Going back a good many years, States members received an allowance based upon their need for financial support. The more you earned privately, the lower was your allowance. For a long time, however, States members have received a salary. When ministerial government was introduced, the idea was that those with particular workloads and responsibilities would receive something extra to reflect those responsibilities. This common-sense approach, which applies in almost every walk of life, was destroyed by a private member’s amendment which called for all members to be paid the same salary. This amendment was carried, and the result is what we have today. Pay for a full time Minister or Scrutiny Chair is identical to the pay of a backbencher or Constable with fewer States responsibilities.
On 10th June 2021, the States disbanded the States Members’ Remuneration Review Body established in 2003 and made some important decisions. It was decided that members should have no role in the assessment of their level of remuneration which should be fixed by an independent reviewer. That is clearly right. Members also decided that “Remuneration should be set at a level to attract people from all walks of life to serve the Island effectively as a States Member …”, and that the reviewer’s determination should take effect automatically, without debate in the States. Again, that is clearly right.
Perversely, however, the States refused to agree to repeal Article 44 of the States of Jersey Law 2005, which requires all States members to be paid the same amount. This could be seen as inconsistent with the aim of setting remuneration at a level “to attract people from all walks of life”. If we want high-fliers to carry out important ministerial and scrutiny roles, we ought to be willing to pay them more to do so. As a principle, it is neither right nor fair to impose the same rate of salary upon all members of the States, whatever responsibilities they may have. Arguably, it may deter able people who can earn much more in the private sector from even considering standing for election.
This strange vote may have been carried by a form of inverse conflict of interest. Perhaps most members did not see themselves as carrying out ministerial or senior scrutiny responsibilities, and “why should others get more than me”? Whatever the reasons, the reviewer will now have his or her hands tied, and the public will be stuck with the same unfair system. Why not leave it to the reviewer to determine what is in the public interest?