Head of the Montserrat branch of the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office Governor Andrew Pearce says an empathetic approach to assessing the island’s civil service is needed.
Governor Pearce was responding to a question from Discover Montserrat Editor Nerissa Golden on whether there was consideration being given to downsizing the local service.
Pearce acknowledged that a spending review is currently underway in the United Kingdom and all departments are asked to look at ways to make savings. He said the pressure on public spending has increased due to COVID-19 and he expects there to be cuts in the service and even within the FCDO.
With the merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office there may be room to reduce staffing to improve efficiencies, Governor Pearce continued. However, for the local office, there was a need for development-trained staff to be stationed here to support the work that needs to be done.
As it relates to the Government of Montserrat, Pearce added that “some people tend to think that this is a huge public service but when you work it back and what the public service here does it’s not axiomatically correct. We are talking about a big village-sized community which has to manage the responsibilities of a state.”
Currently, the Government of Montserrat has a total payroll of 978. Of this number, 736 are permanent and pensionable employees and 242 are classified as temporary, explained Deputy Governor Lyndell Simpson. “Of the 242 temporary employees, 26 are employed on technical corporation (TC) terms, 80 on contractual terms and the remainder are persons on special agreements, legislators, or serve on various commissions for example Public Service Commission.”
The deputy governor, who has responsibility for human resources, explained that “while we do have around 90 positions listed as vacant, we have 75 persons temporarily employed against those vacancies.” A post is recorded as vacant if the government has not appointed someone to fill it substantively.
Governor Pearce said he was not convinced the numbers employed in the service “are hugely awry but there is always benefit in streamlining, checking and self reviewing.”
He added that digitization of some processes can change a number of things and the government needed to move away from paper.
“Let’s do it in a way that is empathetic and understands the island’s needs and peculiarities of a small exposed island, not imposed because of some broad brush model that is imposed from the centre.”