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THE secondment of a senior civil servant to Sark does not mean the commitment to economic growth here is being downgraded, Chief Minister Allan Bell insisted.

Mr Bell accepted it may seem an unexpected turn of events that Colin Kniveton, chief executive officer of Department of Economic Development, would be going on a four- to six-month secondment to help set up a permanent civil service in the tiny Channel Island of Sark.

Mr Kniveton’s post would be temporarily filled by Chris Corlett, chief executive of Social Care, whose department is itself facing major challenges in the shape of a spiralling benefits bill and proposed welfare reform.

‘There may be a perception that we have somehow downgraded the Department of Economic Development but that is certainly not the case,’ said Mr Bell.

Creation of a civil service in Sark was one of the recommendations made in the review of the Channel Island’s government by former UK senior civil servant Belinda Crowe.

Sark, three and a half miles in length and a mile and a half wide and with a population of less than 600, was Europe’s last feudal state until a fully democratic government was introduced in 2006.

Related article: Key government official seconded to isle of Sark.

Mr Kniveton has been given a leave of absence to undertake his role, which is to help Sark’s Chief Pleas implement the recommendations of the Crowe report, including the creation of a small permanent civil service. All his costs are being paid by the Sark Government.

Mr Corlett’s role at the Department of Social Care will be filled by the deputy chief executive Yvette Mellor.

Mr Bell said: ‘We’ve been aware about the issue with Sark for a long time. I think that this issue above all has been causing the Ministry of Justice some serious headaches.’

He said that it would be a challenge that Mr Kniveton, an experienced senior officer, would relish.

And the Chief Minister said it was an opportunity for the Isle of Man to assist the Ministry of Justice.

Mr Bell said Mr Corlett had extensive experience as a former chief executive of the Department of Trade and Industry, while Ms Mellor was a ‘very experienced and highly thought of’ officer who would be able to work closely with Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw MHK.

He said both were highly qualified individuals who were committed respectively to promoting economic growth and protecting the vulnerable, which were two of three planks of government policy.

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