The States held a series of votes on the establishment of a Public Services (PSO) in Guernsey on 21st February 2024. They decided against the immediate establishment of a PSO, citing financial prudence and the need for further analysis.

Despite the initial proposals and debates over whether to establish a joint Jersey-Guernsey PSO or a Guernsey-only PSO, all proposals directly establishing a PSO were ultimately rejected. They kicked the can down the road. It appears that many of our Deputies are currently unaware of quite how pressing the need for such independent scrutiny of Guernsey’s civil service is – or maybe they are simply burying their heads in the sand?

They have directed the Policy and Resources Committee to maintain awareness of developments in other jurisdictions and report back by March 2025 – a decision to not decide, with an emphasis on a detailed review and report on the feasibility, costs, and governance implications of such a move in the future. We’ll see how that pans out, but the unfortunate reality is that it will be several years more until something is done. How many people will suffer in the meantime?

The March 2025 report is likely to lack balance, as it is expected to overlook two fundamental costs inherent in the current system.

Here are the summaries of the 13 votes on the topic that afternoon, with their respective times:

  1. Vote 1 (12:30): Proposed pausing the establishment of a Public Services PSO due to financial constraints, suggesting a revisit in 2026, unless propositions 1 or 2 are not approved, which would lead to alternative actions. The vote was in favour with a significant majority.
  2. Vote 2 (14:43): Concerned a motion related to Amendment 2 of P.2023/137, resulting in a closely contested vote but ultimately passed.
  3. Vote 3 (14:44): Involved noting recommendations against establishing a PSO and directing a committee to report back by March 2025. The proposition passed with strong support.
  4. Vote 4 (14:50): A motion to suspend proceedings, narrowly passed.
  5. Vote 5 (15:56): Offered a series of conditional propositions regarding the establishment of a PSO, with the first option passing if others failed. Passed with moderate support.
  6. Vote 6 (16:11): Direct vote on proceeding with a Jersey-conjoined Public Service PSO, rejected by a majority.
  7. Vote 7 (16:12): Proposal to establish a Guernsey-only PSO if the prior proposition failed, also rejected.
  8. Vote 8 (16:14): Suggested the Policy and Resources Committee report back with cost analyses and savings potential if previous propositions failed, narrowly rejected.
  9. Vote 9 (16:17): Reiterated the directive for a report on the feasibility and costs of a Guernsey PSO, rejected with a narrow margin.
  10. Vote 10 (16:19): Default proposition if all others failed, emphasising financial caution and postponing the PSO establishment, passed with a good majority.
  11. Vote 11 (16:22): Acknowledged recommendations against the establishment of a PSO and advised maintaining awareness of developments in other jurisdictions, passed with strong support.
  12. Vote 12 (Also 16:22): Noted the States’ decision to rescind a resolution on establishing complaint and appeal processes, passed with the same strong support as Vote 11.
  13. Vote 13 (Also 16:22): Directed a committee to consider governance review recommendations and report by March 2025, passed with the same majority as Votes 11 and 12

The introduction of a Commissioner for Standards in Guernsey marks a step towards greater political accountability, yet the absence of equivalent oversight for the executive civil service (PSO) remains a glaring omission. A PSO needs to have retroactive powers; to right past injustices. There is a growing need to restore public confidence and it seems that many of our Deputies are becoming out of touch. 

This gap was highlighted in my personal experience, the sole case reviewed to date in the last 5 years, where the findings diverged from the evidence, relying instead on a flawed re-review. There is no appeal mechanism against such findings:

From my perspective, the suggestion that the States treat everyone as a litigation risk with financial exposure, which in turn makes them defensive and hostile towards the complainant, is incorrect. This is primarily because a significant number of these cases are resolved through settlements outside of court; indeed, I hear that between 1.5 to 2 million pounds of public money is allocated every year to private advocates for the defence of civil servants.

Moreover, one would expect the civil service to adopt measures that prevent conduct likely to lead to potential liabilities – but this isn’t the reality. It seems there is not a prevalent fear of financial compensation within the civil service, as they tend to favour settling disputes out of court accompanied by non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This approach implies that their concern is more about job security rather than safeguarding the public finances. This process seems to be the final stage of repeated strategic delays designed to exhaust the complainant; if those delays don’t work, they settle on the court steps, so to speak.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is also a need for independent oversight of how complaints against other bodies, such as the police, are handled. Guernsey’s small size makes truly independent oversight essential.


Implementing proper accountability mechanisms would serve as a deterrent against poor conduct from the outset, ultimately saving the public a significant sum. Any assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of a PSO must consider this crucial aspect. However, achieving this would necessitate the transparent disclosure of two key factors: a) the genuine cost of litigation, and b) the expenses incurred in compensation payouts—a disclosure the civil service might be hesitant to provide.

Consequently, the forthcoming March 2025 report is likely to lack balance, as it is expected to overlook two fundamental costs inherent in the current system. Additionally, the report is poised to neglect the potential savings in time and resources for all involved that genuine accountability would yield, as it would inevitably shift the calculus regarding the threshold for poor conduct.