Jurassic States

GUERNSEY’S system of government is a Jurassic Park monster that is self-perpetuating, almost uncontrollable and opaque from a cost perspective – but one where the dinosaurs feel at home.

Mark Helyar on the ‘out-of-control’ States, dinosaur colleagues – and Deputy Peter Roffey. (Image by Andrea Guilbert)
Mark Helyar on the ‘out-of-control’ States, dinosaur colleagues – and Deputy Peter Roffey. (Image by Andrea Guilbert)

Policy & Resources treasury lead Mark Helyar said it allows every committee and their staff to do largely as they wish without visibility or accountability to the Assembly, P&R, or the public.

‘Some members apparently like it this way.’

His outspoken attack on the system and the way some States colleagues play it follows P&R’s earlier ‘no more money’ fiscal presentation plus criticism of the senior committee’s decision to block senior civil service appointments without treasury authorisation.

However, P&R’s reviews on senior roles were to fulfil its role as employer of all States staff.

‘It is intended to create challenge and oversight of the process and terms and conditions as well as questioning and balancing need, and decision making, with the objective of stopping costs continuing to rise in an uncontrolled fashion,’ he told this newspaper.

Some of his criticisms were aimed at Deputy Peter Roffey, president of the States’ Trading and Supervisory Board and Employment and Social Security.

‘The public will no doubt be appalled that despite significant and obviously mounting financial problems, even in the last year alone from May 2020 to date, there were 21 new appointments at senior officer 1 or above in the States (ie all at salaries more than £53,000) – that is more than £1.2m. of new annual salary cost for these new posts alone,’ he said.

Guernsey’s problems were not primarily due to its ageing population or the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, they were down to ‘wanton “gold plated” decision-making by former Assemblies and uncontrolled growth of government spending with open disregard for how annual repeating costs can be met, other than by a lazy resort to raising tax at some indeterminate point in the future’.

Deputy Helyar added that his purpose in commenting was to provide an alternative perspective to Deputy Roffey’s and explain that P&R’s advice regarding the island’s cash problems had a number of aims. These included reducing or preventing the need for higher taxes, retaining the island’s economic advantages and, crucially, enabling an unrestrained economic recovery.

Deputy Helyar’s letter in full here

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