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States cuts back on its public sector recruitment

News | Published:

CUTBACKS in public sector recruitment have been revealed in a new era of belt-tightening as a result of Covid-19.

States chief executive Paul Whitfield re civil service reform. (Picture by Adrian Miller, 28450178)

States chief executive Paul Whitfield said it was not a recruitment freeze, but the need to limit public spending meant that new people would be employed only where it was vital. ‘Like many organisations across the globe we are looking at our budgets, and how we can manage our expenditure.

‘An initial recruitment freeze was put in place at the height of lockdown for all roles other than those deemed essential, such as health and care workers and teachers and law enforcement, for example. This decision was taken so that we could examine the recruitment needs of the organisation as a whole.

‘However, since the beginning of May we have been recruiting but strict controls mean we are only doing so where there is absolute necessity so that we can be sure every possible step is being taken to control our costs during this critical time.’

During the lockdown there was a dramatic increase in public spending coupled with a slump in tax income. Spending to cover Aurigny and financial support to cushion businesses, such as the job co-payment scheme, is on target to reach up to £190m.

In April, the States agreed to borrow half a billion pounds to cover the 2020 budget deficit and fund a massive regeneration programme called ‘revive and thrive’.

Before the recruitment changes were confirmed yesterday, Deputy Laurie Queripel had submitted questions to Policy & Resources about the new approach.

‘I am concerned that the reforms will adopt the rather hackneyed and what I would describe as somewhat lazy and short-sighted approach of stripping out lower paid positions, some so low that top-ups are needed via income support, typically occupied by frontline workers or those with practical skills delivering a variety of services to our community, while largely avoiding higher paid administrative and management roles.

‘If any actions along these lines are being planned this could have a detrimental effect on some of the lowest paid States employees, those that can least afford it.’

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Deputy Queripel has also asked whether the higher echelons of the civil service will be part of the payroll trimming and whether consideration could be given to a salary cap.

Policy & Resources has already ruled out big tax hikes or new taxes next year, which means there are not many other options left on the table.

The ideal scenario is economic growth so that tax receipts can boost States’ coffers, but it is considered hopeful to assume that Guernsey will be immune from a worldwide recession.

Perceptions of a bloated public sector have long been in the cross hairs, but previous attempts to reduce the workforce have not manifested themselves in the payroll, although a reduction in agency staff has complicated that picture.

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The Beau Sejour Swim School was in line to become the first public casualty of the new policy, but a quick U-turn was carried out by the States after parents got together and complained.

Bailiwick Law Enforcement wanted to create a new post of domestic violence advisor to cope with the anticipated increase in the hidden crime, but they have been told that it is now unfeasible.

Swim School reprieve Page 2

Helen Bowditch

By Helen Bowditch
News reporter

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