The Chief Minister has announced she will be taking over responsibility for Financial Services - just days after defending Deputy Philip Ozouf in the role following his third Petty Debts summons in as many months.
External Relations and now former Financial Services Minister Deputy Ozouf was called before the Petty Debts Court last Wednesday (1 February).
The summons came just days after the Chief Minister confirmed in a letter that Deputy Ozouf would be retaining the Financial Services portfolio, despite previous plans to hand this to its former holder, Treasury Minister Deputy Ian Gorst.
Amid calls for Deputy Ozouf to renounce the portfolio over reputational concerns, particularly as the key Moneyval assessment approaches, the Chief Minister backed the Minister, saying that politicians should be “judged on how they perform their official role” rather than their private lives.
However, less than a week later, Deputy Kristina Moore has now said that “Ministers must uphold and be seen to uphold the highest standards in all aspects of their lives”.
Pictured: Deputy Ozouf's listing on this week's Petty Debts hearing schedule.
She wrote to States Members last night, telling them that she had “agreed” to a written request from Deputy Ozouf to give up Financial Services.
Instead, she will be taking the reins along with three other Ministers.
In a statement sent to States Members late last night, she explained: “[Social Security Minister] Deputy Elaine Millar and [Treasury Minister] Deputy Ian Gorst will be appointed as Assistant Chief Minister’s [sic] with delegated responsibility for Financial Services will join a ministerial group with the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister [Kirsten Morel].”
She said the move will allow Deputy Ozouf “more time to focus on the important work of External Relations, where he has made a positive impact and has identified a busy agenda of work, which he will continue as the Minister.”
Deputy Moore continued: “One of the key objectives for my time as Chief Minister is to restore trust and confidence in Government. As part of this, Ministers must uphold and be seen to uphold the highest standards in all aspects of their lives.
“An important part of my role is to always act in Jersey’s best interests. Importantly, this change ensures that we have strong leadership and focused Ministerial teams for both external relations and financial services in this important year for the island.”
Former Deputy Chief Minister and current scrutineer Deputy Lyndon Farnham described the statement on Twitter as “reactive”, adding: “What a shambles.”
A reactive statement issued to States Members this evening by the Chief Minister. What a shambles. pic.twitter.com/TfQlekJIye— Dep. Lyndon Farnham (@lyndonfarnham) February 5, 2023
One Twitter user replied that it was a “pity” that Deputy Gorst wasn’t given Financial Services from the outset, going on to say: “…Perhaps it's time now to make the change that was promised.”
Another added: “[Deputy Ozouf] should not have been have been handed the Financial Services brief in the first place. A big error by [Deputy Moore] who has misjudged this matter and has shown weakness.”
Deputy Sam Mézec echoed Deputy Farnham's sentiment, describing the situation as an "omnishambles" on Twitter.
On behalf of Reform Jersey, Deputy Mézec later said in a statement: "Our financial services industry is vitally important to Jersey's economic wellbeing and the employment of many thousands of Islanders. This year the industry will be subject to an extremely important assessment from MONEYVAL, and it is essential that we have strong political leadership in place so that every effort is constantly being made to ensure that Jersey complies with all the required international standards on governance and transparency in this industry."
"By U-turning twice in just a few weeks, the Chief Minister has created political instability. Whilst last week she defended Deputy Ozouf after being summonsed to the Petty Debts Court three times in three months, saying that it had no bearing on his political position, she has changed her tune and said that standards in the private lives of ministers now matter. The statement she published this morning does not adequately address these matters and does not address whether there were concerns for Jersey's international reputation arising from this publicity."
"This episode is already likely to have undermined public trust in the government. The Chief Minister must account for these events in an open and transparent manner, to prevent developing further disillusionment."
Deputy Ozouf was summoned to the Petty Debts Court last week after St. Helier-based GP surgery Health Plus Ltd claimed that he had not paid a bill. The case was adjourned for four weeks.
The Minister had also been summoned in December over an unpaid St. Saviour Parish Rates Bill, and another of £2,500 relating to properties in Trinity - but paid both shortly before the cases reached court.
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