Thursday, 13 August 2009

When is fair criticism bullying?

The recent news has had a letter from Terry Le Sueur about Stuart Syvret. It deals with complaints of bullying:

Dear Senator Syvret

I am writing to advise you that the States Employment Board has received a letter from the Health and Safety Inspectorate advising that they have received a complaint that States employees are allegedly being bullied by an external party during the course of their duties. I enclose a copy of the letter.

Although the letter talks in general terms, I regret to say that a visit to the Human Resources Department by the author of the letter has confirmed that the external party is you.

Now I am inclined to the belief that Senator Syvret uses intemperate language on his blog, but his blog is an area for free speech and fair comment. If, however, any of his disclosures would be deemed to be libelous, then it seems to me that the courts would be the proper place for this. He is no longer involved with any States departments, and as far as I am aware, has not been sending emails to them since losing the position of Minister for Health and Social Services. As far as I can tell, the only source of the complaint is the blog postings, which is not directly impinging on States employees in any other way apart from a possible libel.

Therefore, if action is taken to prevent his online critique of States Members, it seems likely that it might have far reaching implications about free speech in Jersey in general, and it is therefore pertinent to ask: if it is deemed bullying to comment online in any critical way of civil servants, what recourse is going to be made where this kind of critique originates outside of Jersey? Whatever report is made, it must provide a cast-iron boundary between bullying and criticism, otherwise it is a direct violation of the right to freedom of speech under the European Convention on Human Rights (of which Jersey is a signatory).

I give three examples. One is a UK parliamentary commentator who turned his eye briefly to Jersey, another is a general UK blog on miscellaneous issues, and the last  is an online newspaper archive. The people critiqued are, respectively, Mike Pollard, Bill Ogley and David Warcup.

Now you've got to admit that the UK taxpayer is getting twitchy about expenses' claims. Jersey has decided to bail in and have some fun too. A review of public sector expense claims has been launched following Friday's revelations that the Chief Executive of the Department of Health had claimed for missed guitar lessons. Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf said that the review would ensure that all claims were 'appropriate'. It is understood that it will focus on the procedure used to sign off senior officers' expense claims. The Jersey Evening Post understand that such claims are approved by a Chief Officer's finance director. Questions are therefore being asked about how appropriate it is that a boss's claim is being put before one of his or her slaves. There is, at this stage, officially no suggestion that Health chief Mike Pollard, who earns in exc ess of £150,000 a year, broke any rules or guidelines in claiming for his lessons. States Chief Executive Bill Ogley (him of the mugshot) said that he was confident his senior colleagues would be shown to have behaved properly. That of course gets him not randomly sacked for nicking loopaper or something as an excuse to clear his chair for somebody slightly less politically switched on.

As one dissident Jersey politician who wished to remain nameless said to me when we huddled together one lunch time in a cramped St Helier cafe, you might have thought Jersey - its politicians and civil servants, its police force, its tourist industry - had something to celebrate when the police concluded that there had been no murders at Haut de la Garenne, the now-notorious children's home. That morning, while Harper's work was being traduced in front of the press, Power had gone to a meeting with the then Jersey States home-affairs minister, Andrew Lewis. The chief executive, Bill Ogley, was also there and took notes. Notes he later admitted he had destroyed. Power had been summoned to the meeting in a call by Lewis the previous evening, without being given any idea what the theme of the meeting would be. He was told that the Jersey Council of Ministers - the equivalent of the cabinet - had been briefed by his own police colleagues the night before and the content of the briefing had been so bad they had no option but to suspend him. The officers who had given ministers the briefing were the same two officers who were just then delivering the stinging judgment on Harper to the media.

POLICE chief has come under fire after it was revealed he retired with a £300,000 lump sum . . . and walked straight into another top job. David Warcup was deputy chief constable of Northumbria Police before he retired earlier this year at the age of 50. He has since taken over as deputy chief constable in Jersey, where his role includes heading a high-profile investigation into alleged abuse at a children's home. Mr Warcup is in line to become the island's chief constable in just over a year. But it has been revealed that he has received a lump sum of around £300,000 from Northumbria Police. Mr Warcup is also receiving £60,000 a year from his old force as part of his retirement package. The pension - which lasts for the rest of his life - represents half of the £120,000-a-year he received from Northumbria. It is being paid on top of the £100,000-a-year he receives from the States of Jersey Police. Due to the fact that the island is a tax-haven, he only pays 20 per cent on his Jersey police salary. In the year before he retired, Mr Warcup also received an undisclosed share of a £47,000 bonus split between Northumbria's five chief officers. Mr Warcup has done nothing wrong and both Northumbria and Jersey police have defended the deal. But Mark Wallace of the Taxpayers' Alliance said: "While nothing illegal has gone on, this case highlights the divide between people who enjoy high-end public sector pensions and the taxpayers who fund them. "For most of us, it's impossible to imagine retiring at 50 with a £300,000 lump sum plus £60,000 a year. "Mr Warcup's front-line officers were told there wasn't enough money for them to get a small pay rise, so it's shocking that senior officers are picking up such massive early retirement deals."

1 comment:

Nancy said...

How dare Terry Le Sueur presume to use taxpayers' money to fund this preposterous 'investigation' into 'bullying'. These civil servants seem all too happy to accept top jobs and wallow in the kudos and over-inflated pay but when it comes to accepting responsibility and taking the flak if they don't do their jobs properly they start whining and bleating. Pathetic! Get real the lot of you, less of the 'make the nasty man stop saying bad things' nonsense and start being accountable for your actions, if you're not up to the job then own up and butt out, end of!