'Dragging things out won't help': Consultant worries that cost-cutting suggestions may be ignored
A BUSINESSMAN tasked with finding £12m of savings in the public sector has left his post – and fears his work may come to nothing.
Kevin Keen, who walked away from his advisory role at the end of last week, says that he has now done as much as he can as a consultant and that it is now down to States officers to see the plans through.
But Mr Keen, who was paid a fee of £650 a day, has expressed concern over whether his recommendations will be implemented and has questioned whether States officers are motivated to see the changes through.
He said that initially there had seemed to be a 'real urgency' in the public sector reform programme – something he had advocated for many years as the former president of the Jersey Chamber of Commerce – but subsequently it had become 'buried in paperwork'.
- Educated at St Helier Boys School
- Trained at accountancy firm Alex Picot
- Joined Le Riches in 1985 as an accountant, worked up to finance director and then head of supermarket business.
- Moved to Jersey Dairy in 2003
- Interim chief executive of Visit Jersey between 2014 and 2015
- Joined Jersey Post as chief executive in 2011
- Finance director of the Jersey Battle of Flowers since 2007
- Married 32 years, to Christine and has three grown-up daughters
- Non-work interests old motorcycles and cars
Mr Keen also warns that the unions – who organised a protest rally at the weekend – should work with the public sector and 'sit down and have a conversation', or ordinary taxpayers will have to foot the bill.
Mr Keen was appointed as a consultant in February to work with Sir David Henshaw and Elizabeth Astall in finding £12m of efficiencies as part of the drive by the Council of Ministers to avoid a structural deficit by 2019.
Seven months on, having completed a number of reports and proffered his advice, he believes there is little more he can add. 'I can only provide advice, which is a bit frustrating,' said the former head of Jersey Dairy and Jersey Post.
'This is not a massive bust-up or walk-out. I started out wanting to make a difference, but what I have learned is that doing pieces of work is not the same as implementing it. In the past, I've presented reports to the board and I've been the one to take action, but here, potentially, that work could be going nowhere.
'I was only there as an adviser, but I'm not a good consultant – I'm used to doing stuff, rather than writing about it.
'Basically, I did not think I was adding anything new, sitting there writing reports – I don't want it to be yet another report like the ones produced about Fort Regent. And other jobs were coming up elsewhere.'
Asked about the union protest rally which took place at the weekend, Mr Keen said it was 'not really a surprise'.
'There are over 7,000 people employed in the public sector, so you would expect some to be unhappy about not getting a pay rise, but that is not realistic when the private sector have not had a pay rise for a long time and inflation has been low.
'The States have said that they want to protect front-line roles and so far there has only been voluntary redundancy, so the people who are going are the ones who want to go. The unions have to sit down and have a conversation to work out how best to do things, otherwise it will be the normal taxpayers who will have to pay.
'The other thing is that they have to make sure that the pain is shared across everyone, not just the public sector, not just the pensioners. I personally would not mind paying more tax – but not until the public sector has done everything possible to become more efficient.'
He said that the States was a 'very complex' organisation, with a wage bill of over £368 million in 2014, £126m of which was paid to civil servants – an increase of over £7m on the previous year. 'The manual workers account for only about ten per cent of the total,' he said.
Asked whether his advice had been taken, he said: 'I'd give myself nine for effort and quite low for results. I have to say it was not the most satisfying piece of work I've ever done. Nobody refused to provide information and they all care about what they are doing, but it's difficult when it's about people's jobs and dragging things out won't help.
'The States has numerous departments, each with its own chief officer and minister, still wanting to do their own thing.
'I do think that the Council of Ministers are trying to do their bit. It is up to their officers to support them to deliver it in a fair way.
'There is a need for everyone to work together to find the best answer,' he said.
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