‘I won’t blame my predecessor for problems’

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Friday 24th June 2022 4:09 pm
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Portrait of Chris Thomas MHK (Isle of Man Newspapers )

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Newly appointed Infrastructure Minister Chris Thomas has said he won’t be blaming his predecessor for the current state of affairs.

He took over the job after Tim Crookall, the previous DoI minister, moved to the Department for Enterprise in a cabinet re-shuffle caused by David Ashford’s resignation as health minister.

When asked what he would do to restore faith in the department, Mr Thomas said: ‘I’m not going to come in and say “it’s all my predecessor’s fault”. I’m not blaming anybody. We’ve got challenges and just need to tackle them.

‘I’m also conscious of talking more to the media and to lay down the facts accurately rather than trying to be clever and misrepresenting the truth sometimes. I’ll explain the options we’ve got and then hopefully come to a consensus in choosing between those options.

‘For example, once the Liverpool ferry terminal’s finished and we know how much it’s cost, we’ve got to work out a fair way of paying for it. I hope I’ll be able to discuss that with the public and come up with a way we can accept is ideal.

‘The approach that I want to take is “people first”, which comes from the Island Plan. Although I voted against the Island Plan, I do support that approach.

‘I want to focus on the users of infrastructure and the people who pay to use it, not on the building or the physical infrastructure itself.’

The Douglas Central MHK said he was excited for the challenge, saying there’s lots more opportunities now available to him to progress projects.

He added: ‘I’m grateful to the chief minister for allowing me to lead the responsibility for this department.

‘It’s a role that I discussed with him over a number of weeks. At election time we did discuss other roles in government for me but I favoured this one.’

Mr Thomas, who is keeping his title as chair of the Housing and Communities Board, explained his priorities as minister.

He said: ‘What was absolutely paramount for me was continuing to do the right things to address the housing crisis.

‘Also, for the last 30 years, whenever the Manx public has been asked in social attitude surveys what the best and worst things are about living on the Isle of Man are, the top three things that come up as the worst are off-island travel, housing and things to do/quality of infrastructure.

‘You can address those in infrastructure, along with many more important issues the public care about like vehicle licensing, flood risk management and highways. The initial two timely priorities are the airport and the buses.’

He has previously worked closely with Eric Corkish, a mobility scooter user, to provide better access on buses, which Mr Corkish recently said had made little progress.

‘I want to get to a situation where he can get on a bus with his mobility scooter,’ Mr Thomas said. ‘There could be 30 other people in that scenario and I want to help them, they all matter. I hope they understand it’s not a day one priority but it will be solved.’

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