Minister admits time is right to axe DCCL

Graham Cregeen MHK

Graham Cregeen MHK

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Community, Culture and Leisure Minister Graham Cregeen insists his soon to be disbanded department has been a success – but accepted it needs to go.

Tynwald this month voted unanimously to approve radical reforms to streamline government – a move that will see the dissolution of the DCCL and its services distributed to other departments.

With bus strikes, the U-turn over bendy buses and the controversy over the purchase of a new £400,000 diesel loco, the department had made the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past 18 months.

Mr Cregeen said: ‘With the changes coming in April and the amount of media coverage of the department’s attempts to modernise public transport, it would be easy to assume that the DCCL has not been a success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

‘We have had to face some very difficult challenges to adapt to the changing economic climate and our services have perhaps been impacted more than any by government’s necessity to balance the budget. Yet we have embraced this challenge with results exceeding any other area of government in terms of improving efficiency, increasing revenues and delivering great service to the Manx public.’

But he added: ‘I think it needs to go. Things get to a critical mass – with the savings we are being asked to make it gets to a point where you ask how you can provide these services and stick within the budget.’

Mr Cregeen said the department has seen its budget reduced by 14.4 per cent (£2.2m) since its inception in 2010/11. This includes a 31.5 per cent reduction in corporate services, a 20 per cent reduction in leisure services and a 9 per cent reduction in public transport.

The Minister said this has been achieved while continuing to provide an excellent range of services and high quality infrastructure.

He pointed out that many of the service operated by the department - the Villa/Marina, the heritage railways, the Wildlife Park - are subsidised but while not profitable in their own right, they add to the quality of life of residents and attract visitors to the island.

Highlighting some of the DCCL success stories, Mr Cregeen said the Villa Marina and Gaiety Theatre has reduced its deficit by 23 per cent from £1.3m to £1m since 2010/11 (since the opening of the Villa Marina in 2004/05, the reduction is closer to 40 per cent) and visitor numbers have consistently reached in the region of 250,000 per year for the last five years.

The Curraghs Wildlife Park has enjoyed consecutive years of growth, culminating in selling almost 1,000 memberships in 2013/14 (an increase of 200 per cent since 2011) and a seven year high for visitor numbers.

Mr Cregeen also cited a new Sports Strategy that aims to improve social engagement through sport and is hoping to deliver in excess of £56m worth of savings per year by 2050 to the island’s Health Service.

But the DCCL’s biggest headache, the long-running bus drivers’ dispute, is still to be resolved. Two drivers will take their case for unfair dismissal back to the employment tribunal in a test case which resumes on February 12 to 14.

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