JERSEY is set to have its fourth chief executive in three years after Suzanne Wylie resigned yesterday just days after it was revealed two other high-ranking civil servants are to leave their posts.
Mrs Wylie – who was appointed to the £250,000-a-year job last February – is to return to Belfast to become chief executive of Northern Ireland’s Chamber of Commerce.
In January, chief operating officer John Quinn took voluntary redundancy, while last week director general for health Caroline Landon and chief nurse Rose Naylor both stepped down.
The government has confirmed that Mrs Wylie has a six-month notice period – although this can be reduced by mutual agreement – and that there are no clauses in the chief executive’s contract relating to additional payments.
Mrs Wylie informed Chief Minister Kristina Moore of her intention to resign late last week and members of the States Employment Board were told yesterday morning.
Before taking up her position in Jersey, Mrs Wylie was the chief executive of Belfast City Council and she will be returning to the city to be closer to her family, the government has said.
The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce has confirmed that Mrs Wylie is to become its new chief executive and is expected to take up her new role in the summer.
She was appointed as the Island’s first female chief executive in September 2021 and formally started in February the following year.
Deputy Moore said: ‘I would like to thank Suzanne for her professionalism and hard work during her time as chief executive.
‘Suzanne has had a positive impact since starting with the Government of Jersey and we respect her wishes to return to Belfast.
‘Suzanne is successfully working through transformations across the government, from the turnaround team in Health and Community Services to the formation of Jersey’s Cabinet Office.
‘These priorities have been dealt with alongside navigating officers through the recovery stages of the series of major incidents that have affected our island.
‘Suzanne will continue in these endeavours for the next few months while we look to appoint a successor. We wish her all the success in her future.’
Deputy Lyndsay Feltham, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee which scrutinises the role of the chief executive, said that it was important that the government ensured a ‘smooth transition of leadership’.
She said: ‘It was a big surprise. From our perspective, the next steps are going to be about ensuring the relevant processes are followed and done in a fair and responsible way.
‘This comes on the back of a period of a lot of change. The hope was that the public service would be able to settle in with a new leader and another round of change will be concerning to a lot of the public servants.
‘The priority for me is to ensure PAC can support the transition.’
Deputy Feltham added that it ‘might be sensible’ to review the recruitment processes for chief executives and whether it is good practice to ‘appoint a chief executive when you know there is going to be a change of government’. Mrs Wylie was appointed during the previous government’s term and took up the role three months before last summer’s general election.
‘We might need to look at what other jurisdictions do in respect of that,’ she said. ‘The difficulty with that might be that there has to be some stability in leadership as well.’
Former St Ouen Constable Richard Buchanan was an Assistant Chief Minister in the last government and vice-chair of the States Employment Board which oversaw the recruitment of Mrs Wylie in September 2021.
Reacting to the news of her resignation, he said: ‘It is very sad to hear. She was a competent and capable person who came with glowing references from Northern Ireland, which is obviously a challenging environment in its own right.
‘She interviewed very well and was the stand-out candidate. I am bitterly disappointed she is going.’
He added: ‘She got off to a good start and quickly got her feet under the table. Her predecessor, Paul Martin [who was chief executive on an interim basis], had managed to calm troubled waters and she continued that progress, moving firmly in the right direction. She will be difficult to replace.
‘She is the third senior person in government to resign in less than a week. The obvious question is “what is going on?” ’
Former Guernsey Chief Minister Gavin St Pier said that Mrs Wylie’s departure presented the opportunity to create a pan-island role.
He said: ‘Having vacancies in senior leadership roles are golden opportunities for any organisation – and government is no different – to reconsider its future requirements. If the political leaderships in both Jersey and Guernsey are truly serious about delivering, rather than talking about, future joint working, they will seize this opportunity to define a joint role. A role whose purpose is to transform and deliver more cost-effective public services across both islands.
‘It won’t be easy. That’s an understatement. It will be very hard. But there are always more reasons presented against change to counter those in favour. Massive internal resistance in both islands to such an idea is to be expected. Now is a time for bold vision, ambition and leadership.’