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Option for public sector complaints reform back on table

Option for public sector complaints reform back on table

Wednesday 14 February 2024

Option for public sector complaints reform back on table

Wednesday 14 February 2024


Setting up a new independent office to handle complaints against the public sector is back on the cards, but most of Policy & Resources still think it should wait until there’s more cash in the coffers.

The ombudsperson would be legally responsible for resolving complaints into public sector bodies to improve speed and transparency, while reducing complexity for individual complainants.

But the previous Policy & Resources Committee had recommended that the States should scrap the proposal until at least 2026 due to pressures on public finances.

It also said a review into the existing complaints system had been undertaken, and while room for improvement was found it was felt the matter should be considered down the line. 

New options which will be presented to the States next week alongside this include setting up the office alongside Jersey or proceeding alone in the next political term, which commences from June 2025.  

It’s estimated that a joint office would cost around £170,000 per year, while a solo endeavour would see that cost rise by approximately £45,000. 

However, it’s said that a majority of the new P&R, which includes two members which served in the previous Committee, continue to oppose setting it up at this timegiven the need to exercise financial restraint”. 

The amendment to give States members multiple choices on how to proceed comes from the remaining two members - Vice-President Deputy Heidi Soulsby and Deputy John Gollop. 

The Government of Jersey is pushing ahead with plans for its own ombudsperson regardless of what Guernsey decides, having agreed in 2022 to introduce it.  

Policy__Resources_Heidi_Soulsby_portrait_.JPG

Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby.

Deputy Soulsby told Express it was important to give options to prevent the issue disappearing into the long grass: “As things stand, if the States don’t wish to support the proposition ‘not to proceed’ with an ombudsman there is no option to give direction to bring one in. 

“The amendment gives members a choice of do nothing now but review, do with Jersey or do it alone.”   

The investigation into setting up an ombudsperson in tandem with Jersey came from a successful amendment from Deputy Soulsby in 2022. When P&R announced in December 2023 it wanted to can the idea, she vowed to challenge it. 

“To say that it is a good idea, but we shouldn’t do it now because there is no money, is a weak one given it represents less than 0.03% of annual revenue expenditure, and when the Committee itself says that it could lead to greater efficiencies and free up resources,” Deputy Soulsby said at the time. 

“This would directly benefit members of the public who currently are not best served with the current formal, complex and long-winded complaints system, which, as a consequence, is little used.” 

P&R’s originally policy letter admitted that the current process is “overly complex and time consuming, unsatisfactory in redressing perceived injustice, and lacking in independence” when compared to other jurisdictions. 

Currently anyone with a complaint about a decision of the States must act through administrative decisions law, which may be escalated to a review board hearing which are often public. 

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