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States/Civil Servants relationship under the spotlight

States/Civil Servants relationship under the spotlight

Tuesday 03 December 2019

States/Civil Servants relationship under the spotlight

Plans to improve the relationship between our elected politicians and the island's senior civil servants are taking shape, with a draft version of a new agreement likely to be debated before the election next year.

The work started during the summer, after a States resolution was passed in June, leading to a working group being set up, comprising of representatives of: the Policy & Resources Committee, the States, the Civil Service, Guernsey's Law Officers and an Independent Advisor who is a Corporate Lawyer.

Deputies Michell Le Clerc and Heidi Soulsby had successfully laid an amendment against the Policy & Resources Plan, which meant the States had to set up the working group, which now says its aim is to deliver a 'quality, well thought through framework, rather than to rush through proposals despite the tight timeframe'.

The two Presidents, of Employment and Social Security and Health and Social Care, wanted the States to be 'democratically accountable to the people of Guernsey for carrying out the functions of government and parliament' and they wanted a review of the new structure of senior civil service posts, to ensure 'effective lines of accountability between the States and the public sector which reflect the democratic character of the States'.


Pictured: Deputy Heidi Soulsby, HSC President, and Deputy Michelle Le Clerc, ESS President. 

Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq is the political lead in the working group set up to oversee this work and last week he told the States that progress had already been made in some areas including in agreeing a set of aims: 

  1. fundamental principles, and core values of the civil service, including that civil servants should be appointed on merit, through open competition, and free from political patronage;
  2. employment law, and contractual provisions, including that the Chief Executive holds ultimate line managerial responsibility for Civil Servants;           
  3. working papers and studies produced by the OECD;
  4. current States of Guernsey practices, policies and directives regarding selection and recruitment procedures, and performance related feedback, including the current Senior Appointments Directive;
  5. relevant material, including the Civil Service Code and the Code of Conduct forStates' Members;
  6. the Public Functions Law 2018, and proposed amendments to the same; and
  7. arrangements that exist in other jurisdictions.

He also said that work started, with the working group engaging with States members, the relevant Unions and senior leaders within the civil service with generally positive feedback so far.

"Feedback has generally been very positive, with some constructive and well-reasoned comments. In developing the framework," he said, "it will not be possible to please all, and there will inevitably be some give and take on both sides. What we hope to achieve is a practical solution, which assists in delivery of services by the civil service to government."

Jonathan Le Tocq

Pictured: Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq. 

Deputy Le Tocq went on to say that having considered the arrangements from across a number of different jurisdictions, the OECD recommendations, and stakeholder feedback, the working group is "aware that a bespoke and tailored solution will be required for Guernsey, due to the unique style of government and civil service".

Deputy Le Tocq said; "The working group therefore recommends that, in the short term, a protocol should be developed and agreed, between States Members through the Policy & Resources Committee, as employer, and the Chief Executive, setting out the relationship between States Members and senior officers of the civil service."

P&R has already given its support to the proposals so far, which would see plans to: 

  1. set out an agreed means by which States Members will be consulted on the appointment, performance reviews and objectives, renewal or extension of contracts and continued service to a particular Committee;
  2. promote effective working relationships between States Members and identified senior officers within the context of their respective mandates;
  3. develop a consistent approach to responding to concerns or complaints between States Members and senior officers;
  4. provide an opportunity for mediation, to resolve complaints between States Members and senior officers;
  5. ensure an effective mechanism to deal with inappropriate behaviours on the part of States Members, including, for example, cases of undue influence, or conduct which undermines the principles of good governance and established due process; and
  6. ensure an effective mechanism to deal with inappropriate behaviours on the part of Civil Servants towards States Members.

"Should a protocol be adopted, it is recommended that there should be a review in two years' time, to assess effectiveness and consider whether it may be appropriate to develop a statutory framework addressing the areas set out in the protocol," said Deputy Le Tocq.

It's likely the States will debate a draft version of the Policy Letter in February.

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