Copy of a letter sent to Chief Minister Allan Bell
FOLLOWING a myriad of stories in the press recently, I felt compelled to write to you to express my utter frustration at the perceived lack of direction of your government in response to the loss of VAT revenue and global financial slowdown.
The comments made by Mr Karran, your Minister for Education in relation to reducing the school week to four and a half days, signalled the point where it became obvious to me that the government is completely clueless about how to rebalance its books in the future.
I am a parent and whilst I understand totally that sizeable cuts have to be made across government in reaction to the loss of your income, I would argue that the cuts we have seen proposed to date are ill thought out and badly targeted as a knee jerk reaction to this year’s reduced budgets.
I am fully aware that all areas of each department should come under scrutiny for cost cutting. However, whilst the reduction in the education week was dismissed as an idea to start with, it frightens me that someone in Mr Karran’s position can then state that the four and a half day school week is ‘still an option which may need to be considered’.
We listen to and read with interest the debates in Tynwald and at the same time as your Education Minister refuses to dismiss outright the possibility of reducing our children’s primary and secondary education, your Infrastructure Minister is reporting to the House of Keys the results of yet another expensively commissioned report detailing proposed spending of £10.5 million on renovation of Ramsey pier.
The public’s perception of your government, Mr Bell, is that you are out of touch with the man in the street. The electorate want government spending to be targeted to frontline services and not wasted on pointless and over elaborate bureaucracy. Government priorities need to be sensibly and rationally discussed before cost cutting is undertaken.
In terms of central costs, government itself is far too large for an island of our size. Four town districts, five village districts and a further 15 parish councils, 24 MHKs, 11 MLCs and somewhere approaching 9,000 civil servants is not only excessive, but a huge drain on the expenses of an economy where income is falling.
Your Treasury Minister, Mr Teare, is reporting that government headcount has been reduced by 300 and spending is ‘broadly flat’.
I’m afraid that this is a long way short of what is required to solve your problems in the long term.
There is no easy answer to the current problems, Mr Bell.
I would however strongly urge you to look inward at the civil service for expenditure cuts before removing any more frontline services and potentially damaging the future of our children and the future of the Isle of Man as an independent nation.