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REVEALED: The complaint which sparked the collapse of a Scrutiny Panel

REVEALED: The complaint which sparked the collapse of a Scrutiny Panel

Monday 27 February 2023

REVEALED: The complaint which sparked the collapse of a Scrutiny Panel

Monday 27 February 2023

A complaint by the Health Minister into the conduct of two members of a Scrutiny Panel has been released.

In the letter, sent to Health and Social Security Panel chair Deputy Geoff Southern, Deputy Karen Wilson accuses Deputy Barbara Ward of publicly revealing details from a behind-closed-doors briefing and Deputy Howell of displaying "clear vitriol and disrespect" towards her officers.

The fallout from the complaint has led to Deputy Southern - who agrees with the minister's concerns - facing being axed from his position as head of the panel.

Tomorrow, the Reform Jersey politician is facing a vote of no confidence brought against him by his fellow panel member Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache. Deputy Bailhache remains supportive of Deputies Ward and Howell and said that his chairman should not have requested that they resign from the panel.

The letter, released following pressure from Express and the JEP, offers an insight into the chaotic nature of some of the meetings.

In it, Deputy Wilson, discussing Deputy Howell's behaviour, said: "In meetings, both those in public and in private, Deputy Howell has not, in my view, always acted in a professional manner towards the public servants responsible for Health and Community Services."


Pictured: Deputies Barbara Ward and Andy Howell

The minister stated that following one briefing in particular - on Tuesday 2 February - she felt compelled to issue a formal complaint.

"As you know and for the sake of posterity, I requested that my Chief Officer withdraw from the meeting as I found the Deputy’s behaviour wholly inappropriate of a person holding public office, and that officers should not be subjected to what I considered to be clear vitriol and disrespect from the Deputy," the minister said.

"I consider that the Deputy’s behaviour in no way upheld the requirement to maintain the integrity of the States nor did the Deputy fulfil the requirement to promote and demonstrate leadership."

The Health Minister also accuses Deputy Ward of "drawing the panel away from its purpose" by asking questions outside the remit of the panel and states that she had been told 'albeit anecdotally' that she had been passing information received from her membership of the States Employment Board to the panel.

"I am concerned that if this were the case that the Panel would be privy to highly confidential employment information – information that I am not necessarily privy to considering the requirement in the ministerial code to avoid personal involvement in employment matters," the Health Minister said.


Pictured: The vote of no confidence is due to be debated in the States Assembly this week

Deputy Bailhache, in his no-confidence motion, defends Deputies Ward and Howell against each of the allegations made by the Health Minister. However, he claims that Deputy Southern failed to offer any backing to his panel colleagues.

The vote of no confidence added that Deputy Bailhache had asked Deputy Southern to resign from his position as chair but that the Reform Jersey Deputy had declined to do so.

The motion is due to be debated as the first item of public business during this week's States sitting, which is due to begin tomorrow.

The letter in full...


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