More urgency needed on Government reforms, says Chamber | August 2022

The Island’s largest business network is calling for more urgency regarding major Government reforms which the Chief Minister has promised to introduce.

Date: Tuesday 23 August 2022

In May – following revelations about the culture within Government that emerged during the Dr Rosalind Ranson employment tribunal – Alf Cannan MHK said there must be ‘fundamental and wide-ranging reforms’ and ‘structural and cultural changes’.

Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce welcomed his comments and commitment to reform at that time. Since then there have been a number of high-profile departures of senior civil servants, and a mini ministerial reshuffle. But, three months after the Chief Minister’s promise of major reforms, Chamber is concerned about the slow pace of progress towards the goals he has promised.

In particular the business organisation – which represents businesses that provide over approximately half of the Island’s private sector workforce – has two major concerns, as Chamber Board Member Carol Glover explains: “Chamber and our members appreciate that, like all large organisations, Isle of Man Government is like an ocean going tanker which takes time to turn around. Meaningful change is not going to happen overnight. However, our members were hoping to see more rapid change than we have seen so far, especially in regard to the ever growing number of Government employees. The reality is that Government is now bigger than ever with figures recently revealed in a Tynwald  written answer showing that the number of full-time employees has increased by 194 in the past 12 months*. This trend appears to be at odds with the recently published ‘Our Island, Our Future’ economic strategy document which highlighted the need to ensure that the Island can support a growing number of sectors, and be in a position to assist both the growth of new businesses and the relocation of incoming businesses. Secondly, because Government is continuing to employ more and more people – and doing so by offering salaries and employee benefits that the private sector simply can’t match – it’s adding to the challenges businesses are facing as they struggle to plug the skills gap.”

Following up on that last point, she added: “Chamber understands that Government needs to recruit and retain skilled employees. However, it seems that recruiting more full-time employees – or offering people fixed term contracts that are then routinely renewed – is the default option instead of looking at how existing employees can be redeployed, seconded to other departments, or retrained to take up different roles. For these reasons, Chamber wants to see a cap put on the recruitment of non-frontline employees in the Isle of Man public sector until the current economic crisis begins to ease.”

Many of the issues facing Government, says Chamber, have been faced and addressed already by the private sector. In that context, adds Carol, Chamber is ideally placed to help Government to accelerate the pace of reforms, and make the public sector more efficient and cost-effective. She said: “The business community in the Isle of Man has a wide range of world class skills and talent, and many businesses are keen to help our Government to address the unprecedented challenges it faces. Ultimately, the public and private sectors are striving towards the same goal of driving economic growth. That’s why we want to work with Government to establish a joint project team drawn from leading IOM businesses with the aim of fast-tracking the skills needed by future leaders within our public sector.. Another major reform we want to see is a review of all paper-based systems currently being used, especially those that are used by the general public. Following that review, we want to see priority given to a programme of digitisation across Isle of Man Government, backed by data, measurement and benchmarking.”

Carol Glover, Board Member, Isle of Man Chamber of Commerce.

Tynwald response can be found here