States outsourcing their responsibilities yet again

Voices | Published:

WHILE last week’s bad weather led inevitably to disruption to sea and air travel in and out of here, not to mention a few scary moments on the Island’s roads – principally because most of us are not used to such conditions – it will come as no surprise to long-suffering taxpayers that the public sector gravy train from London Gatwick and all points of the compass from there is operating unhindered.


I gleaned part of this information from an advertisement in this newspaper for something called an Information Commissioner – a high-falutin title seemingly created for the replacement for Emma Martins, who until recently was head honcho (and a pretty good one at that, by all accounts) at Data Protection.

True to form, and I’ve had a go about this on many occasions over the years, there seems to be no one here among our highly paid, highly qualified – not to mention assisted by multiple teams of imported consultants – senior civil servants who is capable of sifting through the applicants for this position, drawing up a short list, identifying an appropriate selection board and setting up whatever other machinery is needed to recruit someone.

Instead, no doubt at considerable expense, for these things are never cheap, this laziness or downright incompetence has yet again led to the appointment of a London-based recruitment agency whose staff know so much about the place for which they are working that on their website they describe Jersey as being in the United Kingdom.

I’ve learned, since Herself did me an idiot’s guide to finding my way around them, that once into those websites it’s sometimes possible to learn a great deal about what’s going on over here. After all, a veritable army of spin doctors and nurses now employed by taxpayers has managed successfully to teach those in the upper echelons of power the art of turning bovine manure into… well, bovine manure bereft of any information.

For example, in the job opportunities listed by this recruitment outfit for ‘Jersey UK’, I learned that there are vacancies for not one but two deputy directors of international taxes, each of which carry the not inconsiderable salary of something around £110,000 – in language most of us understand that’s in the order of £2,115 in nice crisp notes dished out by the States Treasury every Friday lunchtime. No wonder people like me call this process the gravy train.

Sadly, those of us who live here and have only just learned about these nice little earners at the Taxes Office won’t get the opportunity to get their snouts in this particular trough, for the applications closed at the end of last month. Still, we can sleep easy in the knowledge that while local people with queries about their tax affairs have more chance of crossing Victoria Avenue safely with both legs down the same trouser leg than they have of seeing anyone at Income Tax within a reasonable period of time – and this is not a criticism of those hard-working civil servants at the coalface who are rushed off their feet because of diminishing resources, among other things – it’s no expense spared when it comes to a couple of new positions for international taxes.

In that context, a word in the shell-likes of head honcho Charlie Parker and his disciples – there’s a limit to how much and how often you can mess staff about without some sort of backlash, so be careful how you go.

AND finally… What a wonderful letter last week from former meteorologists Jennie Holley and Frank Le Blancq drawing our attention to yet another instance of that lot in the Big House and their expensive hired help seemingly accepting without question what these two respected professionals tell us is a substandard report on sea level coastal conditions and climate review. It cost £28,000, was written by someone with a doctorate, and – according to its two critics – is littered with elementary mistakes, including describing the Big House as the ‘state of Jersey’ and placing St Helier somewhere on the Island’s south-west coast.

As Ms Holley and Mr Le Blancq point out, the report is intended to form the basis of some important policy decisions and to a simple country boy like me it beggars belief – yet, sadly, it comes as no real surprise – that it appears to have been accepted in its current form by Environment and Infrastructure. It speaks volumes for the standards departments set themselves.


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