Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Quango Remuneration and Honorary Service

Quango Remuneration and Honorary Service

"Our reluctance to engage in moral and spiritual argument, together with our embrace of markets, has exacted a heavy price: it has drained public discourse of moral and civic energy, and contributed to the technocratic, managerial politics afflicting many societies today." (Michael Sandel)

"Obviously that is the key with patronage—the message it sends to the electorate about their participation in the process is wholly negative. It is saying, 'We do not really care what you think. We are going to put these people in, we know and we trust them, we do not care if you trust them or not… they are going to be people we know from our professional circle'" (Billy Bragg)

There are those who are eminently skilled professionals who give certainly more that 15 days of their time per annum to honorary positions, whether in charities or in the Parishes as (for example) Procureur du Bien Public. 

A Procureur du Bien Public (French = attorney of the public good) is the legal and financial representative of a parish in Jersey. Procureurs are elected for a term of three years. There are two Procureurs for each Parish and their duty is to act as public trustees, maintaining an oversight of Parish finances and represent the Parish along with the Connétable in respect of property transactions of the Parish (if so authorised by a vote of the Parish Assembly).

Even those who have had to pick up skills – and they are considerable skills – to do the job of a Centenier have to give many days of their time to reviewing case notes, deciding whether there is evidence to change, and presenting a case in court.

No one has suggested that these positions should be paid in order to attract the right calibre of individuals. They already attract the right calibre of individuals: people who have a public service ethos, who believe passionately that part of citizenship involves giving something back to the Island.

And yet when it comes to non-executive directors of Quangos, there seems to be a scarcity of skilled people with the time to give 15 days a year – without being paid.

The Housing Shadow Board includes Frank Walker, former Senator and Chief Minister as a non-executive director. He gets £15,000 for 20 days’ commitment per annum. The blurb states:

“The proposed remuneration levels are regarded as appropriate, given the size of the new Company’s property portfolio and responsibilities, and also the need to attract the right calibre of individuals to the roles. The remuneration is broadly in line with other comparable organisations.”

That paragraph above sounds as it is was phrased by Sir Humphrey Appleby in “Yes Minister”.

So much for Jersey’s fine tradition of honorary service – a retired Chief Minister gets paid for 20 days work! Can’t we find the right calibre of people who believe in a public service ethos, who believe that they have a duty as citizens to give something back to the Island?

After all, as Michael Sandel points out, we draft” jurors rather than hire them because we believe it is a civic duty for them to serve, among other reasons. Those who stand for Procureur du Bien Public, or Centenier, however, do so voluntarily out of a sense of public duty.

But with Quangos, the notion of civic duty seems to be lost, and indeed never to have been present. There is no historical tradition of giving time, as people do with the Parishes and with charitable organisations, but instead people of the right calibre – who clearly need money or they won't do the job – are chosen. It is a subversion of the notion of civic duty, the idea that we have to pay people to serve as non-executive directors on NGOs whose purpose is to support the States and people of Jersey.

Whereas the traditions of honorary service have been retained in the Parishes, market thinking dominates Quangos. As Julian Baggini notes, “The harm is cumulative: the more market thinking comes to dominate life, the more it infects our ways of thinking, crowding out values such as loyalty, civic duty and altruism.” And as Sandel observes, “Cash incentives can crowd out higher motivations like civic duty”

Recently in the States, yet another two came up. This happened with the non-executive directors of the States of Jersey Development Company Limited. The current holders are Ms Ann Santry and Mr Paul Masterton, and as they are reaching the end of their 3 year term, it is proposed that they are re-appointed for another three years.

Notice how these posts do not go out to tender. They are not advertised. The same names are simply picked to carry on. One has to go to a vote, but one is simply in the gift of Treasury Minister Alan Maclean.

The remuneration levels for the Non-Executive Directors of the States of Jersey Development Company are set as follows –  Non-Executive Directors – £15,000 for 15 days’ commitment per annum.

Ann Santry is also Chief Executive of Sovereign Housing Association, In 2012/2013 her pay was, £180,000 per annum. For 2013/2014 it had crept up to £182,000 – these, by the way, are all figures in the public domain.

You might suppose that someone with 15 days to spare could also spare the time to give a small part of their service in an honorary capacity, but apparently not!

Michael Sandel said: “A new politics of the common good isn’t only about finding more scrupulous politicians. It also requires a more demanding idea of what it means to be a citizen, and it requires a more robust public discourse - one that engages more directly with moral and even spiritual questions.”

Whether we will have a robust public discourse remains to be seen, but I flag this up as something to consider. Should a public appointment be part of an individual's civic duty? Would a system similar to jury service or alternatively honorary service be fair?

Incidentally, the States voted 31 to 5 in support of the proposition. That is perhaps an improvement; five years ago, it would have been carried on a standing vote. I'm not saying that perhaps these posts should not be paid, but all I am doing is saying that this is a discussion which simply has not happened, and I think needs to happen. Certainly the notion that you have to pay to attract people of the right calibre is something which runs counter to the honorable tradition of civic duty, and whether we shouldn't be opening up the "Patronage State".


James said...

No one has suggested that these positions should be paid in order to attract the right calibre of individuals.

Then let me be the first to do so.

Firstly, because you know as well as I do that the Municipality is a vanishingly small and self-regarding clique. Your Procureur du Bien Public at St Brelade was elected on a 0.04% turnout. Add to that the attitudes of the Stan Le Cornus of this world (not selection on merit, but on the basis of whether the great and good think your face fits - "what we call the Jersey Way"), and you have a recipe for poor government.

Secondly: if you really can't get enough people to run a credible police service in St Saviour, the island's second largest parish, then it is time that the post was professionalised. The simplest way to do that is to drag Jersey out of the middle ages and put policing into the hands of people who are trained to do it, the same as has occurred in every other part of the civilised world.

Thirdly, the constables are being paid £40000+ a year to sit in the States - not because they are elected to do so, but as ex officio members. Most of them treat the States as a necessary evil: their contribution is minimal. How is this any different from paying Frank Walker for his time?

TonyTheProf said...

"Your Procureur du Bien Public at St Brelade was elected on a 0.04% turnout."

Yes, but it was an election. The public had a say, and it was in fact contested. No one has a say with Quangoes.

"self-regarding clique"

Not the Centeniers or former Centeniers I've met. May be true in smaller rural Parishes but in St Brelade they take what they do very seriously.

"policing into the hands of people who are trained to do it"

Clearly you have no idea of the training (and training courses) that are now involved, which is nothing like say it was 30 or 40 years ago.

"if you really can't get enough people to run a credible police service in St Saviour"

I can't comment on that other than to say it is more to do with a clash of personalities than lack of volunteers.

"Most of them treat the States as a necessary evil"

I've been impressed with Steve Pallett, John Refault, Chris Taylor even if I don't always agree with them, and I know for a fact that they work hard in the States as well as in the Parishes.

TonyTheProf said...

"self-regarding clique"

That would seem to apply just as much to the same names which crop up time and again on States Quangoes.

Unknown said...

You make a good point, but the latest revelation that SDC can keep information from ministers and elected members of the Jersey Government while managing millions of pounds of publicly owned assets is nothing short of a scandal. Amongest this portfolio one was under the impression that they had overall control of the Liberation buildings ? It is not clear if they are being sold freehold for £70 million or like Radisons the land is under a one hundred and fifty year lease ?

What is also close to unbelievable is that ex politicians and civil servants, like John Mills, Frank Walker et al after being involved in Government now sit on paid Quango's. Completely conflicted and unacceptable.