Sir Joe Bossano’s views on the “unsustainable” cost of the public sector are in stark contrast to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s “cavalier approach” to public expenditure, the GSD said yesterday, drawing a stern response from the Gibraltar Government.
The GSD was reacting to a letter sent by Sir Joe to Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite the Union, who has accuses the government of wanting to impose austerity measures on the public sector.
In his letter, Sir Joe had repeated previously-voiced concerns that Gibraltar cannot continue with the current annual level of growth in the cost of the public sector into the future, especially after Brexit.
“I genuinely believe that the current structure of our economy cannot sustain the level of annual increases in the cost of public services which currently stands at £50 million a month,” Sir Joe wrote in the letter.
The GSD said the government should take steps to control public expenditure and make it more sustainable, particularly against the backdrop of Brexit.
“We maintain there must be real value-for-money controls to ensure taxpayers’ monies are properly and sustainably spent,” GSD Leader Keith Azopardi said.
“Sir Joe’s comments provide further vindication as to that need.”
“There is a need for better control of public spending especially in the context of Brexit. The GSD have been promoting this message for years. It is clear that Sir Joe agrees.”
“Spending wasteful sums on Luke Skywalker or on lavish VVIP entertainment for ministers at the music festival does nothing to deliver public services but simply adds to the current unsustainability of public expenditure.”
“As this is election year no doubt there will be an attempt to present an even more grandiose music festival which taxpayers will end up paying for in years to come as was the case with the massively loss-making 2015 pre-election event.”
“People will not be duped by such hollow and irresponsible gestures.”
“In fact what the GSLP Government should be doing is being prudent with taxpayers’ monies, focusing on affordable public services, growing the economy and building financial contingencies for the period of post-Brexit uncertainty that is coming.”
“Anything less than that is sheer financial recklessness. The GSD promise a much more responsible approach to the spending of your money. ”
The GSD’s statement drew a scathing response from the Gibraltar Government, which accused it of being “the party of austerity and cuts” and of wanting to cut jobs in the public sector.
“Sir Joe Bossano and I are entirely on the same page,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.
“As the minister with responsibility for public finance, I believe that we have to ensure a sustainable public sector and that to do that we need to deliver greater efficiencies – which is not a way to talk about job cuts or cuts in public services.”
Mr Picardo said the numbers of employees in the public sector had increased during his time in office.
As a result, the GSD had referred to the public sector as being “bloated”.
“The GSD are therefore very clearly committed to cutting £50m a year in recurrent public expenditure – and the only way they can do that is to cut jobs and cut public services,” he said.
“At the same time, the GSD pretend that they are on the side of the public sector, when what they want to do is cut almost 20% of all public sector and civil service jobs.”
“The GSD should make that clear in their next meeting with the unions that this is their policy and not pretend to be all things for all men.”
“As for public procurement and value for money, I am happy to see the GSD adopt the policies we introduced – leaving behind the direct allocation of contracts which Mr Azopardi’s GSD had done, in breach of EU law.”
“The most high profile of these was the grant of a contract to a preferred service provider where they charged a percent of the one billion pound sterling contract value.”
In response to other GSD statements on public finances, Mr Picardo said the Principal Auditor already published an annual value for money audit is.
And he added that the GSD was “clearly” and “bitterly” at odds with itself.
“Roy Clinton has made clear in an opinion piece this week that he is against the methods of management of the Public Finances which Keith Azopardi’s GSD introduced in his time in Government,” Mr Picardo said.
“Mr Clinton’s criticism of the mechanisms introduced by Mr Azopardi and the GSD when they were in Government show a party that is divided down the middle and at odds with itself and its own history.”
“The schism in the GSD is clear, palpable and undeniable.”