Wednesday, 22 April 2009

States Members Remuneration

An argument which was deployed recently in the debate on GST was about the changing economic circumstances of the world since GST was introduced. A common theme amongst people who voted against exemptions - but who had noted only back in November when running as Deputy that they would vote for exemptions - was that "the world had changed" with the credit crunch, and the economic recession. But that surely cuts both ways. If we have to tighten our belts, and cannot afford to remove GST because of falling States revenue - which is a fair enough argument - then surely the expenditure on States members remuneration cannot be taken for granted either. It cannot be assumed that by default the pay must rise because it always has.

Related to that is the notion of "fairness". I am sure that despite Philip Ozouf calling for a freeze in pay for public sector employees, this will somehow not apply to the proposed increase in remuneration for States members, which is really quite unjust. It is about time the States set by example, rather than by exception, and realised that the determination of their pay will certainly be scrutinised by public sector unions - and quite rightly. The notion of "fairness" is as C.S. Lewis noted in the 1940s, is very strongly rooted in people, and I think this is still so today.

Lastly, one of the other ideas is that Ministers should have more pay than ordinary States Members. They already have more perks - Ministers have their own free blackberry mobile phones while in office. But should they have more pay? To bring a proposition to the States, the Minister has the backing of his own department, a multitude of civil servants from Chief Officer downward to advise him. They take at least some of the care, effort and time away from him, and one is hoped, stop him making mistakes. A private member bringing a proposition has to spend all, his own time researching and preparing the proposition, and does not have the backing of a large department.

To take just two recent examples. Whatever the merits of his case about the incinerator, Daniel Wimberley had to investigate and research a multitude of matters on his own, or possibly with one or two helpers, and then put it together in a coherent form. The Minister, Michael Jackson, on the contrary, had a reply prepared for him by his own department. The same happened with the proposition by Ben Shenton on Reg's Skips. Planning, and the Law Officers department both prepared replies on behalf of Freddie Cohen and Ian Le Marquand, the Ministers involved in those areas.

The argument that a Minister spends his time "running his department" is a nonsense; that is what we have Chief Officers for. Does the Health department suddenly grind to a halt when Jim Perchard resigns? Of course not! The Minister supplies oversight, decides on policy, and is the accountable face of a department to the public. But when a Minister makes his own decisions regardless of his departments advice - Guy de Faye allowing utility companies to just dig through land without the landowner's permission - they invariable come adrift. So should Ministers have more pay? Do they have more or less time for their electorate as a result of having to take time to run a department? If less, as certainly has been the case - Alistair Layzell said he thought he had spent too little time looking after the electorate in St Aubin when he lost an election, and Mike Jackson has certainly found it has taken him away more from Parish matters, and Simon Crowcroft gave up his committee when he became Constable - then it is not a case of spending more time on their department in addition to helping the electorate, but often instead of doing so; backbenchers are supplying the democratic deficiency, and if they do it well, as they often do, they deserve equal pay for doing so.

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