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Policy & Resources Committee statement on ESC social media campaign

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Tuesday 05 December 2017

Statement from Deputy Gavin St Pier, on behalf of the Policy & Resources Committee, with regard to the social media campaign run for the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture to promote its proposals.

'Given the significant public interest, at its weekly meeting this morning our Committee considered the findings of work carried out by senior officers to establish the facts. We reviewed relevant sections of committee minutes and other documentation.

'It was the view of our Committee that it is important to disclose discussions held by members of the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture, the decisions made and by whom, such is the understandable strength of feeling about the matter.

'On 21 November, Deputies Meerveld, Le Pelley and Inder resolved to engage with an external PR agency to promote the Committee's secondary education proposals and agreeing that Deputy Meerveld could commit up to £10,000 of public expenditure on the matter. Deputy Dudley-Owen was not present. Deputy De Lisle abstained because there was no budget or funding available to fund the agency's promotional activity. This reversed a previous decision by the Committee, on 8 November, when at that time they accepted officer advice that this was not an appropriate campaign to embark on, particularly given the Committee's financial position.

'The minutes of ESC's meeting on 30 November, attended by Deputies Meerveld, De Lisle and Dudley-Owen, note comments by Deputy Meerveld that the social media campaign would be "Guerrilla Marketing".

'While Deputy Meerveld has sought to take full responsibility, and while it seems that his colleagues did not expressly approve the campaign's content before it went live they had seen some of the content and branding, the Rules of Procedure of the States of Deliberation and their Committees and the States (Reform) (Guernsey) Law, 2015 are very clear1 that

while a Committee may delegate any of its functions to any of its members, the Committee members remain collectively responsible for these delegated functions. It is clear that there are failings in how this matter was managed.

'Good government requires good communication by government. The States of Guernsey has come a long way in this regard in recent years and we sincerely hope that this incident will not undermine the progress that we are making.

'I have been invited to attend the public hearing being conducted by the Scrutiny Management Committee on Friday. Our Committee welcomes that hearing, which will fully explore the circumstances. We will supply Scrutiny with the pack of factual information provided by senior officers, which we reviewed and discussed this morning, for its consideration.

'It is important that the scrutiny process not only reviews the facts but also rebuilds trust in the States in general and the Committee for Education, Sport & Culture in particular. What we must not lose sight of, amid all of this, is that it is crucial for the States to have a robust and transparent debate on all proposals that will decide the future system of secondary education for our children.'

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