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Jersey Chamber of Commerce

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The Chief Minister has submitted a letter to the Jersey Evening Post, in response to a recent editorial.

Dear Sir,

Your editorial of Monday, 8 April “Show us who is in charge”, which questions both the competence of Ministers and senior public sector employees, cannot go unanswered.

Last week, we published the ‘One Gov: One Year On’ report, which sets out in clear terms the progress of public sector transformation. You seem to be willingly ignorant of its content. This newspaper has repeatedly called for change in our public service, yet you are unprepared to wait for real improvement, and continually demand immediate, superficial results.

I am not prepared to take shortcuts in order to achieve a positive headline and risk the success of the overall program. Fundamental changes to our finances, to our processes and to our organisational culture, will take time.

You talk about a ‘tower of expense’, but ignore the fact that this Government is committed to delivering on measurable efficiencies and taking difficult decisions on matters, including pay, that will have long-term impacts on our recurring costs.

We are addressing significant inefficiencies caused by outdated systems and processes. For example, we currently have 1,000 government credit cards used to purchase goods and services worth £3.3 million, bypassing a cumbersome central procurement process. Staff have to enter identical customer information into multiple, archaic, computer systems, because these systems do not talk to each other. And we had departments separately buying computer software licences, which other departments had already purchased.

You challenge the value of interim appointments, but fail to acknowledge that where there are skills gaps, caused by historic underinvestment, we need to bring in outside expertise to spearhead much-needed change and transfer those skills to our future leaders. 

We are putting the succession planning processes in place to ensure that the next generation of leaders are drawn from our pool of talented staff. The Chief Executive has also repeatedly said he expects the majority of interims to have left employment by the end of the year.

At the close of your editorial, you ask a series of questions. Allow me to provide you with some unequivocal answers.

Politicians, and the Council of Ministers in particular, are at the heart of the transformation process. We set the agenda. And we are seeing results. Some are less visible, such as the urgent work to ensure the Government’s compliance with GDPR. Some are larger, and more visible, like the creation of the One Front Door service for customers and Team Jersey programme to modernise the culture in the public service.

You say we need to get ‘under the bonnet’ of the States Employment Board. The members of that Board, including its former Chair and myself, take our responsibilities seriously - we remain focused on the wider picture, including the overall future fiscal position of the Island’s finances, in particular regarding recurring revenue expenditure. We are fully aware of the challenges that we face. I also have utmost respect and value the work carried out by the independent Jersey Appointments Commission. 

Serious times call for serious and thoughtful heads, rather than inflammatory headlines that are focused on selling newspapers.

I have recently completed a rigorous review of the Chief Executive’s performance over the last year. I am impressed with his progress to date, in what was always going to be a tough job, but essential to place us onto the right track for the future. However, there are areas in which I believe he can/will improve, and I have set his targets accordingly. I will be publishing a summary of this annual review.

Our Island faces real challenges. We need to achieve £30-£40 million of efficiencies by 2020 in order to be able to properly fund services in the long term. We will shortly set out a pathway to the construction of a new hospital. And we need to navigate the risks of Brexit, which could have a fundamental impact on our economy. I am dealing with these issues along with my Ministerial colleagues.

I want to assure you, and all your readers, that in these difficult times, I am in charge. I am carrying out the role I was elected to by my colleagues in the Assembly. I will continue to serve the best long-term interests of this Island, and not leave a legacy of short-term political fixes.

Yours sincerely,

Senator John Le Fondré
Chief Minister

Supplementary statement

The tone and style of the front page article on Saturday, and the editorial on Monday, caused me significant concern. While I fully recognise and respect the independent nature of the JEP, to me the article and leader made no attempt to seek out, or inform on, the context for the issues being reported.

I discussed these concerns with officers and asked for a response to be drafted. 

All ministers receive support from officials, as required, with their paperwork. I provided the brief, then reviewed, edited and finalised the draft before it was sent to the editor.

I stand by the content of my letter.

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