It's emerged that the Attorney General was forced to write to the Chief Minister last year in a bid to halt the former CEO’s plan to move the Law Officers' Department to Broad Street – and potentially sell off Morier House.
The Law Officers' Department, States Greffe and Viscount’s Department all reside within Morier House, adjacent to the Royal Court and States Chamber.
But a recently-published letter sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in late May from the Practice Director of the Law Officers' Department (LOD) has revealed a tussle between Charlie Parker and the non-Ministerial Departments of Morier House, whose concerns about the ‘OneGov’ plan to bring all public servants into a single building were "ignored" for around 18 months.
LOD Practice Director Alec Le Sueur first learned of Charlie Parker’s wishes during a meeting of the Office Accommodation Board in August 2019, and the situation has only recently been resolved after the appeal to PAC.
At the time, Morier House had been due a refurbishment for several months, according to the letter.
Pictured: Morier House is home to three Non-Ministerial Departments - the States Greffe, the Viscount’s Department and the Law Officers’ Department.
The need to replace the building’s air conditioning and heating system had been first expressed in December 2017 at a meeting between the departments and Jersey Property Holdings (JPH), which is responsible for Morier House’s maintenance as well as the wider public property portfolio.
A Refurbishment Project Group was set up in early 2018 and work was due to start later that year. However, in December 2018, the LOD was told by the Project Manager that its requests for a “law firm office configuration” were outside the Government's standards for "office modernisation". They added that approval would be needed from JPH and "others".
The following year, the non-Ministerial Departments' possible move to an office in the Parade during the refurbishment of Morier House was discussed, but the letter said it never progressed as “it became clear that the focus of the CEO’s Office Accommodation Board was on the move of Cyril Le Marquand House occupants to Broad Street and a new build One Gov office."
A few months later, in August 2019, during a meeting of the Government of Jersey’s Office Accommodation Board, the LOD Practice Director challenged Mr Parker’s plan to sell off Morier House, arguing that the Non-Ministerial Departments needed to remain separate from Government and that Morier House was the “ideal location”.
“As the Office Accommodation Board minutes will show, this view was noted, but ignored, for the next 18 months,” he wrote. “No further work was undertaken on plans for a refurbishment of Morier House and against the wishes of the Non-Ministerial Departments, the Office Accommodation Board progressed with plans for anew One Gov office including the occupants of Morier House.”
So great were the concerns that Attorney General Mark Temple then wrote to the Chief Minister, copying in the CEO, in August and December 2020, on behalf of the three Non-Ministerial Departments, stating the reasons why they needed to remain separate from Government. No response was received.
Pictured: Letters from the Attorney General, Mark Temple, were left unanswered.
In January 2021, the departments learned they would have to move to Broad Street through the filing of a report to States Members - at this point, the LOD was “forced” to “appeal and express their concerns” to Scrutiny and PAC.
In a letter that followed Mr Le Sueur’s, the Viscount, Elaine Millar, described the OneGov HQ consultation as “not adequate”.
“It did not show any clear understanding of the needs of the departments in Morier House,” she added. “There appeared to be an assumption that all of our needs could be met without any enquiry as to what those needs were.”
The LOD has since confirmed to Express that it remains at Morier House.
The Government is yet to respond to questions from Express about whether it intends to maintain or sell Morier House in the long-term and whether any of the building's occupants will be expected to move to the new headquarters at the former Cyril Le Marquand House site when it is complete.
Meanwhile, the refurbishment of Morier House is still yet to take place. The last correspondence on the re-configuration of the building dates back to December 2018, although JPH recently carried out an audit.
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