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A Chamber without Constables

Voices | Published:

THE election grumbling has begun.

Toby Chiang

I’ve already heard the usual comments: ‘I can’t pick eight Senatorial candidates from this lot…’ ‘...I don’t want to vote for any of the Deputies in my district…’ ‘...I didn’t have any say about who gets to be Constable…’

So what’s the solution?

First, three problems: States Members’ salary, having the Constables in the Assembly and population.

To the last first. The average constituency size in the UK is more than 70,000 and produces one MP. Parishes and parish districts – Jersey’s equivalent of constituencies – comprise a few thousand people, from which up to four representatives (five if you include Constables) must be chosen. In simple terms, our desire for quality is cursed by numbers.

So, is there a need for 49 politicians if we can’t muster a suitable number of good-quality candidates? The answer has to be no.

Why not remove the Constables from the Chamber (leaving parishes to pay their wages) and redistribute the savings to bump up the salaries of the remaining 37 politicians?

At the moment States Members’ pay is set at a level that is high enough to attract candidates who, in many cases, would not earn as much in the private sector, but too low to entice higher earners who have proved themselves elsewhere.

As for the Constables, there are two issues: firstly, in the past two elections the majority have been elected unopposed. Secondly, according to figures kept by the States, they are by far the least active Members when it comes to life in the Chamber (except for Constables Simon Crowcroft and Chris Taylor). From 2015 to 2018 eight Constables did not bring any propositions before the House and six failed to ask a single question. Five neither asked a question nor brought a proposition.

That’s fine, as running a parish is surely a full-time job, but it also says to me that their removal from the Chamber would not cause a huge difference to what goes on there. Would they be missed? Not according to those numbers.

What could removing the Constables mean for everyone else? Members are currently paid £46,600. If the States no longer paid Constables they would have an extra £559,200 to redistribute to the 37 remaining Senators and Deputies. This would take their £46,600 to just over £61,000. Would that be enough to increase the breadth and quality of candidates? Possibly. Would it also mean that the Constables could concentrate on parish affairs? Certainly.

Toby Chiang

By Toby Chiang
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