Wednesday, 22 July 2015

A Ripe Plum to be Picked

The Property Tax review is back on the agenda.

The Bailiwick Express noted:

“The Treasury Minister has announced that plans for possible changes to property taxes will be out by the end of summer, after a consultation that floated annual property tax charges and windfall taxes where house values rise.”

“St John Constable Chris Taylor responded, saying: “I understand at election time the document was torn up in public and the public were told it would not be continued.””

“Senator Maclean: “I witnessed it being torn up by one of the election candidates, who didn’t tear the whole document up. He tore up one element. If you wanted to know the reasons, you would have to ask him.””

It is extraordinary the lengths some Ministers will go to avoid mentioning Philip Ozouf’s name, as it was known to all and sundry and widely publicised that he did it at the Trinity Hustings for Senator. Alan Maclean has a remarkably selective way of referring to his predecessor.

In fact, he has a very poor memory if he cannot remember the reasons why!

The Yes Campaign in the Referendum on the role of the Constable stated this succinctly:

“The loss of the Constables will weaken opposition to the current consultation which puts forward a proposal for a centralised property tax. This proposal would cost islanders more than the current rates system, and be set by the Treasury Minister, not Parishioners.”

“Parish rates have remained steady for 10 years. Without an effective Parish Administration the size of bureaucracy will increase, stifling business in Jersey, and increasing the burden on the individual ratepayer.”

That was the section Senator Ozouf tore out, and swore that he had no intention of having a centralised property tax rather than Parish rates – which is what the consultation suggested.

That Senator Maclean cannot – or chooses not to – remember this suggests when he was sitting next to the Senator at the Hustings suggests that he would still like to introduce those kind of changes at some point in the future.

Deputy Simon Bree said: “It will be of grave concern to many members of the public that a new property tax would introduce certain elements of possible capital gains and certainly would increase the amount of tax paid under the current Parish rates system. I think that the public would like confirmation from you as to whether or not you intend to introduce proposals for a new property tax.”

Senator Maclean responded: “It would not be my intention to predetermine the outcome of a review that’s being assessed at the moment. It’s absolutely appropriate that I assess it and consider it in a timely fashion, and then publish at the end of the summer. To make any announcement today would be wholly inappropriate, however much you would like me to do it.”

If you want a translation of that, it is fairly easy:

“It’s absolutely appropriate that I assess it and consider it in a timely fashion” means – I need to judge the scale of any opposition to that property tax section which Senator Ozouf tore up, and whether I can bring it back again.

“To make any announcement today would be wholly inappropriate” means – I like to know if I can push that through before I go ahead.

But of course, unlike Senator Ozouf, Senator Maclean is not facing an election, and is sitting pretty. He doesn't have to make statements, and can play a long game with his hand of cards.

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