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Falklands : PUBLIC MEETING MONDAY, 24 JUNE 2013 Part 2: The Budget Presentation Debate
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 30.06.2013 (Article Archived on 28.07.2013)

The first order of business was a presentation on the 2013/14 budget by the Financial Secretary Mrs Nicola Grange. Members of the public asked questions about the budget during and after the presentation.

PUBLIC MEETING MONDAY, 24 JUNE 2013

Part 2: The Budget Presentation Debate

 

By J. Brock (FINN)

 

A public meeting took place in the Court and Assembly Chamber of the Town hall at 1700hrs on Monday, 24 June 2013.  Present were MLAs Hansen, Edwards (Chair) Short, Cheek and Elsby.

 

The first order of business was a presentation on the 2013/14 budget by the Financial Secretary Mrs Nicola Grange.  Members of the public asked questions about the budget during and after the presentation. 

Changes in the budget caused most of the debate during the presentation.  Stella Prindle Middleton asked about the banking licences.  Mrs Granger told her it was an annual fee paid annually for a banking licence.  Standard Chartered Bank is the only bank and therefore is the sole generator of income in this area.

 

Derek Howatt asked if the quarry price recovered the cost of production.  Mrs Granger said it did but it depends on what kind of production is done during the year.  The figures at the start of the year are done on the expectation of the Director of Public Works in terms of the volumes.  Quarry rates are now the same for FIG as they are for the private sector.

 

Roger Spink asked about the electricity charges and the effect the wind farm had on them.  There didnít seem to be any benefits arising from wind generated power.  Mrs Granger said though there was no reduction, there was no increase.  She went on to say that last year when the rate was set the wind farm generated an 8p reduction in the overall cost of producing electricity and it is still the same this year.  Mr Spink asked if the calculation could be made public and Mrs Granger said it was made public already and that it was calculated in terms of breaking even. 

 

Tim Miller asked about the water and refuse charge.  He uses a lot of water and he realises the cost of producing it goes up and not down.  Why was there not at least a small increase in this charge?  Mrs Granger said the philosophy was for these services to break even.  There was no huge price increase for the Director of Public Works to factor into his budget.  All charges are assessed year on year.  Passing the operating costs on to the consumer was the general rule of thumb.

 

Gerald Cheek wanted to know if the landing fees at Stanley Airport were solely for aircraft landings.  Mrs Granger confirmed this.

 

Derek Howatt wanted to know the impact on the public of the increased FIG Spending and Mrs Granger said she would have to refer that to the Policy Unit.  Roger Edwards mentioned that figures were difficult to produce like those for tourism in that a lot more money this year was spent on Tourism Development Strategy on the belief that if we could spread the word more tourists would visit the Falklands.  One hopes to gain from advertising but it will be a considerable time before a return is seen on it.  Derek Howatt thought things might have progressed to the point where there were projections on future economic growth in all sectors.  Mrs Granger said those items would be set out in the Economic and Tourism Development Strategies and the Rural Development Strategy.

 

Gerald Cheek wanted to know about the deficits in the Pension funds.  Mrs Granger said that the old Civil Service scheme is being projected by the actuaries and needs to be around the 95% mark.   The transfers should work towards reducing that deficit.  There are guarantees but the fund wonít be covered in full by those transfers.   The State pension Scheme is 33% funded at the moment.  It sounds low but the Actuaries Board said it was one of the better levels they have seen.  They have recommended rectifying that.   Derek Howatt said that at one point it had been as high as 60%  he mentioned the down-turn in the financial markets causing the decrease in value but one could find it going up to 50 or 60% again when the markets recovered.  Mrs Granger said it was also down to the annuity rates.

 

Mrs Grimmer mentioned that we should start using the £345Million in reserves and Mrs Granger said that due to commitments on that money only £140Million could be ready for use.  Ging Davis wanted to know how many posts were actually and which ones were extended.  Mrs Granger said that approximately 50% of the posts were new.  Mr Davis asked if we actually needed that many and Roger Edwards said we did as legislation needs to be up to scratch with the up and coming oil industry ready to begin.  Housing would be needed and this needs more employees.

 

Derek Howatt wanted to know what posts would be made available to support the full time MLAs and Mrs Granger said there was one at the moment.  Roger Spink asked about the proposed new MLA office.  Mrs Cheek said there was nothing in the budget for a new office and Mrs Granger said a potential cost had been identified.

 

Phyl Rendell asked Mrs Granger to explain what housing for the oil industry entailed.  Mrs granger said there were 10 related oil posts and the majority of those are expected to be overseas appointments that needed housing.  Serviced plots at the Sapper Hill development had been identified for this purpose.

 

Derek Howatt said that at one time the private sector was encouraged to build houses.  What had happened?  Mrs Granger said there was no expectation that Government would be building the houses.

 

 

 

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