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FOCUS: The key moments in a year leading Jersey's public service

FOCUS: The key moments in a year leading Jersey's public service

Thursday 23 March 2023

FOCUS: The key moments in a year leading Jersey's public service

Thursday 23 March 2023


From heading up the creation of a Cabinet Office to commissioning an investigation into alleged bullying within the Health Department...after the shock resignation of Government CEO Suzanne Wylie yesterday, Express explores her appointment and the key moments from her year in Jersey.

Suzanne Wiley began her career in public service in Belfast, where she worked for nearly 34 years, starting out as the Environmental Health Officer.

In Belfast she worked in health promotion, urban regeneration, policy development, and front line customer services, all in the community where she grew up.

For her last eight years in Belfast, she was the CEO of Belfast City Council. In the role, she was held accountable by a 60-member council, representaing eight political parties across 10 electoral zones.

Belfast.jpg

Pictured: Suzanne Wylie worked in public service in Belfast for 34 years before her move to Jersey. 

She led the organisation through a major reform programme which resulted in the local authority leading a long-term multi-agency plan for the City, investing in community and economic assets, rolling out significant regeneration schemes, raising the city’s international profile and developing programmes to address skills shortages, health and educational inequalities.

In June 2022, she received an OBE as part of the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to local government in Northern Ireland.  

Appointment to Government CEO 

She took over as Government CEO from Interim Chief Executive Paul Martin - who stepped up in the wake of former CEO Charlie Parker's second job scandal.

In the search for a successor, almost 70 applications were considered. Of these appointments, seven were invited to a final interview. Six were from off-island and one on-island. Four were men and three were women.

Paul Martin

Pictured: Suzanne Wiley took over from the Former Government Chief Executive, Paul Martin. 

Mrs Wylie - who moved to the island with her husband and two dogs - accepted the £250,000-a-year role in September 2021 and officially started on 1 February 2022.

A "surprise" move 

At the time of her departure from Belfast City Council, the Belfast Times reported that “a move to the Channel Islands will surprise even her closest colleagues who expected her to remain in Northern Ireland.”

The paper’s Political Correspondent Suzanne Breen, who wrote the story, told Express that Ms Wylie had a reputation for being hard-working, popular, polite, level-headed and calm. However, she has survived 30 years in Northern Ireland politics so was not someone to be underestimated.

“In her seven years in charge, she has successfully balanced the unionist and nationalist interests of the council, which is a significant achievement in itself."

Jersey plane

Pictured: “A move to the Channel Islands will surprise even her closest colleagues who expected her to remain in Northern Ireland.”

In an Express Interview in February 2022, Mrs Wiley stated that she chose to take up the role in Jersey due to the "scale, and breadth, of the role" as well as "the fact that Jersey is a unique place with a real pride in its culture, way of life, and wonderful heritage." 

She also added that Jersey and Belfast has a number of similarities. Specifically, Mrs mentioned: "Northern Ireland has a very distinct identity which is hugely important to its people. It's geography also leads to skills and labour shortages in key sectors, and issues with retention of young people." 

John Le Fondré.jpg

Pictured: Then-Chief Minister John Le Fondré said Suzanne Wiley would be "crucial for Jersey as we accelerate out of the pandemic." 

The then-Chief Minister, Senator John Le Fondré, said at the time of her appointment: "Suzanne has proven success in tackling inequalities and encouraging community cohesion, which will be crucial for Jersey as we accelerate out of the pandemic in a way that puts children first and improves standards of living for everyone."

The Cabinet Office

Once in the role, Mrs Wylie found herself leading the creation of the new Cabinet Office - one of the key tenets of the Chief Minister's '100-day plan' - which brought together the Office of the Chief Executive (OCE), the Chief Operating Office (COO), and Strategic Policy, Planning and Performance (SPPP) into a combined department with a new leadership team.

The Cabinet Office was set up in an effort to roll back the 'OneGov' reforms made under Charlie Parker, which a review claimed resulted in "an imbalance of power between the Chief Executive/Civil Service" and politicians, leading to a "lack of political accountability for decisions".

Charlie_Parker.jpg

Pictured: The Cabinet Office was set up in a move to roll back the "OneGov" reforms made under former Chief Executive Charlie Parker. 

Mrs Wiley told Express: "Setting up a Cabinet Office is all about providing that right level of support to Ministers, and helping them to make decisions improving governance. It's also about ensuring that… services work more effectively together, and we're much more joined up, so things that fall across different departments actually get delivered and solved."

Alleged Health bullying investigation

 In October 2022, Mrs Wylie commissioned a review into allegations of bullying at the General Hospital. An anonymous letter claimed that bullying, collusion and mismanagement "brought out hospital to its knees and literally to the point of complete collapse." 

The letter included allegations of bullying of doctors and the appointment of “incompetent” specialists.

The review was completed in January, and Mrs Wiley announced that some incidents would be investigated further. Just last week, it was announced that the Director General of Health and the island's Chief Nurse will be stepping down at the end of the month. 

hospital.jpeg

Pictured: In October 2022, Suzanne Wylie commissioned a review into allegations of bullying at the Hospital, which was completed in January. 

Any sign of a KPI?

In March 2023, the Chief Minister admitted to States Members that no performance metrics had been finalised for Chief Executive Suzanne Wylie in spite of a government pledge to complete the task by the end of February. 

Mrs Wylie said at the hearing on 1 February: “All ministers have made it really clear what their expectations are from me in terms of running the public services, but also in terms of delivering on the priorities they set.

“In terms of tracking that to KPIs, that is still a work in progress and will be completed by the end of this month.”

Kristina Moore.jpg

Pictured: In March 2023, the Chief Minister admitted to States Members that no performance metrics had been finalised for Suzanne Wiley. 

Deputy Lyndsay Feltham, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said her committee had been “surprised and concerned” to learn from Mrs Wylie at a hearing at the start of February that her KPIs were not finalised, in spite of her having been in post for a year.

A twilight market?

In October 2022, Mrs Wiley announced her support for turning the Central Market into a 'twilight market' once a month, stating that it would bring investment into town, citing the success of such markets in Belfast.

At a Jersey Hospitality Association lunch event, she said: "This might [be] slightly controversial but just imagine our beautiful market in the middle of Jersey – having a twilight market on Thursday night, once a month. That happened in Belfast and I can tell you they just put up a few fairy lights and had a bit of music. 

Wylie_Hospitality.jpeg

Pictured: In October 2022, Mrs Wiley announced her support for turning the Central Market into a 'twilight market'.

"The queues [went] round the market about three or four times.

She added: "Just imagine what that might do to the streets around the market – can’t you imagine that would bring more investment, potentially, to the area? Can’t you imagine maybe closing off the street for night time, putting a few tables and chairs out and making it a real place, put a bit of lighting up and create a bit of music."

A strategy for the future use of the Central Market - which it's understood Mrs Wylie has fed into - is currently being developed and expected to be published in the coming months.

Ahead of that, the Central Market will this week be opening late for the first time in a trial with three restaurants taking part.

What's next? 

In light of her resignation, after little over a year in office, Mrs Wylie will be retuning to Northern Ireland to take up the role of CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber of commerce, after the previous CEO Ann McGregor announced she was stepping back after 15 years at the helm. 

President of the NI Chamber, Gillian McAuley, told the Belfast Telegraph today: "We are delighted that Suzanne, with all her extensive experience and expertise, will be our new chief executive.

"Under Suzanne’s leadership, NI Chamber will continue to work with businesses across all sectors to give voice to their issues and to promote sustained economic growth in Northern Ireland." 

READ MORE...

Gov in crisis as CEO Suzanne Wylie resigns

FOCUS: Four CEOs in just over five years... a tale of controversy

UNPLUGGED: Wylie, in her own words...

Is it time for a joint Jersey and Guernsey CEO?

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