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EXPRESS OPINION: The return of the change train

EXPRESS OPINION: The return of the change train

Thursday 23 March 2023

EXPRESS OPINION: The return of the change train

Thursday 23 March 2023

The word which was always associated with the senior levels of Jersey’s government used to be “unaccountable".

Well, it seems, not any more.

With the recent triple defenestration of the top two at Health, and yesterday, the Head of the Public Service herself, the appearance at least, is that the times they are a-changin’.

What must the many thousands of government workers be thinking this morning? For some, it will be better than streaming shows on Netflix. There’s nothing like internal gossip, intrigue and a dose of the long knives to brighten up the day. 

For the senior few, it is an opportunity. Will it mean that the colonial conveyor belt of senior appointees arriving off the production line from the upper echelons of UK government is disrupted, and someone who already lives in Jersey gets the chance to lead the island’s own public sector? Many would welcome that, and few would dispute that the previous appointments system hasn’t covered itself in glory. 


Pictured: Suzanne Wylie told Connect magazine that she thought the current government had hit the ground running. 

The strong rumour is already that certain local candidates now believe their time has, finally, come. 

I’ve written before about the fractured covenant between the government and governed, driven in recent years by the strong perception, evidenced by successive official reports, that while spending more, the taxpayers of the island are simply getting less.

Has the last 12 months under Suzanne Wylie delivered meaningful change? Friction between her and the Chief Minister is common currency on the gossip circuit.

In itself, it means little. There have been plenty of Chief Officers who didn’t get on with their Ministers, or earlier, Committee Presidents. 

Look beyond the words and into the actions – has the delivery actually been there in the last 12 months? Has enough been achieved? Why do we – still – not have key performance indicators for Suzanne Wylie, and was that a key factor in her departure? Yes, she has soothed some tensions after the wreck of the Parker change train; and this Council of Ministers has steadily unpicked what they saw as the mistakes of the previous regime - to the the electoral victor go the spoils. 

But right about now, the time comes to build something new in its place – to create something, and then be judged by the quality of what you have achieved. 

Which is why the timing of these major departures is fascinating. Clearly there was deep disagreement in the delivery of that phase, leading to the view that it couldn't be delivered without change at the top. What is it?

The questions for the Chief Minister’s team are mounting about the recent governmental departures, and so far, they are not being answered – to hide behind the cloak of ‘employment matters are confidential’ for much longer, when these same matters are of such immense public importance would be shameful, and should remove the words ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ from their lexicon for the rest of this term of office.


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