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Grouville Rates Assembly 23/24

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Grouville parishioners pushed for the Parish rate to be held at 1.11p per quarter at the Parish Assembly on Wednesday 29th November 2023. The grounds for this were worked systematically through the assembly agenda:

  • Mark Houze advised the meeting that total quarters for Grouville have been calculated by Rates Assessors in a way that is in breach of the Rates Law. Furthermore, by their own admission Grouville Rates Assessors say quarters are overstated. This may mean that many parishioners are paying too much Island wide rate. It also makes comparison with other Parishes rate per quarter impossible; possibly meaning that Grouville Parish is costly. See this article for more detail.

  • I asked the Connétable questions to clarify the Roads Committee budget which has increased by nearly 500% to £210k for 23/24. We have some of the wettest months of the financial year remaining. The Connétable agreed that there will be a substantial underspend on the budget this year, though there was uncertainty about how much of the budget had actually been spent in the 7 months to date. Caroline Anderson highlighted uncertainty about whether prior years unspent budget could be carried forward or whether it should have been returned to the general reserve. The Connétable decided that another assembly would be required to access prior years unspent roads budget once financial governance rules had been determined.

  • Denis de Gruchy established that there is no rolling program to review the efficiency of Parish expenditure or enhance income generation from Parish investments. Nobody is in favour of applying efficiency targets to top slice budgets. It is always possible to review and change ways we do things to make them more efficient and effective, no matter the size of an organisation.

  • At last years assembly and throughout this year I have been part of a group of parishioners pushing for proper financial governance within the Municipality. I am delighted to see the establishment of the Financial Review Working Group. In time this will improve financial transparency. However, a slow start to its creation and a lack of prioritisation to establish rules for the allocation of reserves made it impossible for the Connétable to decide whether it was legal to use the surplus generated by the Maison Le Maistre fund last year to freeze the Parish rate in 23/24 to 1.11p per quarter as proposed by Anne Hargreaves. This proposition would have helped pensioners, families with young children and other parishioners struggling financially with the cost of living crisis. Procurer Lamy felt that income generated from pensioners shouldn't be applied to help them and others financially. This article, written by Caroline Anderson last year, is still relevant.

  • Roads Committee member David Cummins proposed the rate per quarter be increased to 2.5 pence per quarter to cover overspends on the Parish roof project. No mention of overspends had been made prior to this or by the Connétable at that point of the meeting. The proposition was not seconded.

  • There was confusion for the Connétable about the financial consequences of his decision to remove assets and depreciation from the financial statements. This was resolved with help from Caroline Anderson, Chris Parlett and the auditor.

  • Despite confirmation of a substantial roads budget underspend this financial year, a £102k return on the Parish Maison le Maistre asset in 22/23, and knowledge that there are opportunities to devise proper efficiency savings programmes, the Connétable advised the Assembly that a 1.11p rate may not be lawful. This is due to financial governance for reserves not being defined despite Caroline Anderson urging this be done at Assemblies throughout this past financial year.

The account above may lead you to believe that the assembly was not harmonious. It was certainly chaotic much of the evening, however, there was an open discussion of a supportive nature which was productive. Full discussion of material numbers and facts seemed to be helpful for all attendees. Whilst the vote for a freeze of the rate at 1.11p failed 17 to 43 votes, I noticed a distinct change in the atmosphere and tone of our Grouville Assembly on Wednesday night. The rate for 23/24 was set at 1.24p per quarter last night, an increase of 12%.

I will continue to campaign for appropriate financial and corporate governance that makes Parish finances transparent and supports appropriate financial decision making. In answer to questions from Peter Hargreaves, clarification from the Connétable that parishioners can make governance suggestions to the financial review working group through the Connétable and Procureurs and that he would confirm which of the interim reports' conclusion they had accepted is welcomed. Furthermore, Parishioners can feel reassured at the reappointment of Mark Houze, Caroline Anderson and Anne Hargreaves to the Financial Accounts Committee for 2023/24. Their expertise is valued by both the Municipality and parishioners.

The Connétable has promised a full review of the rates assessment process through a Parish Assembly early next year. This is also welcomed.

I will continue to develop projects both with and independently from the Municipality through this and Island wide groups that support caring sharing communities and help parishioners to reduce the impact of the cost of living crisis whilst responding regeneratively to climate change.

I sincerely believe we are starting to move in the right direction together.

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