The costs of being displaced

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However, although the principle of suspension is sound, there are significant questions to be asked about the practice as we have seen it unfolding in key cases here in the Island.

Chief Minister Terry Le Sueur has just released information about States worker suspensions. Currently, 16 people are suspended and this has cost taxpayers in the region of £1 million so far this year.

These statistics are in themselves alarming, but certain high-profile suspensions focus attention on features of the whole business which can be totally unacceptable. It is, for instance, one thing for a person to be suspended and another entirely for that suspension to drag on for month after month with no end to the ordeal in sight.

Consultant gynaecologist John Day has been under suspension for the past three years and police chief Graham Power’s life has similarly been put on hold for the past 12 months. In both cases the fullest possible inquiries are clearly warranted for the benefit of all concerned – including taxpayers – but is it really necessary for the process to be so protracted?

The cost of such lengthy processes is a concern, but so, too, is the impact on those under investigation and those closest to them. The psychological pressure must be very nearly intolerable.

There are, meanwhile, circumstances in which public employees continue to be paid but are unable to fulfil the duties which should earn that pay. Ian Christmas, for example, has yet to preside as Magistrate even though his appointment was announced many months ago.

As with Mr Day and Mr Power, allegations concerning him must be looked into properly, but again pressure must be mounting unbearably as investigations continue. In addition, a major part of the job that Mr Christmas was hired to do is being done by others – at increased cost to the public purse.

High-profile, complex cases are notoriously poor foundations for policy. That said, there are grounds for saying that a review of how suspension works in practice should be carried out, with a view to limiting escalating costs and easing pressures on those under suspension.

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