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Reasons behind Whitfield's departure remain unanswered

Reasons behind Whitfield's departure remain unanswered

Saturday 28 August 2021

Reasons behind Whitfield's departure remain unanswered

Saturday 28 August 2021

The States has refused requests for media interviews following the removal of its Chief Executive Officer, leaving many burning questions unanswered.

It was announced by the States on Thursday evening that Paul Whitfield was "moving on" from his role after eight years.

Policy & Resources President Peter Ferbrache said the Committee "recognised the need for a change in senior leadership and have taken action to bring this about”.

Express was yesterday refused interviews with Deputy Ferbrache, Mr Whitfield and his interim replacement, Mark de Garis, the States’ Strategic Lead for Place Policy.

In the absence of interview opportunities, there has been a void of information, says Deputy Gavin St Pier, who worked closely with Mr Whitfield during his time as Chief Minister.

Gavin jersey Guernsey Channel Islands Paul Whitfield

Pictured: Deputy St Pier worked closely with Mr Whitfield during his time as President of Policy & Resources. The pair are captured here with their Jersey compatriots at the time. 

“It is disappointing that government has declined to put up spokespeople to address the obvious questions that the media will understandably have on behalf of the taxpaying public, who will be bearing the cost of this decision to change the leadership of the public service,” said Deputy St Pier.

“These questions will obviously include: was there anything in particular that led to this decision? If there was nothing specific, what is the rationale for making the change - and for making the change now? How much is this going to cost taxpayers?"

Deputies St Pier and Charles Parkinson have taken to social media to question the reasons about Mr Whitfield's departure. Deputy St Pier highlighted the leadership role Mr Whitfield has carried with “diligence” during the pandemic.

“None of us have a perfect match of skills for every situation and scenario but we must not forget that he has been the leader of the public service during the last 18 months, when the community has faced its most serious public health crisis in over a hundred years."

Mary putra Paul Whitfield Nicola brink

Pictured: In October 2020, Mr Whitfield was awarded an OBE for four decades of service to the public sector, starting out in military service and working in some of the UK's most dangerous prisons before becoming Chief Executive of the States of Guernsey. He is pictured here alongside Mary Putra from the States Comms Team and Public Health Director Dr Nicola Brink, who were regaled with Royal Honours at the same time.  

He continued: “During that period, the public service has not mis-stepped and Paul can therefore leave his post with his head held high, knowing that it was he who successfully led the public service that served the island so well in a period of crisis. 

“The recognition he received last year from Her Majesty the Queen with an award of an OBE is well deserved.”

There has been a mixed public response to Mr Whitfield’s departure, with many in the community saying the States CEO has ultimately failed to deliver the civil service reform he vowed to achieve. 

When he first took office as the island’s senior civil servant, Mr Whitfield was given a brief to “develop and deliver a programme of Public Service Reform that would improve the way we delivered services to our customers."

In 2015, he published a 10-year framework for ‘organisational change and transformation’, which was revised and updated in 2018, when he announced a ‘significant programme of change’.

That included, but was not limited to, a reduction of 200 posts out of the 1,600 civil servants employed by the States.

This has not materialised and there has been great frustration within the community and some quarters of the States about the speed at which the proposed ‘reforms’ have actually developed, even taking the pandemic into account. 

Others have credited Mr Whitfield for the performance of the public service during the unprecedented circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Some feel that Mr Whitfield has been made a ‘scapegoat’ by the current political leaders.

Some of the debate on social media: 

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Posted by Peter Phillip on
Paul handed in his notice before he went on annual leave after 8 years of public service. There was nothing else to report there as its fairly normal to hand in your notice irrespective of the position. Deputy Ferbrache chose to say it in such a way as to imply Paul had been removed from his post when this was not the case. Perhaps this was said to distract the public from far more interesting case of Deputy Febrache giving a local company advice on how to avoid being fined for Coronavirus breaches with a clear email chain of evidence?
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