and a half weeks ago requesting that I make a statement at this meeting. The statement was prepared and I was ready to go. Then life changed overnight.

However, that does not mean everything should be put on hold. Of course, there may be things that can’t be done, or are harder to do now but we can’t afford to go into suspended animation and neither do we need to. In fact, what has happened to us makes it even more important that we push forward with the work we need to do to ensure Guernsey is in as good a place as possible for the coming months and years. The fact that we can meet today demonstrates we can adapt and change at pace and that holds us in good stead as we face our biggest financial crisis since the Second World War. The expenses associated with battling both the virus itself and its economic impact on islanders have placed, and will continue to place, enormous pressure on the States’ finances. 2020 saw an estimated general revenue budget deficit of £59m, with a £23m deficit that had been forecast for 2021 but is now likely to be much higher. The Capital Reserve is also heavily oversubscribed with a potential funding shortfall of £227m identified.

So, I read back my statement after that fateful weekend and realised very little actually needed to change.

We are at a moment in time that presents a unique opportunity for the States to innovate to build a diversified, sustainable and resilient economy. It is an opportunity to right-size government and achieve greater community synergies by working in partnership with the private and third sectors. These initiatives will provide the fiscal security that is needed to ensure the wellbeing of all islanders as well as the Bailiwick’s environment.

The need is great, time is short and finances are slim.

For the sake of all islanders, there are 4 things we must do;

Firstly, we must work together quickly, decisively and in unison to steer the Bailiwick into a stable, sustainable position. There is no room for working in silos or having Committee turf battles. Divisiveness leads to inertia and we can’t afford that.

Secondly, as the Chief Minister made very clear from the start of this term, we must take action. It is vital that this Assembly agrees and implements prioritised, effective actions that, in synergy with one another, deliver the utmost impact and value for money with the limited resources that we have. Laser-like focus and quick action are needed.

Thirdly, we must be agile – the next few years will present an evolving picture of threats and opportunities, and this Assembly will need to be agile enough to react quickly to get the best results for the Bailiwick.

And last but not least, we must be responsible – This Assembly will need to make prudent, responsible and possibly unpopular decisions to achieve its goals with limited resources.

So, we need to get moving and have a cohesive plan in place as soon as we can. A plan that focuses on the challenges of COVID, Brexit and recovery. A plan that is achievable, affordable and understandable. A plan that belongs to the community.

The Government Work Plan will outline this term’s proposed actions, setting the sense of direction for this term. The first policy letter, to be debated on 17th March will set out guiding principles and strategic outcomes; address extant Resolutions and legislative drafting priorities; and an approach to measure, monitor and report on actions’ progress.

The resourcing of the Government Work Plan will be considered through a Funding and Investment policy letter in July. It will include confirmation of the resource commitments and allocation for each of the three priorities of government, the measures and targets for each recovery action and anticipated timeframes for delivery and the scheduling of the recovery actions.

We are working at pace and I hold up my hands now that it will not be perfect, but we need to take risks if we are to succeed. And I would like to take the opportunity to thank all Presidents, Committee members and others for the input they have provided to date. Your support has really been appreciated as is that of the officers who have embraced the new way of working even though it has been pretty challenging. This can-do attitude bodes well for the future.

Now public sector transformation will be a key part of the work plan.

It has been apparent from a review of the work going on that there hasn’t been a joined up approach to the way the various transformation projects are run, with the result that there are different governance structures around different projects, there is inconsistent political oversight and there is no overall picture of what is going on. With immediate effect this is going to change with a single governance structure.

Individual project teams will report to programme boards, which will include representatives from relevant committees and these will report to an overarching portfolio board which will include Deputy Mahoney and myself.

And having reviewed the significant number of public sector transformation programmes being undertaken it is clear to me that there is far too much going on that can be managed and resourced effectively and in some cases, the end benefits do not justify the amount of work required.

As part of the development of the Work Plan we are looking at what should be continued and what should be paused. This goes for public sector transformation as it does everything else. A review of the resources being used has begun and consideration being given to how things can be done differently.

What will be brought forward is the launch of myGov giving the community a better, more joined up experience when interacting with the States, which in turn will lead to more efficiencies. Members will receive more information on this next month.

And on a similar theme, to support more effective government and closer, more joined up working with the third sector, work has begun to overhaul the commissioning function of the States of Guernsey. We know how difficult it is for organisations, particularly in the third sector, to know what government wants, who to go to and what is required of them. On the other hand, the States has a variety of different arrangements with different parties, is often unclear what it wants and is inconsistent in how it monitors services that it has contracted out to others. This is acknowledged in the Third Sector Strategy produced by the Association of Guernsey Charities which itself states how Government needs to find easier and more transparent way to commission.

I have met with the AGC, the Community Foundation and Trustees of the Social Investment Fund to advise them that this is a priority for us and that we intend to work closely with them to develop a unified approach with a view to making sure services are provided effectively, efficiently and appropriately with proper monitoring and governance. There is a huge opportunity here to improve how we work which in turn will help the community receive the services they need in a timely and effective manner.

And talking about relationships, there is so much more we can do in supporting and working with our Douzaines. The new Douzaine Liaison Group, comprising Deputies Aldwell, Matthews and Moakes believe there is huge potential to improve the effectiveness of both for the benefit of our community and I am very grateful to them for their valuable input so far. We have already discussed potential areas of review and whilst we had intended to meet all parish representatives at a presentation last week to start things off, we will be making other arrangements so we can keep things moving.

There is more going on that I can’t fit into this statement but can do so at my next update.

So, Sir, it has been a busy few months for me, as I know it has been for my colleagues on P&R who are working hard to ensure we can support Presidents and members of Committees both directly in moving policy along and indirectly in making things work more smoothly. The latter can often seem less interesting, less headline grabbing and where the focus is often lost. However, if we are going to be able to bounce back, in a COVID and BREXIT world, we need to think differently and work differently. Now more than ever we must be responsible, agile, take action and most importantly, work together.