‘Enforcer’ Robertshaw says Manx government must reinvent itself

From left, Laurence Skelly MHK, Allan Bell MHK, Howard Quayle MHK and Chris Robertshaw MHK

From left, Laurence Skelly MHK, Allan Bell MHK, Howard Quayle MHK and Chris Robertshaw MHK

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Just days into his new job, Minister for Policy and Reform Chris Robertshaw says he’s confident that government can reinvent itself.

Mr Robertshaw’s role sees him oversee the newly-created Cabinet Office that aims to co-ordinate policy and streamline government amid the fiscal realities of the post VAT bombshell era.

He said: ‘It’s fair to say we started slowly but are now moving forward and the rate of change is accelerating. We are reinventing ourselves - because we have to.

‘We are going back to first principles of growing the economy, protecting the vulnerable and balancing the books. We are doing that against the context of being a low tax jurisdiction and determined to remain tax competitive yet having high expectations of the services we need.’

Mr Robertshaw’s role could be viewed as that of an Enforcer, stamping out the ‘silo’ department thinking of old - although that’s not a description he would use himself.

He said pre-VAT bombshell, the government operated in a ‘fairly stable environment’ and ‘only ever needed to react in an incremental way, department by department’. ‘That’s no longer appropriate,’ he said. ‘We need a much more cohesive approach.’

He said the public feel a little divorced from the process of reform. ‘They find government too big, too clunky, All they see are more charges coming through. That’s causing frustration and upset.’

He said government needed to get the message out about where they see the island’s future in 10, 15, 20 years’ time. ‘We can’t do what we are trying to do without the engagement of the public. We need to have a national debate.’

Mr Robertshaw said he had left his old department, Social Care, with ‘some sadness’. But he said he would continue to play a role in the wide ranging reforms he instigated because ‘social policy and health were issues right at the heart of the whole debate’.

He said it was inevitable given the fundamental changes taking place that there would have been resistance early on in the process.

So how can we measure the success of the new Cabinet Office?

He said: ‘When we get to the point where there is growing confidence that we are moving towards a new sustainability and where government has slimmed down sufficiently to fit in with the new restraints.’

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