‘Staff shortages will make it impossible to do everything’

GUERNSEY’S government will struggle to achieve all of its own ambitions during this political term, primarily through a lack of human resources.

P&R member Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq at yesterday's Scrutiny Management hearing at Castel Douzaine Room. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30878749)
P&R member Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq at yesterday's Scrutiny Management hearing at Castel Douzaine Room. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30878749)

That was the message from Policy & Resources members to a Scrutiny Management hearing yesterday, as progress on the Government Work Plan was being investigated.

The GWP aims to narrow the focus of all States departments, with a view to ensuring that staff are able to complete prioritised work streams.

P&R has published its progress report, which will be debated in June, and this was the subject of questioning at the hearing.

P&R itself is currently under-staffed by four posts, while other departments of the States have several vacancies.

These posts could be filled, P&R argued, but this would take some time and work would inevitably need to be further prioritised as a result.

It was explained that some staff had moved to the UK, while others had taken up opportunities outside the States.

Vice-president Heidi Soulsby said the problem was not whether the States could afford to hire from its budgets, but whether it could find the right people in a highly competitive market.

Asked if the priorities identified in the GWP should be whittled down further, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq argued there was a risk of spending too much time ‘horizon scanning’.

‘We’re unlikely to be able to achieve all that we’ve got here, so I can understand those who say we should narrow it down even more,’ he said.

‘I think it’s reasonable that we should aim for this, recognising that we won’t achieve – certainly in the time-frame concerned – all the things that we expect to achieve.’

Among the more expensive capital projects discussed during the hearing were a Guernsey Airport runway extension and a new Dairy.

Economic Development has committed to bringing proposals to the States this year, regarding a longer runway.

Its president, Deputy Neil Inder, has said he will not recommend the move unless there is a strong business case in favour. Some estimates have put the likely cost in the region on £115m.

A new Dairy has been investigated by the States’ Trading Supervisory Board, with a likely cost now being mooted of £35m. – £10m. up on previous assessments.

STSB’s president Peter Roffey and P&R president Peter Ferbrache – Deputy Roffey’s predecessor at STSB – have laid an amendment to the GWP that seeks to formalise progress on analysing that project next year.

‘If the States decided that those two were going to come to the top of the priority list,’ Deputy Ferbrache said yesterday, ‘other things would have to be shunted aside’.

Asked if this would drive a coach and horses through the GWP, Deputy Ferbrache initially said ‘of course it would’ but then clarified that it would be ‘a significant variation’.

This was after vice-president Deputy Soulsby interjected to disagree. She urged the panel to remember that the GWP was an evolving document which had, by necessity, to change according to circumstances and events.

n The GWP will be debated in the States meeting from Tuesday 28 June.

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