Hi there. I’m Heidi Soulsby and I was elected as a Deputy for SE District in Guernsey’s general election in April 2012. I am Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and member of the Scrutiny Committee and ICT Strategy Sub-Group.
Welcome to my website. Here you can hear about my life in the States and other matters, as well as sending me feedback and your ideas.
I was delighted to have my amendment accepted by the States on 27 June. Below you will find a copy of my speech explaining why it was needed.
The effect of this amendment is quite straightforward, although it may not appear so at first glance.
The purpose is to enable the continuous residence restriction to be extended from 3 to 5 years. It also clarifies the treatment of absence from the Island and when it does not constitute a recognised break in residence with regard to Short Term Permit Holders.
Before providing further explanation as to the reason behind my placing this amendment, I would like to thank the Director of Population Policy for her advice and assistance in helping me develop this amendment.
Proposition 8(d) has been amended to remove reference to a continuous period of residence and Proposition 9 amended such that it makes clear that, where a Short Term Permit Holder does not take a recognised break eg 9 months on, 3 months off, the period of absence will form part of the calculation of aggregate residence per proposition 8(d).
The effect of this amendment is to allow a Short Term Permit Holder on, say, a 9 month permit to come to the Island for 5 cycles of 9 months on, 3 months off.
Before I explain the reasons why I believe this amendment is necessary, I would like to emphasise the point that I believe that, in the first instance, we should be helping and encouraging businesses to employ local people and the default option should be to choose local, not to fall back on short term permits. As a Member of the Board of Commerce & Employment I am fully supportive of the pilot Stepping In Scheme, a joint initiative between the C&E, Housing and Social Services Departments which aims to reduce the number of short-term housing licences issued for certiain types of jobs in the Island, by supporting employers to train local unemployed jobseekers.
I really hope that, through this initiative as well as robust administration of the permit system , that we no longer need to bring in people from outside Guernsey to work in a fish and chip shop.
Now, one reason for proposing this amendment was to deal with inconsistencies and anomalies in relation to other propositions.
The current proposition 8(d) is inconsistent with Proposition 26 which states that tenants of a Part D house in Multiple Occupation can live and work on the Island for a maximum period of 5 years’ continuous residence.
In addition, the effect of current Proposition 9, ‘To agree that an individual has to have been away from the Island for a period of time which is at least equal to the duration of his or her last period of residence in the Island, before that individual will be eligible to obtain an Employment Permit for a subsequent period of residence’, is that an individual on a 6 month work permit could return to the Island for 6 months every year for 10 years, whereas a worker on a 9 month permit would only be able to return for 3 years as the 3 months is not long enough a break.
More importantly, it is evident to me, having read the proposals for a Statutory Body and Advisory Panel, that the new regime will result in additional cost to the private sector, something I will elaborate on in the main debate, and this will be exacerbated for seasonal businesses by limiting the amount of time that individuals can return to the Island.
This became apparent to me after having spoken to a number of such businesses. Remember these are predominantly locally owned companies, not subsidiaries of multi-national operations, and as such bear the greatest burden in terms of fees, charges and taxes. We are living in a difficult economic climate and we need to ensure those businesses that operate in the global marketplace, which many of these businesses do, can do so competitively.
At the same time, seasonal businesses have been part of the economy of Guernsey for over a century and seasonal workers from outside the Island have been essential to those businesses for much of that time. Something, incidentally, that isn’t unique to Guernsey.
Setting a 3 year continuous residence period will in reality mean that the first year will be spent investing time and money getting workers up to speed. Year 2 will enable the business to start getting a return from that investment and Year 3 may not happen at all as the individual looks for other work. The proposal to increase the potential cycle of continuous residence from 3 to 5 years, enables businesses to get a better return on investment should they be unable to employ local people.
Finally, I would like to thank Deputy Conder for seconding this amendment and hope that members will agree with me that this is a sensible and pragmatic amendment that deals with today’s reality and enhances the report as it currently stands.
On 31 May 2013, the Public Accounts Committee published the Ernst & Young report on financial controls in relation to fraud in the States of Guernsey, together with its covering report. You can find both reports here.
Below is the speech I made in the May 2013 States’ meeting setting out the findings of the Public Accounts Committee’s review into the financial controls of the States of Guernsey in relation to Fraud.
When it was announced in July 2012 that the States of Guernsey had been defrauded of £2.6 million of taxpayers’ money, there was understandable shock and anger throughout the community. That such a fraud did occur only highlights the fact that we must have the necessary frameworks in place, to defend against this type of threat.
Whilst the public clearly have an interest in the details of the specific incident of fraud, (which is currently the subject of a police investigation), it was as important to find out whether there was an underlying problem that led to the States of Guernsey being exposed to this unacceptable risk of fraudulent activity. Ernst and Young were commissioned by the Public Accounts Committee to undertake that piece of work.
Ernst & Young review covered the following areas;
The appropriateness of the anti-fraud governance framework pre-May 2012
The reasonableness of Internal Audit Reports which were issued in May 2012, before the fraud, and August 2012, after the incident took place
The appropriateness of the anti-fraud governance framework subsequent to those recommendations and actions
Their own recommendations
The key findings of their report are;
First, that prior to May 2012, the anti-fraud governance framework was inappropriate.
As Ernst & Young state, ‘while there were elements of an anti-fraud governance framework, they were unco-ordinated, inconsistent and not embedded culturally.’
Second, that the Internal Audit Reports issued in May and August 2012 were not unreasonable.
Third, that at 17 December 2012, the date they completed their fieldwork, the anti-fraud governance framework remained inappropriate. This was due to a number of factors, including;
Some planned actions were dependent on the identification of a corporate fraud lead. Indeed a permanent Corporate Fraud lead is still to be appointed.
Some planned actions were dependent on the new SAP system going live on 1 January 2013; and
Other competing priorities, such as the Financial Transformation Programme
Fourth, that the work then in progress should improve the anti-fraud governance framework; and
Finally, additional actions were required to meet their baseline expectations.
A number of reports, spanning more than a decade, into the States’ financial controls and risk management regime (of which an effective anti-fraud governance framework is a vital part) have highlighted numerous inadequacies . This, despite the fact that Guernsey has one of the most regulated and highly respected financial services industries in the world.
One of those reports was published by the previous Public Accounts Committee in May 2012, just before the specific incident took place. The findings of the Committee’s report were confirmed by the States Internal Audit Unit report the same month, which stated, and I quote;
‘The States of Guernsey is in the bottom 5-10% of UK organisations in terms of counter-fraud maturity.’
There has been a persistent failure to develop a States-wide approach to risk and it has not been appropriately prioritised.
However, the incident of fraud in July 2012 has been a catalyst for change. It should be acknowledged that a significant amount of work has been undertaken in the months following the incident and credit should be given to the States’ Head of Assurance who is leading the implementation of the improvements.
Political ownership has also been evidenced in the creation of a temporary Risk Steering Group comprising the Chief Minister and Ministers of Treasury & Resources and Public Services.
There are also significant workstreams in progress, including;
the appointment of a supplier to develop and implement a Risk Framework and Policy;
the drafting of a Corporate Risk Register by the Head of Assurance in conjunction with the Executive Leadership Team;
the drafting of a Fraud Rule, Directive and Response Plan, which has been circulated for consultation; and
the development of a comprehensive authorisation policy which is currently being reviewed for feasibility and appropriateness
However, a permanent corporate fraud lead, a key recommendation of both Ernst & Young and the Internal Audit Unit, has yet to be appointed and, whilst a lot of positive moves have been made, they do not fulfil all of the recommendations in the Ernst & Young report.
The Public Accounts Committee fully concurs with the conclusion of Ernst & Young that; ‘the climate is right to ensure that there is a robust and fully embedded anti-fraud governance framework across the States. Anti-fraud must be owned by staff at all levels, but the change must be driven by the right tone from the top.
Throughout this review, it has become evident to the Committee that the ownership and accountability of risk management within the States of Guernsey is not entirely transparent.
In future there needs to be clarity of where responsibility and accountability rests for successfully implementing both the States’ Fraud Risk Management Improvement Plan and the recommendations made by Ernst & Young – at both a political and operational level.
Political ownership has been evidenced in the creation of a temporary Risk Steering Group but this momentum needs to continue.
The Treasury & Resources Department and the Policy Council (working via the Executive Leadership team and Risk Steering Group) must ensure that future planned actions are completed in a timely manner and that those charged with taking forward the workstreams have the necessary authority, resources and support to do so.
Currently, the responsibility lies with the Treasury and Resources Department and the Committee would like to be satisfied that this is a logical place for this to sit, or whether it should become the responsibility of Policy Council.
The Head of Assurance has taken the lead in managing the Corporate Risk Management improvement activity, including acting as the temporary Corporate Fraud Lead, whilst also in the role of Head of Internal Audit, responsible for reviewing the adequacy of the risk management regime. The Committee needs to be assured that any potential conflicts between the roles of Head of Internal Audit and Head of Assurance are managed appropriately.
In conclusion, the report from Ernst & Young confirms that, prior to May 2012, the States of Guernsey had an inadequate risk management framework in place. However, improvements have been made and progress is ongoing, but it is clear that, at this time, further work is required.
The Committee believes the States of Guernsey has taken some important steps in improving the States’ anti-fraud governance framework, but it is crucial that the States does not falter, as it has done historically, and delivers a consistent, formal, comprehensive and truly corporate approach to risk management.
There is a vital role for the Committee to play in monitoring the progress being made in the development of an appropriate risk management framework. In addition, it is well aware that the recent implementation of SAP and the Shared Transaction Service Centre (STSC) has had a major effect on the financial control environment within the States of Guernsey. The Committee is concerned that such a significant change has occurred prior to the development of an appropriate risk management framework and accordingly it has approved the commencement of Stage 2 of its Review of Financial Controls, focussing on those controls now in place.
Finally, as Members will be aware, the Committee has previously been advised that it would be inappropriate to undertake a review of the specific incident of fraud due to concerns that this might compromise the ongoing criminal investigation. I wish to advise that discussions are currently in place with the law officers and police authorities involved with the investigation with a view to commencing Stage 3 of its review into the specific incident of fraud as soon as possible
Below is the speech I made at the May 2013 States’ meeting during the debate on the Medical Officer of Health’s Annual Report.
I would like to follow up what Deputy Bebb brought up yesterday in relation to the availability of information and resources to obtain and analyse it.
One of the things that struck me most about this report, and has been highlighted by the placing of the 4 amendments, is that, bar environmental health statistics and those on births and deaths, there is a distinct lack of quality data available upon which to make strong evidence-based decisions.
In fact, a quarter of the 29 recommendations actually relate to the need for better information.
There is nothing new here. In 2009, the Welsh Audit Office noted that “decision making within the States is often…..not supported by an adequate evidential base”.
In their report on Developing SAP and Shared services in October 2011, the T&R Department stated that;
Access to high quality, credible information is critical in developing any proposal laid before the States, and delivery of this project will give policy groups, departmental boards and staff significantly improved access to robust data. Not only will the tools available be enhanced but the quality of underlying data will be greatly improved through a combination of data cleansing during implementation and better control of future data entry.
Core Principle 4 – Good governance means taking informed, transparent decisions and managing risk
Report goes on to say that implementation of a truly cross departmental, cross-functional system will provide hugely improved access through simple, intuitive tools to better quality information for all stakeholders. The information provided will be used to underpin critical operational decisions for many years to come and it is essential that this data is robust, credible and readily available.
However, none of this is any good if you don’t have the people, not only to extract the data but to analyse it. It’s a bit like having the latest ipad but only being able to surf the internet and look at emails. What’s the point in having a top of the range IT system costing £8m, if you can’t make best use of it? That’s not value for money.
Neither are we are leveraging the information we should be able to extract from fit for purpose Income Tax and Social Insurance systems. I would therefore urge Policy Council to consider the need for adequate resources if we are not t
The following is the speech I made in support of Deputy Burford’s amendment in relation to helping improve breastfeeding rates in Guernsey.
I’m pleased to support Deputy Burford’s amendment and agree with her that, rather than follow targets for breastfeeding, the aim must be to make an informed, supported choice
And the key word for me is choice.
The trouble is women are bombarded with advice from so-called experts, on what they should and shouldn’t do from the moment they get pregnant. Don’t drink this, don’t eat that, avoid this, make sure you take that which goes beyond general health advice such as not smoking, keeping fit and eating a balanced diet.
And much of the advice is contradictory, with media headlines such as these that appeared within months of each other in The Times earlier this year.
‘Warning, tiny amount of alcohol during pregnancy can harm child’s IQ’
‘Drinking alcohol occasionally when pregnant does no harm’
Well, let me tell you, when I was 9 months pregnant, felt like a beached whale and had something doing somersaults inside of me, the very occasional glass of wine was found to have clear medicinal benefits for this mother.
And then, when you do give birth and amazingly the baby is ok despite the fact you didn’t take all the advice but used your natural instincts, the guilt trip and contradictory advice continues.
A classic example is about babies sleeping on their backs. We are told ’put your baby on its back to sleep to avoid cot death, BUT at the same time we are advised ‘don’t let them lie on their backs too long otherwise they will be developmentally delayed and will get a flat skull.’
And then we come to breastfeeding. No one would deny that breast is best. However, the WHO recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months should also be considered alongside its other recommendation that babies should be fed on demand.
Just how practicable is that for women who have to, or choose to, go back to work before then. As someone who has been through it myself I’d say it isn’t easy. Obviously you can’t be there to feed your baby when it demands it and let’s just say expressing milk is not for everyone.
I would say that we should be encouraging women to breastfeed for as long as they can, but not to set an artificial date that, for many hard working women is impossible to achieve, especially if they have more than one young child, and just adds to all the other advice that can serve to make them ignore their natural instincts as mothers.
As the journalist Charlotte Philby wrote in the Independent recently, mother’s guilt is the heaviest of burdens, and with the constant juggling modern motherhood demands there is plenty to feel bad about without being confronted with a blazing reminder of your imperfections every time you reach for the powdered milk.
Below is the speech I made in the January 2013 States’ meeting in support of Deputy Fallaize’s amendment, which I seconded, to ensure lines of accountability in relation to FTP were clearer.
Sir, Deputy Fallaize has already made it abundantly clear how vague and woolly accountability is in terms of the FTP and it’s not the only part of the States of Guernsey where this is the case.
Only yesterday we had the Chief Minister making a statement about the reporting lines of the Chief Officers – who appear to be accountable to both their Boards and Chief Executive. We also have a situation where the finance staff in each Department have a reporting line to the States Treasurer, as well as, presumably, the Chief Officer of their Department.
Even those of us who are not particularly religious understand the meaning behind Matthew Chapter6 verse 24.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
And that’s even before we start talking about political versus operational accountability.
It does seem that accountability in the States of Guernsey is a bit like musical chairs and the person accountable is the one still standing when the music stops. It’s perhaps no wonder that the question of accountability has been discussed frequently by the Public Accounts Committee.
It is for that reason I second this amendment.
At the January 2013 States Meeting I proposed a Motion to Debate the accounts of Guernsey Electricity and Guernsey Post. My Motion was successful, which apparently was the first time this had happened in the States. I gave the reasons for placing the Motion in the speech I made to the Assembly, which is set out below.
Sir, I understand that each of these Motions have to be debated separately. However, what I say now applies to both Motions and I will re-iterate this at the appropriate time.
Whilst I have already briefed Members as to my reason for placing both these Motions to Debate I should also like to place this on record today and elaborate further on certain points.
Under the States Trading Companies Ordinance 2001, the accounts of States trading companies and the reports on them, must be placed in the Appendices to a Billet.
It is my belief that this is insufficient to give the accounts the prominence they deserve. Certainly, as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, this is a concern in terms of accountability and the ability of Members to comment on those accounts in the same way that they can on the general accounts of the States of Guernsey.
Not only that but, in contrast, under paragraph 6(1) of the Financial Services Commission (Bailiwick of Guernsey), Law 1987 the accounts of the Guernsey Financial Services Commission have to be submitted as a report by the Treasury and Resources Minister and I quote ‘as soon as practicable for consideration by the States’.
There is an obvious inconsistency here and I can see no valid reason why States Trading Companies should not also be treated in the same way as the Commission or the general states accounts and be presented in the main body of the Billet where they will be available for consideration as a report by default.
Aside from accountability, I believe that such accounts should be presented to Members in a more timely manner. These accounts were signed off in June and July 2012 and readily available on both companies’ websites, but we only have the ability to debate them 7 months after sign off and 10 months after the accounting year end. This is far too late. The timetable for the preparation and audit of accounts are set well in advance of the companies’ year ends. Indeed, the Department is given 10 days notice of when the AGMs will be held and there should be no reason why the accounts are not submitted as soon as possible after they have been approved by the shareholders.
The Public Accounts Committee continues to strive to ensure proper scrutiny is applied within its mandate, balanced within the finite resources available to it. To this end, I and my fellow Public Accounts Committee members are committed to continually reviewing how appropriate and proportionate level of scrutiny can be applied in the future.
Finally, I should like to advise that I will, on behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, continue to place a Motion to Debate until such time as the Ordinance is amended.
I made the following speech during the debate on the HSSD 2020 Vision at the January 2013 States meeting.
Sir, I would firstly like to say how useful I found this report in providing a very clear impression of the challenges facing not only the department, but the States as a whole. Whilst many of the problems are well known to many of us,
Whilst I believe it is right to set a timescale I would question the ability to get such structural changes sorted within 7 years, especially given it has taken 2 years to get to this point. It is made clear in the report that HSSD believes that a truly effective health and social care system can’t be created through gradual change and that this will mean considerable work to make sure services are linked financially and contractually.
What is missing here, as was missing at the start of the FTP and that is the absence of any recognition of the importance of the change management process. And, the faster you want to bring a completely new system, the more important that process will be. It will certainly be impossible without the buy-in of every affected organisation internal and external to the States of Guernsey.
I would also like to raise the issue of the States outsourcing work to third party organisations. This has been an issue raised by the Chair of the PAC in the UK, Margaret Hodge. She has voiced serious concerns in the UK about the problems of effective scrutiny where funds are passed to third sector and other external organisations. I would like to echo her concerns and believe there should be a States-wide policy regarding financial reporting requirements placed on organisations as a condition of them receiving public money.
Finally, I would like to advise Members that the Public Accounts Committee will shortly be following up the previous PAC’s review into Secondary Healthcare in 2011 to determine actions taken against its recommendations at that time.
I made the following speech during the debate on the Financial Transformation Programme at the January 2013 States meeting.
In anyone’s book the FTP is a massive undertaking. Trying to make 10% recurring cost savings would result in a sharp intake of breath from any self-respecting COO. However, when an income stream dries up overnight radical measures do have to be undertaken to reduce costs. The question is what to do and how to do it. The former has been considered by many today so I am going to concentrate on aspects of the latter that have raised concerns for me.
What surprised me when reading the report was that whilst a key aim of the FTP was to create ‘a culture of cost consciousness and shared responsibility for delivery’ the FTE failed to engage those who basically held all the cards. I welcome the honesty in admitting that, and hope that lessons have been learnt that are disseminated across and within Departments.
Samuel Johnson is often good for a quote and he comes up trumps here again . He said,’ Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.’
He was right but attempts should be made to reduce that inconvenience as far as possible. Change can be frightening. The status quo is comfortable, known and doesn’t challenge. As Deputy Lester Queripel makes clear frequently, communication is key to enable real change to happen and it works both ways. Clearly this has been a lesson learnt.
Having said that, it does appear that the programme has moved from one extreme to another. It seems that the FTP has morphed into an enormous black hole that sucks up everything in its path and from which nothing re-emerges.
It was always appreciated that Departments had to accept resources would be needed and Members resolved to accept the necessary diversion of staff resources away from routine work in order to deliver change. However, I feel this has gone beyond the original understanding and the approach taken has significantly impacted on the day to day operations of Departments. As staff haven’t been able to be brought in to cover there has been a rise in overtime and more pressures on departments.
Of additional concern is the amount of senior officer time taken on FTP. The Chief of Police is head of the procurement review of the FTP and I wonder how he can now fit that with his new role as Head of Law Enforcement.
I believe it was thought that things would improve after the implementation of the STSC and the upgraded SAP system. However, from what I have heard from different departments, it would appear that this won’t happen any time soon. Financial accounts for January haven’t been able to be produced and there are problems with various aspects of the system that are having knock on effects for departments. I would therefore like to seek the CM’s assurance that matters are being resolved as quickly as possible and that issues are prioritised on a risk basis.
In relation to the STSC, I would like to raise an issue that came out of the presentation given to Deputies on 9th January.
It was explained that credit would be given to Departments for those staff transferred or lost as a result of the creation of the Hub, with costs being retained within T&R. This means it will be far harder for anyone outside T&R to know whether savings have been made. Bearing in mind we were advised that the £7.9 million cost of the STSC would be recouped largely through the reduction of 50 posts, whereas we are now being told 30 posts are going, does the Chief Minister agree with me that, in order for greater transparency, a recharge of the cost of the Hub should be made to each Department.
Finally, and despite the issues I have raised, I am happy to support the FTP as I believe that it is the only way of bringing its costs under control. I think it has resulted in a slow gradual change of culture from spend, spend, spend to a more business-like footing. That will be its ultimate legacy.
I made the following speech in support of Deputy Yvonne Burford’s amendment to the 2013 budget at the December 2012 States meeting to increase tobacco duty by 1%, such funds to be used specifically to fund programmes to prevent people taking up smoking and to help smokers cease smoking.
Firstly Sir I would like to declare my interest in this debate as Patron of GASP, the Guernsey Adolescent Smokefree Project.
I welcome this amendment. In the debate on tobacco licensing last month I requested that the Minister of HSSD confirm that, if he was not able to direct resources on services that prevent young people from smoking, his Department would think laterally as to how it could raise those funds, either through fees or duties to ensure that we do not see a reversal of all the good work that has been done over recent years to reduce the prevalence of smoking in under 18s.
I didn’t get any assurance that that would be the case and the Deputy Minister said there was no chance of getting any funding. This is despite the fact the solution is simple and easy to implement.
Members may know that there was a 2011 update report to the Tobacco Strategy for 2009-2013. In section 11 of that report it states that the HSSD Minister wrote to the T&R Minister requesting tobacco duty increase from RPI+3% to RPI+5% for 2012 and 2013 and that this was accepted and incorporated in the December 2011 budget for 2012. However, both this year and last year the proposed increase was actually RPI+3%. I am still awaiting an answer from HSSD regarding this anomaly. It may well be therefore, that it was always the intention to raise duty by more than that proposed by T&R.
Guernsey has seen great success in reducing the incidence of teenage smoking due, in no small part, to the educational programmes which have been in place over the last 15 years. It seems only right and proper that we raise and ringfence what is a relatively small amount of money to ensure that the educational and other associated programme providers can continue their good work.
Without any States funding GASP will cease to exist. This will be cruelly ironic in this Olympic year when it has played a big role in bringing the Olympics alive in Guernsey, for example GASP organised for 300 youngsters to have pride of place in the Smokebuster fanzone during the Torch Relay, producing the good luck banner for our 3 Olympians –Heather Watson, Karl Hester and Lee Merrien and producing a booklet ‘From Torteval to London: How to become a Guernsey Olympian, written about Lee, who, incidentally, is a GASP Ambassador,
None of the people I know who smoke want to smoke. They all of them started smoking when they were at school. Peer pressure and wanting to look cool amongst your friends are strongest influences on young people and this will always be the case. Whilst there are smokers I have talked to who have reservations about the efficacy of a licensing regime there hasn’t been one I have met who has objected to paying more for a packet of cigarettes if it meant that the extra funds raised would go toward tobacco education and to help protect the health of their children.
I would urge members to support this amendment which is fully aligned to the Future 2020 Vision of promoting, improving and protecting the health and social wellbeing of all.