Jersey government spends £2.4m on communications staff

Ministers in Jersey are facing questions over how much taxpayers' money is being spent on the government's communications team.

It's after it was revealed that the total cost of staffing was more than £2.4m.

Assistant Chief Minister with responsibility for government communications, Deputy Lucy Stephenson, confirmed: "There are 34 people working in the communications directorate, with another eight working under the leadership of the directorate in other communications roles across the government and emergency and public health services.

"The total staff cost is £2,468,325, making the average salary, which is the mean salary in this case, £62,000."

  • ITV Channel TV's full interview with Deputy Lucy Stephenson

However, Deputy Stephenson's response this week has caused some States Members to question whether islanders in Jersey are getting value for money.

Deputy Lyndsay Feltham, of St Helier South, told ITV News: "I think that a number of members of the Assembly were actually quite shocked at quite how much is being spent on government communications. I think particularly at a time when we know frontline public services are struggling.

"I know that in health they're doing a value for money assessment and also we had teachers out striking yesterday because their pay terms and conditions, so I think a number of members were quite shocked to think that so much money is being spent on what might be considered to be a luxury government service, or one that is promoting ministers."

Former newspaper journalist Deputy Lucy Stephenson was elected to the States in 2022 and is now responsible for government communications. Credit: ITV Channel TV

However, Deputy Stephenson added: "The size of Jersey's communications directorate is an interesting one, it's one I know people have asked questions about over the years.

"But when we take a look back at the models we have created, really it comes down to how we've chosen in the past to build our communications directorate.

"We have also made decisions in recent years to bring things like the studio work, so graphic designers and photographers in-house, rather than spend out to contractors and that was seen to be financially the best way forward, so there are certain quirks I suppose to the Jersey system that means that it's that size.

"What I would say is that I continue to ask questions along the way, and should anyone seek to create further roles, I'm always seeking for those to be justified."

In comparison, there are nine staff in the States of Guernsey's communications team and pay costs for 2023 are £640,620.

However, this is for total costs, not salary. For example, it includes social insurance contributions and pension contributions. There are also three other staff outside of the comms team who support with communications and work in the States' trading assets.

In the Isle of Man, which distributes information to a not much smaller population, eight people work in the central government communications team - two of which are graphic and content designers.

There are also pockets of people across multiple departments - some of which are communications and marketing together. For example, Manx Care and the Isle of Man Department of Enterprise do their own comms.

The headcount in Jersey's communications unit was raised during a States meeting last November when St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft said: "When I joined the States in 1996 it had, I think, three members of staff and it now has, I believe, over 30.

"I am not sure that our comms are that much better than they were when I started. But I remain to be corrected."

St Helier Constable Simon Crowcroft has previously questioned the number of staff employed in the government's communications team. Credit: ITV Channel TV

It comes at a time when the government is being asked to find money to ensure Jersey continues to have a nurse specialising in Motor Neurone Disease.

The MND Association says the role is in jeopardy, and the charity cannot continue to provide the £50,000 annual support for much longer.

Ben Harding, whose wife has MND, said: "All the jobs are important but I think with cases going up, and it's going to get worse with MND, having someone like Pat around is, I'd say, essential. So perhaps have one person less involved with communications and fund Pat to try and help out myself and other people in the situation we've found ourselves in."

The Motor Neurone Disease Association can only cover the cost of specialist nurse Pat MacFarland for another few months. Credit: ITV Channel TV

The responsibilities of the communications directorate are wide-ranging and Deputy Stephenson said: "There is huge demand for the resources of the communications directorate.

"I would also add that the way communications works, not just in government but more widely in general, has changed over the past two decades and we are seeing change on a continual basis, and people now expect and demand immediate and instance communications, therefore the way government communicates has had to respond to that as well."

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