Visit Jersey’s board has defended the salaries of its members after the States’ spending watchdog said they were “high” at nearly three times the daily rate of some NHS Trust directors.
The comments from Comptroller and Auditor General Karen McConnell came in a report published this morning calling for greater oversight of the taxpayer-funded body's operation and performance.
Visit Jersey was set up in 2015 to promote tourism to and within Jersey in an innovative way, and receives a grant of £5million from the States each year to do so.
But Ms McConnell expressed concern in her report that it was not clear whether the island was getting “value for money” from this investment or not.
Pictured: Karen McConnell, the Comptroller and Auditor General.
She said that the States had continued to pour money into Visit Jersey each year despite it not being clearly aligned to any specific political policy. She further claimed that the targets the organisation were working to were not specific enough, noting discrepancies between two 2018 plans Visit Jersey had been working to.
The 'Destination Plan', for example, said Jersey should work to a target of 372,000 staying holiday visitors with an annual expenditure of £281million, while the ‘Business Plan and Partnership Agreement’ stated that they were seeking a total of 429,700 visitors, with expenditure of £256.5million.
She further noted that the expected return from the States’ investment in Visit Jersey - £5 for every £1 of taxpayer grant funding – was far less than the £20 to £1 ratio that Visit Britain were working under.
Ms McConnell also highlighted that there was “inadequate documented evidence” to suggest that each board member was giving “adequate time to their duties” and had the “appropriate mix of skills to deliver” Visit Jersey’s objectives, despite receiving large pay packets for their work.
She wrote: “The level of remuneration for Non-Executive Directors appears high. At £1,000 per day it compares very favourably with the remuneration of Non Executive Directors of NHS Trusts in England who receive less than £350 per day. At £12,000 per annum, the remuneration of Visit Jersey Non Executive Directors exceeds that of VisitBritain Board members; the remuneration of the Chief Executive is not supported by a formal job evaluation; and employees participate in a bonus scheme linked to attainment of individual and corporate targets.”
Pictured: Kevin Keen, Chairman of Visit Jersey's board.
She recommended that there should be a “formal job evaluation exercise prior to the recruitment of the next Chief Executive”.
Chairman of Visit Jersey, Kevin Keen, told Express that the board were disappointed and somewhat “hurt” by the findings of the report, which he felt didn’t reflect the amount of work that was being put in behind the scenes to stimulate Jersey’s tourism sector.
“The board do a great job and work very hard,” he said, adding: “No one signed up to do it for the money, they did it because tourism is important and they want to help the island.”
He explained that the salaries set for directors had not changed – save two minor exceptions – since Visit Jersey was set up and that they had always been transparent, published in the body’s annual reports. Mr Keen added that these salaries had been set at the time through “comparisons with Jersey organisations”.
While board members are contracted to do a minimum amount of working days for Visit Jersey, he said that they often “work more than the allocated days” and would help in finding solutions to problems beyond their remit. “If they need HR advice, or finance or from a property perspective”, he said that the non-executive directors would “often” step in to help. “We all put a lot of time in.”
Pictured: Keith Beecham, CEO of Visit Jersey.
However, he admitted that it was “important to be held to account” and welcomed the findings of the Comptroller. “Our take is that we’re always ready to receive feedback and improve.”
Responding to Ms McConnell’s findings on Visit Jersey’s strategy and performance, CEO Keith Beecham, added: “The Jersey Destination Plan published in 2015 set out an ambition for our tourism sector. Visit Jersey then agreed annual business plans with the States. The KPIs in the business plan, agreed with government, are then reported in our annual reports publicly available online. Later this month a refreshed Destination Plan will be published and we look forward to working with the States to ensure Visit Jersey’s targets contribute and align to the States new Strategic Plan.
“We note Visit Jersey’s arrangements for corporate governance and performance are recognised for being generally well developed. Visit Jersey is keen to learn and is always looking to improve and we welcome this report.”
Commenting on her report, Ms McConnell said: “Best value for money for the Island is secured when the States have clear objectives and link funding to the achievement of measurable outcomes. This demands rigour in monitoring delivery and a constructive partnership approach with a well-governed ALO.”
She added that, as the States develop their Target Operating Model – a framework on how the government should be ideally run, which is being developed as part of the wider public sector reform programme – there would be an opportunity to “strengthen” their approach to working with ALOs like Visit Jersey.
You can read the full report here.
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