Guernsey Press

States ‘defensive and hostile to complaint’ - St Pier

An attempt to speed up the setting up of a more independent procedure to deal with complaints against the States narrowly failed, and the process has now been pushed on to the next States to consider.

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Deputy Gavin St Pier proposed that Policy & Resources should come up with costings for the appointment of an ombudsperson by November. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 32992310)

Debate on the appointment of an ombudsperson hinged on whether the matter should be dealt with urgently or whether it should wait until next year at the earliest.

Deputy Gavin St Pier proposed that Policy & Resources should come up with costings by November, including consideration of a system used in the Isle of Man, which is run much more cheaply than a Jersey scheme, principally because its ombudsperson works part time.

He argued the matter was urgent in order to restore public confidence.

‘We the States, the government, are just not very good – in fact, we’re very bad – at handling complaints,’ he said.

‘We treat everybody as a litigation risk with financial exposure and that makes us defensive and hostile to the complainant.’

He cited recent examples in the local media and said the way the complaints were handled had badly exacerbated the distress of the complainant, he said.

‘It is no wonder that complainants are left thinking that the public service is either hopelessly incompetent or is covering up its failings.’

Deputy St Pier dismissed concerns from speakers such as Deputy Peter Ferbrache who said there was no money for setting up the new post, arguing that it would save a lot of money in the medium to long term.

Deputy Lester Queripel agreed, saying the 33 families he and his brother, former deputy Laurie Queripel, had advised would have been saved a great deal of ‘torture and heartache’ had there been a more independent process to which to appeal.

Deputy Aidan Matthews also wanted to embrace a more independent process. ‘Complaints are a gold mine for potential improvements’, he said.

Deputy Heidi Soulsby was among those opposing the amendment – not because of any reluctance to create an ombudsperson in principle but because the resources to carry out the work had not been identified in the Government Work Plan.

Deputy Neil Inder said the amendment had ‘big government written all over it’, while Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq said he was a democrat ‘but I also believe that we need some discipline in here’.

‘If everything is a priority then nothing is a priority,’ he said.

The amendment was tied 18-18 and then lost 17-19 on a re-vote.

The appointment of an ombudsperson will therefore be investigated as part of a review of finances in 2026.