What’s in a Million?

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JERSEY, C.I. Two interesting and contrasting stories made the Jersey headlines lately.

In case you weren’t paying attention: a couple of civil servants went to Cape Town to network and play golf in February in rather-comfy fashion at a total cost to the public purse of about £15,000.

Days later – in a completely separate turn of events – it emerged that even though last year ministers persuaded the States to vote against giving everyone a Liberation Day bank holiday in 2015 (on the grounds it would add £1.5m to the public wage bill) public employees got the holiday anyway.

Union pressure was to blame, we were told, and departments would have to find the £1.5m from other budgets.

Handily, for a numbers-oriented blog, all that separates the two numbers in question are zeroes.

So without a calculator it’s easy to see that in money terms, the public holiday story was 100 times bigger than Cape Town-gate.


It was to be expected that in the case of the civil servants, there were practically queues forming outside local media offices of seething politicians. All of them keen to publicly lambast the hapless officials not long after their return from South Africa.

The upshot was that when £15,000 went up in well-appointed, lie-flat smoke, it sparked an outcry that even ministers could get behind. One of them – who was also on the trip – has made no secret of the fact that he only billed you and I about £600.

So presumably when it emerged days later that £1.5m had slipped through the cracks for entirely different reasons, the furore would be a hundred times bigger?

Barely a peep, and certainly no queues of politicians – backbench, ministerial or otherwise – lining up have their tuppence-worth.

And that’s all the more surprising when the online response to the limited coverage the story did get, was none-too-happy.

Faced with these two stories, politicians had the opportunity to lambast two well-paid civil servants for flying their golf clubs in business class and/or to question the unexpected distribution of £1.5m to 7,000 middle-earners.

With busy schedules, picking only one must have been a tricky decision.

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