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Government CEO hits out at "unhealthy gossip"

Government CEO hits out at

Thursday 10 October 2019

Government CEO hits out at "unhealthy gossip"


The government’s Chief Executive has addressed "myths" that have been spread about him - including banishment from his local pub in Gorey - in a speech blaming the island's rumour culture for putting people off working in Jersey.

Charlie Parker says that fears of suffering "personal abuse or unhealthy gossip" is damaging the public sector's ability to attract new talent at both senior and front-line level.

His comments came during a speech made to the island's business leaders attending the Chamber of Commerce Lunch yesterday, in which he described the “interesting experiences” he has had since taking the post of Chief Executive to lead the largest ever reform of the island’s public sector.

Musing that there had already been many reports published on the progress made so far, as well as his own employment contract, Mr Parker opted to reflect on what leading the transformation of the public service has been like and his perception of the local media.

fish bowl

Pictured: When changing the Government’s public services, there is “no escape from the goldfish bowl,” Mr Parker said.

Earlier this year, Mr Parker had taken aim at the media, which he said has an “agenda”, and a critical “vocal minority” on social media for fuelling “rumours” and incorrect perceptions about his major government change programme.

But this time, as well as discussing the role he believed local news providers should play, he hit out at the island's rumour culture. Mr Parker said that in a small community “everyone knows everyone’s business”, which is not always positive, and “word spreads like wildfire”.

“Jersey likes its myths, and there have been a fair few about me,” he added, before going on to debunk a few of the “absurd rumours” that have been spread “as facts” about him.

“Whether it’s apparently being barred from my local, the Dolphin in Gorey, and, with every respect to the Dolphin, I almost can’t imagine what I might have to do to get barred from there,” Mr Parker said. “Or my kids’ school fees being paid for by the Government, when they are both in their 30s.”

Noting that anyone leading a change programme needs to have “a very thick skin and be personally resilient”, Mr Parker said when changing the Government’s public services, there is “no escape from the goldfish bowl” - a feeling he said was magnified in Jersey.

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Pictured: Mr Parker doesn't "do social media."

The Government CEO, who admitted he does not use social media, said that rumours can make “doing job a little bit harder in this island community than it might be elsewhere".

“Some of this stuff partly explains why it can be hard to attract and retain people – not just senior people, but also front-line staff like social workers – when they realise that they could be subjected to personal abuse or unhealthy gossip,” Mr Parker stated.

His comments echoed those of the Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, who warned “the media, politicians and islanders” against “unfair” criticism of highly paid consultants in case it deters other professionals from coming to work in the island.

In an open letter, published after Express revealed how the Director General of Health had appointed her former colleague of a decade to a £45,000 role for a 12-week role, for which she was the only candidate considered, Deputy Renouf hit out at what he described as "unfair imputations" about recruitments of this kind, suggesting that they could jeopardise future appointments.

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Pictured: Mr Parker says he has “never, for a moment, regretted coming to Jersey.” 

Describing people as the “lifeblood of all our organisations”, Mr Parker highlighted “the importance of not deterring people through poor behaviours, especially when we’re going through a period of change.”

Despite all this, Mr Parker however said he has “never, for a moment, regretted coming to Jersey”. 

“It’s a fabulous place to live and work – safe, clean, friendly and beautiful. It has wonderful history and heritage. There is a special community, here in Jersey, full of a courtesy that has long since been lost elsewhere,” he said. 

“I’ve met so many great people – in businesses, voluntary organisations and charities, in the pub, up at the rugby or the race track, on the street and on the No 1 bus.”

Jersey plane

Pictured: "It's a proud country," Mr Parker said about Jersey.

“It’s not just a coastal town or a collection of villages that you might find in England or France. It’s a proud country – and that’s what makes it different, exciting and like no other place. And it’s that uniqueness that makes it such a great job to be Head of its Public Service.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Mr Parker reflected on the continued challenges in modernising the government, which were amplified a historic lack of investment in HR, with less than 2% of employee payroll costs spent on HR in comparison with the UK benchmark of 3-5%.

"...We need proper investment in our people. Our corporate training budget currently equates to an average of just £10 per employee per year. And while some employees will get training costing £1,000 or more, many will get none at all – for years at a time," he noted.

The Chief Executive also explained the necessity for better succession planning within government, with hundreds of public sector employees due to retire in the coming years.

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Pictured: The Chief Executive says that 'Team Jersey' training is helping to develop public sector workers' leadership skills.

"Nearly 13% of the workforce are over 60 – that’s almost a thousand people – but there’s no plan for how we’re going to replace them. In fact, over the next few years, our biggest challenge will not be how we exit employees because of change, but what are our succession plans for the hundreds who are due to retire – in the face of a highly-competitive jobs market, in an Island with virtually full employment – and without getting into an inflationary wage spiral when competing with jobs in the financial services sector."

Part of that planning for the future, he said, involves the Team Jersey programme, being delivered as part of a £3.5m contract with UK consultants TDP development.

According to the Chief Executive, it involves five modules aimed at developing leadership skills, "covering issues such as having crucial conversations, leading organisational change and building high-performing teams".

In the process, he said the training should teach them to "take calculated risks, and learn from their mistakes".

"This is essential if you’re going to deliver real behaviour and cultural change throughout our public services and it takes time for the benefits to be fully realised," he added.

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