Up to a quarter of positions in the Infrastructure Department are not filled with staff, with senior officers pinning the blame on the cost of living in Jersey and salaries that are “barely competitive” with the private sector.
Andy Scate, Director General for Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE), told the Environment, Housing and Infrastructure Scrutiny Panel that his department was “struggling” to recruit yesterday.
The discussion arose after Tim Daniels, the Director of Jersey Property Holdings (JPH), said “manning resources” within his team and the Law Officers’ Department (LOD) had caused delays with implementing the foreshore encroachment policy.
“I think we’ve established that the requirement would be additional personnel in Jersey Property Holdings, perhaps two individuals, and additional individuals within the LOD - again, an additional body there,” he said.
He went on to explain that he had attempted to recruit surveyors twice in the last 12 months but had struggled to do so, which he believes is due to a number of factors.
Pictured: Andy Scate, the Director General for Infrastructure, Housing and Environment (IHE).
“Part of the challenge, I believe, is that I’ve been recruiting to a team that has been in flux,” he told the Panel.
“The organisation model has been approved and funded but I am now getting to the point where I am trying to recruit to it and we’re finding that there is not a flood of volunteers to come forward, part of that maybe to do with a perception of the directorate being one in flux.
“Part of it is also the fact is that the salaries we are offering are sort of barely competitive with the private sector so the recruitment itself is a challenge.
“…Overall, recruiting is an issue and the local availability of professionals that can do the sort of work I want them to do is limited."
He said his team was looking at how to attract students and graduates but explained that this also posed difficulties, as no one was available to mentor them.
Mr Scate explained that JPH was not the only area of the Infrastructure department affected by those issues, saying there were “recruitment tensions” across all professional areas, including property, regulation, and engineering.
Overall, he said the department was currently “holding vacancies of sort of 20 to 25%”, with that percentage being higher in JPH.
“There’s a number of reasons I think for that, trying to attract staff from off island is difficult because of cost of living issues and availability, and just the lack of availability of staff on island is also affecting us,” he explained.
“We are in the revolving process of recruitment, we are trying to attract people, we are looking at our offer, we are looking at what we are paying, obviously we need to live within the wider States pay bands but we’re struggling I think, that’s just a very honest answer.”
Pictured: There are currently between 20 and 25% of vacancies in IHE.
The Director General went on to say that the department was not receiving as many applications from local candidates as they would hope and that their only solution in the long term would be to grow attract and train more school leavers."
“We’re not seeing the level of applicants we’ve seen in the past certainly from off-islanders,” he said. “It is a tension for us, it is a potential problem for us as well.”
Mr Scate said the department was “trying everything in its armoury” to recruit more people, such as holding targeted recruitment campaigns, including one for engineers currently underway, as well as targeted approaches in regulation and property.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Infrastructure, Deputy Kevin Lewis, told the Panel that the cost of living in the island had led "some key personnel" to move to the UK, "where housing is much cheaper and obviously cost of living in certain areas is cheaper".
He said at least two employees had left because of this in the last three months.
Staffing shortages have also been causing issues in other departments.
Express revealed yesterday that non-urgent procedures have had to be rescheduled at the hospital, while one wing of the prison is being ‘locked down’ each day in order to cope with short-staffing and budget pressures.
Meanwhile, labour shortages have contributed to a further delay in the opening of the new mental health centre at Clinique Pinel.
In the private sector, hospitality was believed to be 1,500 staff short over summer and is continuing to struggle as it approaches the Christmas season.
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