“If the debate on school fees is lost tomorrow, the £65 million savings will not be delivered”Senator Philip Ozouf, Treasury Minister - Evidence to the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel 13.06.2011
The first serious challenge politically to the Comprehensive Savings Review (“Cuts” in the colloquial) will come tomorrow as the States debates a proposition by Senator Ben Shenton to maintain subsidies to private schools.
The Treasury Minister Senator Ozouf recognises that this is the first serious political test for the policy of saving £65m over three years. Will the Senator be able to muster his forces to see his policy through or is it a sign that concessions will have to be made every time there is significant public dissent?
Clearly the Middle Classes, the foundation of the Establishment vote, are not happy with having to pay an extra £500 - £1000 per year extra per child for education at a private school. The state subsidy has been a little perk to the Middle classes to enable them to afford privileged education that might otherwise, for some have, been out of reach.
Senator Shenton is up for election this October and is clearly seeking votes amongst the middle classes most affected. Like his father he is a populist. Win or loose he will be able to say he tried and that will secure his reelection.
It is ironic that Senators Shenton and Perchard should be seeking to maintain private school subsidies, as both are “hawks” when it comes to the £65m savings and cuts to public services, and perhaps more so that the Treasury Minister himself. So why are those plus royale que le roy seeking to have his head chopped off?
The Treasury Minister sees the removal of the fee subsidies as justified both on grounds of user pays and efficiency. He is not up for election this October. This illustrates the point that the current structure of the States with its 6 year term Senators, insulates them and policy from popular dissatisfaction.
As I have been perambulating around the district, several electors with children at private schools have indicated to me this is their number one political priority. We will see if the Treasury Minister can defy the voting classes. If he wins, he will become the stage villain. He is not up for election this time, but it may cost the Education Minister his seat in St Ouen. Senator Shenton will take the credit, get reelected and then support the real assault on the living standards of working people over the next four year parliament.