Source: Channel Islands – Jersey
In 2018, I agreed a set of six strategic objectives for the Chief Executive, Charlie Parker, which were also used for this report:
- deliver One Government and modernise public services
- lead organisational change and secure culture change through Team Jersey
- develop a stronger focus on customer services
- continue to build and develop good working relationships with the Council of Ministers, States Members and Scrutiny panels
- deliver effective financial, performance and business management
- promote and support the economy of Jersey both internally and externally
In addition, alongside these strategic objectives, I tasked the Chief Executive with the following key priorities to deliver in 2019:
- the Government Plan 2020-23
- establishing and making rapid progress on the new hospital project
- delivering sustainable long-term efficiencies, while ensuring that appropriate governance and checks and balances remain in place
- creating an investment vehicle for reviving our Island’s infrastructure
Timing of this statement
I regret that my statement on the Chief Executive’s performance is being published later this year than I would wish. The earliest that I should be able to conduct a performance review is following the publication of the Annual Report and Accounts in March, given that it provides a comprehensive audit of the Government’s operational and financial outcomes, which make up a significant element of the Chief Executive’s performance assessment. I would also expect to have received the report of the independent assessor by then, once he has completed the interviews he carries out with internal and external stakeholders in January and February.
This year, however, the onset of Covid-19 significantly delayed the completion of the independent assessor’s report. He was unable to interview several of the key interviewees before they became subsumed by the preparations and response to the pandemic. Moreover, I also prioritised dealing with the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, implementing emergency measures and planning for the recovery. Only after the summer break, have I been able to set aside the time to review, assess and discuss the Chief Executive’s 2019 performance and publish this statement.
Whilst this report covers the period of 2019 and doesn’t reflect the period of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is being published at a time where the work of Chief Executive and his officials have exemplified the hard work and commitment that all Islanders would hope from the civil service during a time of great hardship and worry for the Island.
The basis of the assessment
Throughout 2019, I continued to work very closely with the Chief Executive across all of these strategic and priority objectives, as well as on day-to-day issues and in dealing with the opportunities and threats that have arisen along the way. We meet several times a week in various formats, including through our weekly one-to-one meetings and as part of larger meetings, including in the Council of Ministers, in the States Employment Board, and other working groups. He has also participated alongside me and on his own at Scrutiny and PAC hearings and in other external fora.
In assessing the Chief Executive’s performance in 2019, I have examined his delivery of the objectives and priorities I have set him, but I have also drawn on my own personal observations– the quality of his advice, the soundness of his judgement, the breadth and depth of his knowledge, the speed with which he is able to grasp and analyse complex data and issues, his seemingly endless energy and effort, the courtesy and calm of his conduct and his leadership skills, not just when working with our Ministers and senior leaders, but also when engaging with colleagues of all levels.
Alongside my own observations, I have again supplemented my own assessment with evidence from a range of other sources; including the views expressed by senior colleagues during the year, from the business and financial outcomes reported in the 2019 Annual Report and Accounts and from the report of the independent assessor, Dr John Nicholson.
The 2019 Annual Report and Accounts were published in March and are available for review on gov.je and, with the agreement of the Chief Executive, Dr Nicholson’s independent report is again being published in full alongside this statement.
2019 performance assessment
In summary, my assessment is that the Chief Executive had had another successful year and once again his performance has been highly professional. The high expectations established in 2018 began to deliver fruit in 2019, with the focus moving from analysis of the organisation and its issues, to that of starting to implement new structures and ways of working
The Annual Report provides a comprehensive, audited record of public service operational outcomes under the Chief Executive’s leadership, but I will highlight several achievements against the objectives and priorities I established:
- One Government is now largely in place and, with some exceptions (such as in Justice and Home Affairs, following a change made by the States Assembly), the departmental operating models are now established. The benefits of the collaborative approach – and of also bringing almost 500 public servants together into the interim Government office in Broad Street – were not only highlighted in how the first-ever Government Plan was developed, but also in the effectiveness of the cross-government response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- The integration and co-location of customer-facing public services has proved to be effective, efficient and popular. More services are now being delivered through the Customer and Local Services Department, as well as from the first of the Closer to Home local community hubs, at Communicare in St Brelade.
- The Team Jersey programme has started to deliver a step-change in how the public service engages with its own managers and employees, and the many hundreds who participated in the programme have reported positively on what they have learned and how it makes them think. Team Jersey has also provided intensive targeted programmes in some departments, which have helped to resolve a range of organisational issues and build a consensus approach.
- The Chief Executive has developed a good strong working relationship with the Council of Ministers, both as a group and individually with Ministers and Assistant Ministers through day-to-day working. He provides calm and clear analysis and advice and he seeks to resolve issues collaboratively and always takes time to understand Ministers’ views and concerns. He has also ensured a more effective service is provided to help the Ministers and myself in carrying out our duties, through the creation of the Ministerial Support Unit. He has demonstrated consistent care and respect in his dealings with States Members and Scrutiny Panels, and ensures that they are kept informed, updated and provided with the documentation they request. It should be highlighted that the Chief Executive is not responsible for disagreements arising from political differences between States Members, Scrutiny panels and Ministers, and that his support is around the operational delivery of Government and its policies.
- Despite a forecasted financial shortfall in 2019, the Chief Executive achieved a balanced year-end budget, through improved financial management and controls and more efficient operational delivery. The earlier closure of financial accounts and better monthly financial summaries that he has established has also enabled earlier and better information to be available to assist with developing the Government Plan and for in-year financial monitoring.
- The Chief Executive worked closely with the States Employment Board in developing and approving the approach to pay negotiations and settlements in 2019, which resolved many longstanding pay anomalies (such as lower pay for nurses and manual workers against civil servants for work of equal value), securing negotiated settlements for 2018-20 with all pay groups except civil servants.
- The Chief Executive has assisted Ministers in implementing initiatives to promote and support Jersey’s economy, as well as planning for the future by initiating work on a future economic framework – which enabled Jersey to respond fast and decisively to the economic impacts of Covid-19 in 2020.
- The Chief Executive coordinated the development of the Government Plan 2020-23, which provided a clear and understandable roadmap for the Government’s priorities and actions in 2020 and beyond. While the Covid-19 pandemic has meant a rapid review of the timing of delivery of many of these priorities, and the mechanisms for funding them and the emergency, the work that underpins the Government Plan was rigorous and has proved invaluable in planning the recovery.
- Following the closure of the Future Hospital project, the Chief Executive worked closely with me to develop the new Our Hospital project, establish the governance forums and processes, and ensure that the project has access to the skills and funding it needs. The project made rapid progress from its initiation in summer 2019, and the Deputy Chief Minister published several reports during the year explaining its actions and plans. The project has since moved forward considerably in 2020.
- The Chief Executive also launched a project in 2019 to design and deliver a new permanent building for our public service, bringing many more colleagues together and closing buildings which can be made available for redevelopment and sale.
- As part of the Government Plan, the Chief Executive initiated a review of efficiencies, both within every department and across the public service as a whole. As a result, the Efficiencies Plan, which formed a part of the Final Government Plan, identified the first £40 million of sustainable efficiencies to be delivered in 2020, from an ambition of £100 million over four years. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to affect how those efficiencies are delivered in 2020, and this will be considered in the Chief Executive’s 2020 performance appraisal.
- Jersey’s long-term infrastructure investment will remain underfunded while the financial approach remains that all money for a capital project must be raised and ringfenced before any work can proceed. The Chief Executive has developed proposals for the future funding of our Island’s infrastructure which will enable investment to be accelerated. Details about these proposals, have been delayed as a result of the Pandemic but, will form part of our long-term arrangements to rebuild our finances and maintain investment in long term Infrastructure initiatives.
On each of the objectives and priorities, there is ample evidence that the Chief Executive has made significant and demonstrable progress and that the public service is working well and continuing to improve and modernise under his leadership throughout the year. Many of the uncertainties and disagreements that were evident in 2018 dissipated in 2019, as components of modernisation were completed, more legacy issues were resolved, the new senior leadership team was fully embedded and effective, and internal and external scepticism about his plans gave way to increasing recognition of his achievements.
The independent assessor’s report
The independent assessor provides a separate assessment of the Chief Executive’s performance, based on comments drawn from his interviews with internal and external stakeholders. This too is overwhelmingly positive, and I am pleased to read that the areas for possible improvement highlighted in the 2018 report are ones in which progress is noted.
The primary area for improvement that Dr Nicholson’s report had identified was “to play more positive ‘mood music’ – focusing more on a positive future, rather than how poor the past was – and to focus on wins and successes.”
Dr Nicholson concludes: “Feedback would indicate that this has largely been achieved. The Chief Executive has sought consistently to talk about progress and to recognise the hard work of staff, rather than to keep highlighting the legacy of issues that are yet to be addressed.”
I endorse Dr Nicholson’s positive view about how the organisation now feels and communicates. Indeed, in mid-2019 the Chief Executive issued a message to colleagues, announcing that the “stabilisation” phase of modernisation was largely complete and that the public service was now in the “recovery” phase, where the benefits of the changes and of their efforts would be increasingly visible.
However, Dr Nicholson adds that “under pressure, the Chief Executive can still resort to referring back to what he inherited. So, whilst progress has been made, and the feedback is largely positive, there is still some work to do”. In my own view, having worked so closely with the Chief Executive throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, if this were still the case on occasion in 2019, it is not something that I have witnessed in recent months. As I mentioned at the start of this statement, the organisation has pulled together in a remarkable manner in the last six months or so and has delivered a response to the pandemic that Islanders should be proud of.
On the Chief Executive’s leadership approach, Dr Nicholson highlights that “Members of the Leadership Team, and those most affected by its performance, attest to a significant shift in the way in which the Chief Executive led the Public Service: authority and influence became more widely distributed as the year went on, while the Chief Executive adjusted his own style to reflect the team’s growing maturity, and the bolstering of his personal reputation, as the benefits of the One Government approach became apparent.
Dr Nicholson noted that: “The case for significant change was widely accepted, as was the staff selection process. New ways of working had produced some clear successes, which were effectively publicised and contributing to a noticeable shift in perception of the new regime – inside the government and more generally amongst islanders. The Chief Executive, emboldened by such green shoots, had signed up to an ambitious programme of measurable commitments linked to the six overarching personal objectives he had agreed with the Chief Minister.”
Dr Nicholson said that “2019 was the year in which diagnosis and design had to give way to introducing new structures and ways of working – in short, implementation. This shift needed to be supported by a new tone at the top. In place of criticism of the way in which things had been done in the past, a fresh note of optimism had to be struck”.
He highlights “an impressive record of delivery against performance targets in most areas. Where targets have not been met, convincing explanations are provided for delays and omissions – mainly as a result of external factors or shortfalls in resource, which could not have been anticipated. It should also be noted that, while not all commitments made were successfully delivered, other significant achievements were recorded, which are additional to – and, in some cases, more effective ways of meeting – the original aims and objectives agreed between the Chief Executive and Chief Minister.”
Dr Nicholson concludes by saying: “At the end of 12 months of relentless activity, the Government seemed poised at the beginning of 2020 to start reaping the fruits of Charlie Parker’s first two years as Chief Executive. It was at this point that the Chinese city of Wuhan first came to the attention of the world at large. Next year’s appraisal report will describe the impact of the COVID pandemic on Jersey’s vision to transform itself – and assess Charlie Parker’s ability to respond to a threat registering somewhere between game-changing and life-threatening.”
I am grateful to Dr Nicholson for his report and to all those who agreed to be interviewed by him and gave up their time. I note and will reflect on his comment that: “It may now be appropriate to pare back the exercise, involving fewer ‘expert witnesses’, and adopting a lighter touch to performance measurement.” I also agree with his view that while the Chief Executive’s focus in 2020 has primarily been on dealing with the Covid-19 emergency and recovery, his personal performance commitments for the rest of 2020 and 2021 need to be agreed as soon as the revised Government Plan is completed.
In conclusion, I am very pleased with the Chief Executive’s performance in 2019, impressed at the energy and professionalism he brings to his leadership of the public service and grateful to him for his diligence, calm advice and experience as together we navigated numerous difficult challenges for the Government. Without the work that the he has done to improve the way that the public service collaborates as One Government, his insistence on evidence-based actions, backed by clear performance monitoring and assessment, and his recruitment of a number of experienced senior officers into key posts, I have no doubt that Jersey would have been significantly less-well-prepared than we were to face and overcome the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, which will undoubtedly form the major part of his 2020 performance review. The Chief Executive and I will take the findings of Dr Nicholson and reflect on how we can continue to deliver improvements and continuing change.