Cutting number of deputies ‘has weakened this States’

CUTTING the number of deputies by seven was a mistake, according to current States member Emilie Yerby, who believes it is time for the States to look at bringing in more members to add to the Assembly’s range of experience.

Deputy Emilie Yerby. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 22566901)
Deputy Emilie Yerby. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 22566901)

Deputy Yerby said she was not alone in thinking that the move from 45 deputies to 38 needed to be revisited.

The West deputy commented in a Twitter discussion on the number of States members that the reduction was ‘a big mistake of the last States’.

She soon found support from Deputy Chris Green: ‘We need a bigger pool of talent to draw upon,’ he said.

One dissenting States member was Charles Parkinson, however. ‘Unfortunately, quantity is no substitute for quality. We need more sculptors and fewer pigeons,’ he tweeted.

The reduction from 47 voting members of the States to 40 (which includes two Alderney representatives) came about following a report by the States Review Committee, and this also led to the setting up of the current committee structure.

But Deputy Yerby felt it had introduced weaknesses.

‘With only 40 of us there are some areas where our collective knowledge and our collective strength is just not what you would expect it to be,’ she said.

‘I have always felt that reducing the number of seats from 47 was a mistake and, once we know the outcome of the October referendum, I think it may be time to ask the States to correct that.’

Deputy Green said that when the States made a mistake, it should not be afraid to think again.

‘I originally supported the reduction in States members down from 47 to 40,’ he said.

‘It seemed like a rational idea at the time. It was thought that it would increase efficiency and save costs.’

But he said the move was a mistake.

‘The experience of the last two-and-a-half years tells me that we may well have reduced the numbers below the critical mass that is required to fulfil all seats in government effectively, to ensure adequate levels of parliamentary oversight and to undertake constituency business adequately.

‘By reducing the numbers below the minimum for a critical mass, I think we have found ourselves short on the necessary blend of expertise and skills required. I would therefore support a review of the numbers in Government.’

In response to Deputy Parkinson’s concerns about ‘quality over quantity’ he said: ‘I think you are more likely to get the right skills mix and a wider pool of expertise if you have more raw numbers in the first place.’

Deputy Matt Fallaize was vice-chairman of the States Review Committee, which successfully proposed the reduction in members ahead of the last election.

He said that he stands by that move. ‘I do not agree with the suggestion that we should start increasing the number of States’ members,’ he said.

‘I cannot think of a single substantial advantage of having 45 deputies rather than 38. It would increase deputies’ remuneration by more than £1m. in every four-year term without any prospect of improving government of the island.’

Deputy Yerby added that reducing the number of members was ‘at best’ only part of the solution.

‘Equally important are efforts to encourage more people to stand for the States; to improve States members’ inductions so they’re ready to hit the ground running when a new term starts; and better all-round civic education in school and beyond.’

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