Big Debate is about all of our futures says minister

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

Tynwald buildings, Douglas

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Economic growth is continuing, there is a move towards rebalancing the budget but progress on strategies to protect the vulnerable, in the light of cuts, has been slower.

This was the admission of the new minister in charge of policy and reform, Chris Robertshaw.

‘It’s not about the next general election, it’s about everyone’s futures,’ he told Tynwald members, adding it would not be enough just to ‘tinker incrementally with the status quo.

‘We need a smaller, smarter government. We must reinvent ourselves.’

The so-called Big Debate, for government focuses on three themes: reducing the size and cost of government and increasing its efficiency, making government more responsive to individual need and modernising the welfare state.

He criticised Government administrative processes as ‘repetitive, expensive, traditional and ‘‘siloed’’ in nature’, and this meant the tax payer was paying again and again for the same data to be repeatedly collected and often individuals were using much of their own time submitting it. According to the UK Office for National Statistics, he said, private sector productivity increased by 14 per cent between 1999 and 2013 but in the public sector it fell by one per cent.

On government responsiveness to individuals, he said he thought the public saw the government as being ‘too big, too self-serving and too insensitive’. More thought should be given to greater investment in localism, he said.

Protecting the vulnerable and modernising the welfare state meant better targeting of funds, greater use of means and needs testing, such as introduced for child benefits, and encouraging greater self-sufficiency.

Public debate on government reform is to be sought via road shows, media engagements, social media as well as a more formal consultation process.

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