Two MHKs are concerned that the Department of Enterprise isn’t engaging enough with businesses.

David Ashford and Claire Christian argued that island businesses are getting ‘very little’ engagement from the DfE.

Mr Ashford asked Minister for Enterprise Lawrie Hooper in the House of Keys earlier this week how his department measures the health of economic sectors, anticipates future problems and identifies potential support needs.

In response, Mr Hooper explained that industry is ‘at the heart of the department’s decision making’ and it has plenty of communication.

He added that the economic dashboard, introduced late last year, can be found on the Treasury website. It shows up to date information on the island’s current economic conditions.

Mr Ashford said there is no current way of monitoring which businesses are closing and asked how the department gauges the performance of a business.

There is data-driven information from trade bodies and individual companies, said Mr Hooper.

The minister explained that there is footfall information and data on imports and exports, however Mr Ashford argued this wasn’t enough, stating that footfall doesn’t show who is shopping, just how many are walking through town.

Mr Ashford suggested the DfE provides a more detailed annual business survey to all companies, which the minister disagreed with.

The Chamber of Commerce does surveys quarterly and Mr Hooper labelled it a ‘waste of time’ and said there is ‘little value’ in the government trying to ‘replicate something already being undertaken’.

Douglas South MHK Claire Christian waded into the debate, saying that the government should be gathering its own data instead of relying on other organisations.

She added that there was a need for more statistical information over anecdotal.

‘We get quite a lot of data,’ said the minister. ‘Statistical information in economic dashboard is not anecdotal.

‘Most data is published freely online and is readily available public information.’

Mr Ashford claimed that there are businesses in the island which aren’t members of the Chamber of Commerce and therefore get ‘very little engagement’.

But Mr Hooper explained that there ‘can’t just be one single point of contact’ and that the DfE was also relying on businesses ‘actively getting in touch’.

Mrs Christian, the owner of a small business, said that she could pick up the phone but the department should be going out and getting the information itself, instead of waiting for people to call.

The minister argued that two-way communication is ‘absolutely vital’ and that his department is reaching out ‘as much as possible’.