Government changes may take four years

EVIDENCE: Ian Thompson

EVIDENCE: Ian Thompson

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A TOP civil servant has told a Tynwald watchdog that it could take three to four years for the restructuring of the Manx Government to fall into place.

Department of Infrastructure (DOI) chief executive Ian Thompson gave evidence to the Tynwald scrutiny committee at the Legislative Council chambers on Thursday. The committee is investigating the way in which last year’s restructuring of government departments, as ordered by Chief Minister Tony Brown, was handled.

Chairman of the committee Brenda Cannell MHK questioned Mr Thompson on a reply to a letter the DOI had received. They had sent the DOI two letters during the year to see how it was coping since the restructuring kicked in. Mr Thompson told the hearing: ‘It has taken a while to get where we are. We needed to find out what we can and can’t do legally and quickly.

‘The plan was that in the first year it would take about a year to get everything in place. It just takes time.

‘It could take three or four years to get everything into place.’

The new era came into effect on April 1 with the Chief Minister insisting the restructuring was a vital first step towards improving the efficiency and effectiveness of government.

Its aim is to put new focus on the drive towards economic development and generating new revenue, essential to ensuring the island’s future prosperity following the VAT bombshell.

The controversial restructuring was approved after a mammoth seven-hour debate in Tynwald in February. While the structure of government was changed the scope of government was left largely unaltered.

The changes have resulted in the creation of six new departments – Economic Development; Social Care; Health; Community, Culture and Leisure; Environment, Food and Agriculture; and the Department of Infrastructure.

When the changes came into effect, the government claimed that the members of the public should remain largely unaffected by the impact of these changes. That was something Mrs Cannell raised with Mr Thompson.

He made it clear that there had been no issue of the public being unaware of what the Department of Infrastructure does.

He said: ‘We have not experienced that problem at all. Members of the public are very clear of our role. We have no problems with complaints during the year.’

But he added: ‘I think people don’t realise places like the airport are (under) us.’

Due to the fact that the workload had generally increased at the Department of Infrastructure, the committee questioned whether the staff were still remaining on the same pay.

Douglas South MHK Bill Malarkey questioned Mr Thomspson on whether the extra workload had affected the morale in the department, as experienced by other government workers subject to a pay freeze.

Mr Thompson said: ‘I have a strong team. We are certainly busier.

‘Some of my team find it exciting because it is change and a challenge. Today the department is stable – we believe in what we are doing and where we are going.’

The chief executive was questioned by Mrs Cannell and Mr Malarkey on whether all the extra hours of work would be worth it and his response was ‘Yes, it will be worth it’.

He praised his team of 800 workers for the hard work they had put in during the last year.

He said: ‘I cannot ask my people to do more than they have done.’

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