There are dozens of unfilled jobs across law enforcement in the Bailiwick – and the Committee for Home Affairs says vacancies in some services have reached “a critical level”.
At a scrutiny public hearing held this morning, Committee President Deputy Rob Prow said there are “up to 60 vacancies across law enforcement and the Economic and Financial Crime Bureau”.
The Committee’s Director of Operations, Dave Le Ray, told the hearing that 19 of the vacancies were in financial crime services.
“35% of our target operating model is vacant within the Economic and Financial Crime Bureau,” said Mr Le Ray.
“We are still being able to complete investigations and complete the mandate of the Bureau. However, I would say that we are at a critical level in the number of recruitments which we are able to attract.”
The Committee’s vacancies also include 11 police officers, three customs officers and various administrative and support roles.
Pictured: Deputy Rob Prow, President of the Committee for Home Affairs, flanked by officials at this morning's Scrutiny Management Committee public hearing.
The Bailiwick is currently preparing for a Moneyval inspection in 2024. Moneyval is a body of the Council of Europe which assesses whether a jurisdiction complies with measures to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
At this morning’s scrutiny hearing, Deputy Simon Fairclough, Vice President of the Scrutiny Management Committee, asked Deputy Prow if he was concerned about the level of vacancies in financial crime services ahead of the Moneyval inspection.
“It is a concern. It is a challenge,” said Deputy Prow. “But I have absolute confidence in the Bureau and the Financial Investigation Unit that they will continue on their efforts to recruit and think outside the box, as they already have. It’s not as though we’re not rising to the challenge.
“I’m not trying to dismiss the challenge that recruitment presents. What I’m saying to you is that I have absolute confidence in the staff we have. It’s well run, well managed and well motivated to deliver. I have every confidence…in our preparedness for the Moneyval inspection and that’s one message through this hearing that I want to give.
“We appointed a Director and he has got key staff committed and working very hard on his mandate. There are huge efforts going on…to do this. One initiative we have started is we have three investigators who are operating mainly out of the UK, so they don’t need housing [in Guernsey], and they come to the island when they are needed. That is, if you like, a workaround. I can assure the Scrutiny Management Committee that, despite the challenges, we have a very viable Economic and Financial Crime Bureau.”
Pictured: The Scrutiny Management Committee panel spent much of the first hour of the two-hour hearing probing the causes and effects of a staff shortage in law enforcement services.
The scrutiny panel, chaired by Deputy Yvonne Burford, President of the Scrutiny Management Committee, and also including former Deputy Mark Dorey, pressed for more information about what law enforcement services are not doing as a result of their high number of vacancies.
Phil Breban, Deputy Chief Officer of Police, said: “We are an emergency service and that is our primary focus. Providing a 24/7 response will always be our focus. Recruitment is a challenge and there are areas where we’ve had to refocus or amend our response.
“Areas of business that would have suffered from that would have been the neighbourhood policing team. We’re not at capacity in that team and we’d like more officers there. Our road policing team is not to the capacity we would like to focus on road safety. We have had to adjust our training regime…officers can’t complete the full range of training they may wish to, but we do accommodate the essential accreditation training.
“Primarily, those are the areas where we have had to adjust our service to make sure we provide that 24/7 response.”
Deputy Burford asked whether it was fair to say that Police had the financial resources needed but not all the human resources needed. In reply, Mr Breban said: “Absolutely, yes.”
Pictured: The scrutiny hearing heard that neighbourhood policing has suffered as Police have battled with recruitment challenges.
Deputy Fairclough said the public hearing had been told of “an incredible amount” of vacancies at the Committee for Home Affairs. He and Deputy Burford asked whether the island’s high cost of housing was the main hurdle to recruitment.
“As with other committees, especially those delivering specialist services, the question of recruitment is a key issue,” said Deputy Prow. “The ability to get affordable housing for those people we need to fill the roles is absolutely an issue. Certainly, it does affect our ability to recruit.”
Mr Le Ray said: “In the economic crime area, we are needing to recruit specialist skills and most of those will need to come from the UK or further afield.
“At those levels, we are finding it difficult to attract. We are getting interest in the vacancies…however, when they see the cost of living, it puts off a number of people because obviously the cost of living for housing is cheaper in the UK.”
Deputy Prow said that pressure on staff as a result of vacancies inevitably had an effect on how much work could be done behind front line services.
“One of the things that tends to suffer in the environment we’re working in is the transformational type of activity that government really needs to be doing if we want to save money and become more efficient,” he said. “What happens is the instinct…is to make sure the front line is protected.”
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