Big turnover of staff recorded in Senedd Tory group office
Nation.Cymru has learnt from a freedom of information disclosure that there has been a 200% turnover in staff at the Welsh Conservatives’ Senedd group office in less than three years.
After being tipped off that the staff turnover was noticeably high, we submitted a freedom of information request to the Senedd Commission – which runs the legislative side of the institution and pays staff salaries – seeking the relevant details.
The response shows that on January 1 2021 the Tory group office had 10 members of staff, eight of whom were full-time and two part-time. On October 1 2023 the office employed 13 staff members – 11 full-time and two part-time.
Yet in the intervening period as many as 30 individuals had held the jobs available, indicating that there had been a significantly high turnover, with a large number of both leavers and new recruits.
The freedom of information disclosure also revealed that between January 2021 and October 2023, the number of staff working in the office on temporary or fixed-term contracts varied between zero and four.
Individual Senedd Members have support staff working for them, with some based in their constituency or region and others working at the Senedd itself. They perform a range of duties, including casework where they take up issues raised by constituents, as well as research and policy advice and writing and issuing press releases.
In addition, there are staff members who work for the 16-strong Tory group of MSs. Senedd group leader Andrew RT Davies is in charge of the group office, with its administration run by the group’s chief of staff Paul Smith.
We spoke to a number of former Welsh Conservative Senedd staffers on an unattributable basis, seeking their explanation for the high staff turnover in the group office.
Mr Davies’ aggressive political and management style and the lack of any clear policy direction were offered as explanations.
One ex-staffer told us: “The working environment is very much dictated by the style that Andrew adopts in his politics, which is very aggressive. Those who aren’t in the inner circle are on edge for a lot of the time, looking over their shoulders and worried that they might be picked up for saying or doing something wrong. There’s a lack of professionalism in the way employees are treated.
“One general point I’d make is that many MSs when they are first elected have had little or no experience of employing people, and there’s a case for giving them proper training. Somebody said that before Andrew was elected, the only people he’d employed were farm hands on his farm, and sometimes that’s reflected in the manner in which he speaks to people.
“He’s not interested in having people tell him that he’s making mistakes in the way he presents himself. Instead he likes to surround himself with people who agree with him. That’s not the best way for a leader to operate – he should be more prepared to take on board criticisms that are made of him and make changes accordingly. It’s no surprise to me that staff tend to leave after a relatively short period of time.”
Another ex-staffer said: “When people get jobs with the group, they think they’re going to be doing high level policy work, but it quickly becomes clear that’s not going to happen. Andrew isn’t interested in developing an alternative policy agenda to the Welsh Government – he just wants to have a go at them in a very simple kind of way.
“He’s not an academic kind of politician who’s interested in getting practical policies worked up. What he loves most of all is having a go at the Welsh Government over issues like the 20mph speed limit, the proposed tourism tax and the increase in the number of MSs. He’s not interested in persuading people on the central ground of politics to support the Conservatives.
“He knows he will never have a hope of becoming First Minister because he’s positioned himself in such a way that a coalition with Plaid, for example, would never be possible. Instead he’s appealing to the hard core on the right of the party, which is where the membership is these days. But going along with that is not the kind of work people with a serious interest in policy development want to be involved with.
“Instead of railing against the tourism tax, the Conservatives should accept that it’s going to come in but try to water it down through compromise and by ensuring that the money raised is spent in the local communities rather than put into a general Welsh Government fund where it disappears.
“As things stand, there’s little sign of Andrew going, largely because none of his potential successors have enough support to get rid of him. As a staffer, you get to the point where you wonder what’s the point of being there. Andrew isn’t interested in new ideas. You might as well go and work somewhere else.”
We invited the Welsh Conservative Senedd group to comment, but did not receive a response.
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