Guernsey Press

Review likely to call for fewer States members

Moves are being made to reduce the number of deputies.

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(Picture by Peter Frankland, 31942939)

A group of politicians reviewing the structure of the States wants to cut the number from 38 before the next general election in June 2025.

‘We will be making some recommendations, moderate though they will be, to the number of States members,’ said Jonathan Le Tocq, who is leading the review.

He told a Scrutiny public hearing to expect a States debate this summer.

‘We are coming to the stage where we will be making recommendations to the Policy & Resources Committee. I anticipate that will turn into a policy letter some time in the middle of this year.'

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‘There will be a focus primarily on what we can do to reduce the levels and different layers we have which are unnecessary in our government at the moment, so that it is more streamlined for decision-making.’

Scrutiny vice-president Simon Fairclough asked if the proposals from Deputy Le Tocq’s group would save money.

‘Yes, absolutely. That’s our intention,’ said Deputy Le Tocq. ‘Not just by reducing the number of States members – to be honest, that’s slightly tokenism in terms of saving money.’

P&R president Peter Ferbrache said he had compared States members’ pay when he was first elected, in 1994, with last year, and found it had gone from about £500,000 to about £1.7m. a year.

‘It’s almost doubled in real terms. There were 57 members in 1994 and there are 40 members now’ said Deputy Ferbrache.

‘In relative terms, with a budget of £580m. per year, it’s not a mere bagatelle, but it isn’t the overriding factor.’

Deputy Le Tocq took over leadership of the review group from Deputy Heidi Soulsby when she resigned as a member of P&R late last year.

He said the group would not propose wholesale changes to the structure of the States, which last underwent major reform in 2016, including reducing the number of deputies from 45 to 38.

The group would instead put forward ‘nuanced changes where we know they would be effective and they could be done efficiently and quickly’.

Deputy Le Tocq said his group was looking at changes to the political structure of the States rather than the organisation of staff, but added that ‘there may be some implications with regard to the public sector, or the civil service in particular, in terms of how it supports those structures.’

Deputy Ferbrache said politicians and States officials were committed to operating as efficiently as possible but had to be realistic about the costs of governing the island.

‘Clearly, we and able civil servants who advise and work with us are trying to get the best value for taxpayers’ money we can,’ said the P&R president.

‘We’ve been looking at terms and conditions of civil servants. We’ve looked at where we can rationalise the number of States employees. That’s exceedingly difficult.

‘A figure of 200 was mentioned. That is just not achievable.

‘The statistics show that, over the past 10 or 11 years, almost exclusively the growth in public sector employees relates to Health & Social Care.’