Castletown MHK Richard Ronan today announced that he was stepping down from the Department of Social Care, where he has been a member for the past two years.
His announcement came minutes after the Members of Tynwald attended a meeting about changes to the structure of government, although the press release sent by him had clearly been prepared before that since there is not only a comment from him but from DSC Minister Chris Robertshaw too.
Mr Ronan was elected to the Keys in September 2011.
He currently holds department positions in Infrastructure and Social Care and was most recently appointed to Economic Development. He is also vice chairman of Isle of Man Post Office and sits on the cross Government Business Change Steering Group which reports directly to Council of Ministers.
As he is a member of other departments, his decision to quit the DSC would not affect his pay packet.
Mr Ronan said: ‘I came into government with specific manifesto pledges and key to this was to be involved in changing the direction of government both at a local and national level.
‘I am involved in a number of departments and organisations with significant change agendas and challenges that have to be met if public services are to be sustainable for the future. One of my main manifesto promises was to deliver a change in the way local authorities engaged with government and to ensure that tax and rate payers were at the heart of public service delivery.
‘I have been encouraged by the way in which local authorities have engaged over the department’s recent work on reviewing housing provision in the island and I am pleased that Tynwald has now given the department the remit to take this work further. It is a big step forward in modernising service delivery.
‘I feel it is a good time for me to step away from Social Care so that I can concentrate on my work on local authority reform and work in other departments together with the Post Office.’
Mr Ronan said that the Department of Social Care’s proposed changes to the system of making benefits payments via the Isle of Man Post Office had been a factor in his decision.
He said that he appreciated that difficult decisions had to be made and that as this could possibly lead him into a conflict of interest, he had stepped down to avoid such a situation arising.
Mr Ronan added: ‘I have thoroughly enjoyed my work with the Minister, members and staff at DSC. They have worked hard to achieve major change in a relatively short period of time, and I wish them well for the future.
‘However, it is now time for me to focus on delivering my manifesto promises on Local Authority Reform and Localism, which will only be achieved with a tighter political remit.’
Chris Robertshaw MHK, Minister of Social Care, said: ‘I am sorry that Richard is leaving the department but fully understand his reasons for doing so at this time.
‘I would like to thank him sincerely for his commitment to the department over the last two years in what has been, and remains, a period of very considerable and challenging change.
‘I trust that this move will give him more time to concentrate on his other areas of responsibility and wish him well in that work.’
Last week, Mr Ronan issued a press release calling on the Chief Minister to appoint a deputy.
He said he welcomed ‘the Chief Minister’s positive reaction to his call to increase the Chief Minister’s power to develop the economy and deliver change across government.’
He said: ‘In two years serving as a member of numerous boards and departments I have witnessed the inconsistent approaches and lack of cohesion of the current model which is a direct result of the existing ministerial structure and system.
‘One of this government’s biggest problems has been that it has to operate under the previous government’s 2010 restructure, which was merely a goalpost-moving exercise that hasn’t worked.
‘I am encouraged that the current Chief Minister has taken seriously the 2006 Scope and Structure of Government Report, which I believe is an outstanding piece of work, and now seems to be embracing the central and fundamental change, which is desperately needed.’
A question he tabled for the Keys asked the Chief Minister to review the Government Departments Act of 1987, on which the current system of ministerial government is based, and to give the Chief Minister more power, so that ‘more effective, action-orientated and citizen-focussed policy’ could be developed and delivered in a timely fashion.
He went on to say: ‘When I first came into Tynwald I hoped a more evolutionary “Fabian” approach to change could work for the island, and that moving in the right direction would be enough, but everything is changing too fast for this.
‘With so many, often conflicting priorities, from increasing budget pressures, access issues, competitive advantage development, international competition and the structure of our society, we just don’t have the time to wait.’
He will be encouraging the Chief Minister to appoint two key deputies, one as Deputy Chief Minister, who could drive the ‘change agenda’ and the other to build further on our international relations and develop inward investment opportunities.
He added: ‘It seems to me that services and support are being cut in an effort to save money but a huge raft of jobs with generous benefits and pension packages remain across the Manx public sector, yet there seems little accountability for service delivery, citizen satisfaction levels and results.’