The Chief Inspector of Probation “shocked” MPs when she defended taking on a second job by joking her husband would cook.
Dame Glenys Stacey continues to be paid her £140,000 salary for heading HM Inspectorate of Probation, despite dropping down to just three days a week.
Stacey accepted an offer from Environment Secretary Michael Gove to chair the Government’s farming review two days a week. Her salary is being reviewed by ministers.
But MPs on Parliament’s Justice Select Committee told Stacey the arrangement was “profoundly unsatisfactory” and that she must “reflect” on it.
It comes as the probation service battles a series of crises, including soaring reoffending rates, a rise in ex-offender homelessness and struggling private probation companies needing a Government bailout to continue functioning.
Committee chairman Bob Neill, opening the session, asked: “How on earth are you managing to do [both jobs]?”
Stacey admitted she “had to make some adjustments” and she had chosen to no longer serve as a board member of the Association of Chief Executive or as a council church member in her local community.
She added: “That still leaves me on occasions working some long days but my husband is enjoying the prospect of learning how to cook, so there are some hidden benefits for me at least.”
Appearing to boil over with irritation, Neill said the committee was “utterly unconvinced” she could do both jobs, adding: “Dame Glenys, do you understand just how profoundly unsatisfactory we regard your answers?”
He added: “I’m shocked by what I have just heard and I’m sorry to have to say that to you. Would you like to reflect as to whether it is really appropriate for you to be attempting to do both of these jobs at once?”
Stacey said she understood MPs were frustrated, but said: “At the moment, I think I am doing both jobs reasonably well.”
Tory MP Alex Chalk challenged Stacey over her large salary for what was effectively part-time hours.
“So, that’s more than a head teacher, more than a chief constable, more than a general in the army,” he said. “In fact, it is almost as much as the Prime Minister.
“Do you really think that that salary is appropriate for someone who is not giving it full-time?”
Stacey said the government departments were discussing her salary arrangements. “I thought it a matter of them,” she said.
Labour MP David Hanson also criticised her for appearing to not take the job seriously.
“There are no additional staffing responsibilities and no additional changes and there are no changes to your pay and terms and conditions,” he said.
“If this is a serious post as chief inspector, surely it demands five days a week.”
He went on: “Effectively, two days a week of leadership has been lost to the inspectorate because of your decision to take on a further job with the department of rural affairs.
“You can see where we are coming from. That doesn’t appear to be acceptable to us as somebody holding the government and the inspectorate to account.”
Stacey defended her position by saying Justice Secretary David Gauke and Gove “have agreed that it is an appropriate arrangement”.
Hanson countered: “That doesn’t mean that it is. Just because secretaries of state say it is doesn’t mean we regard it to be the case.”
He added he was “concerned” Stacey was not prioritising the job amid concerns about probation’s performance standards.
Hanson added: “Whatever you do at the church council and whatever you do at the weekend is a matter for you, but that is the weekend, it is not the contractual five days a week that you have with the probation service.”
Stacey said much of her probation work was carried out by other board members and that she would be back in her full-time post once the farming review had concluded in January, to which Hanson replied: “Should we in January 1 when you have completed the Defra role reduce your role to three days a week if it is being managed so successfully without you?”
Stacey replied: “No, I would hope that you wouldn’t do that.”
She added it was not “ideal” and said: “I do appreciate your concern, of course I do, and I did consider the matter carefully and the practicalities of it before accepting the suggestion that I should chair the review and I have put probation first.”
Stacey also drew ire from parliamentarians for appearing to claim she could do more hours because she was not caring for a young family.
“I don’t have the commitments that a younger woman might have at home so when needs arise, so for example, should I be appearing before a select committee I will be doing some additional work at the weekend,” she said.
Labour MP Ellie Reeves said she was mum to a three-year-old and, as an employment lawyer, had represented a string of women who were the victims of maternity discrimination.
She said: “I think that [statement] very much gives the wrong message that women who have young families may not have as much capacity for work and I think those comments should be very much reflection upon. They are incredibly unhelpful.”
Stacey said she would reflect her decision to accept a second role.
“I can’t stress how strongly that the committee is concerned about the signal this sends as to the importance of an independent and strong inspectorate that has got to be hands on.”