Turnover of staff in Tory Senedd group office much higher than Labour and Plaid group offices
The turnover of staff in the Conservative group office at the Senedd has been confirmed as exceptionally high when compared with turnover figures for the Labour and Plaid Cymru group offices.
We revealed in December how a freedom of information disclosure by the Senedd Commission – the legislative branch of the Senedd which pays the salaries of support staff – showed there had been a 200% turnover of staff in the Tory Senedd group office in less than three years. We had asked for the figures after receiving a tip-off that the turnover of staff was noticeably high.
On January 1 2021 the Tory group office had 10 members of staff. On October 1 2023 the office employed 13 staff members. Yet in the intervening period as many as 30 individuals had held the jobs available, indicating that there had been a 200% staff turnover, with a large number of both leavers and new recruits.
After we published an article revealing the figures, a number of readers challenged us to compare the turnover of staff in the Tory Senedd group office with turnover in the respective group offices for Labour and Plaid Cymru.
Figures now disclosed to us show that over the same period, just five individuals held the four jobs available in the Labour group office – a turnover of 25% – while 16 individuals held the 12 jobs available in the Plaid Cymru group office – a turnover of 33%.
Labour has fewer group office staff than the other two parties because it is in government, with all the resources that brings.
The turnover of staff in the Plaid office is perhaps lower than expected, given the widespread allegations of bullying of staff that led to the resignation as party leader of Adam Price
At the time of our original article, 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.
Senedd group leader Andrew RT 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. I
“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.”
After being told of the staff turnover figures for the Labour and Plaid Cymru group offices, confirming that the turnover of staff was much higher in the Tory group office, a Labour Senedd source said: “This comes as no surprise to anyone in the building. The Conservative group is clearly not a happy place. It’s a macho culture that places ideology over common sense.
“Seeking flexibility in work or working from home is seen as a sign of weakness and that’s bound to have an impact on staff retention. Listening to the Tories in the chamber criticising groups of workers for collectively seeking better pay gives you a real insight into how they view their own staff.”
We sent the freedom of information disclosure about staff turnover in the Labour and Plaid Cymru groups to Andrew RT Davies and invited him to comment. He did not respond.
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