And that the consensus view of those individuals exerts ultimate control over what happens on our island and to our community.
To use a business analogy; people assume Deputies are like Directors of a company. They determine the strategic direction for the company but also responsible for managing the daily running of the business, overseeing the delivery of the company’s products or services for the ultimate benefit of the shareholders (our community).
senior civil servants run Guernsey
Most people are under the illusion that this is the way that the States operates, but this could not be further from the truth.
The reality is senior civil servants run Guernsey and consider Deputies a necessary inconvenience until there is a major operational failure when Deputies become convenient ‘scapegoats’ while civil servants avoid accountability.
When elected Deputies are told, the Civil Service controls all operational matters. That Deputies are responsible for making policy decisions and must not interfere with operation matters.
Superficially, this may seem a workable arrangement, but in reality, it is not. Senior civil servants can and do unduly influence policy decision and Deputies are often held accountable for operational failures they have no control over, while civil service management avoids accountability.
To use a tragic example; after the deaths of two babies in the Princess Elizabeth Hospital in 2014, all members of the Health committee resigned, despite the failures being due to purely operational failures, not their policy decisions. A subsequent investigation blamed the ‘Guernsey way’ of doing things had contributed to the deaths and resulted in two midwives being struck off. However, I am not aware of any firing the senior or middle management over this, despite them having allowed the ‘Guernsey way’ to exist. A hugely complex and overbearing senior and middle management structure which is in desperate need of reform with one nurse complaining that she reports to five separate managers and that this is not unusual.
Some of the ways the senior civil servant’s influence policy is by controlling the flow of information to Deputies and burying Deputies in paper, to the extent that it is impossible to read thoroughly, digest and independently research. This prevents Deputies from being able to challenge civil service recommendations and make a truly informed decision.
I have either experienced or am aware of senior civil servants disparaging one Deputy to another to create dissent, interjecting in committee deliberations to influence policy votes. And using tactics which verge on coercion and bullying to push Deputies to vote for the civil servants’ preferred policies.
This was not always the case. Through successive rounds of reforms, the of Civil Service has become increasingly autonomous and less answerable to Deputies. The latest reforms which removed the Chief Secretaries from each Principle Committee and converted them into project managers. This has created a situation where committees no longer have a senior civil servant dedicated to delivering their policies, with that resources controlled by the centre.
What has effectively developed is a group of senior civil servants who are, in my opinion, unduly influencing political policies, but who are largely unaccountable to the public and their representatives, your Deputies.
To counter this and truly make the civil service more efficient and accountable we need a top-down restructuring with the Civil Service becoming much more commercial in the way it operates and senior civil servants being held fully accountable for their failures. Something that definitely does not happen now.
Undertaking this type of restructuring is a role I would happily undertake if re-elected as a Deputy.