The Department of Infrastructure is pursuing a package of measures aimed at achieving cost savings of £5 million in the current financial year and is seeking public feedback to help shape its future plans.
A reduction in staff and services, the introduction of new charges and the generation of additional commercial income are all being progressed in response to the huge budgetary challenge.
Infrastructure Minister Laurence Skelly MHK said: ‘The Department is responsible for achieving half of Government’s overall revenue savings target of £10 million for 2014-15. It is a major undertaking that requires a bold and innovative response. The Department cannot focus on jobs, services or charges in isolation; it must be a combination of all three. I appreciate that some of our proposals, including the possibility of charging for services that have previously been free or heavily subsidised, may cause concern. But the reality is that certain services are simply not sustainable as things stand.’
He added: ‘We have drawn together a range of proposals that will deliver the necessary cost savings, while being mindful of the potential impact on the public, our staff and the economy.’
The Department is seeking to boost its commercial income by increasing the proportion of space at the Sea Terminal leased to private enterprise, building on the success of recent retail development at the site.
The implementation of new charges is also a key element of the savings programme, with public transport and car parking among the main areas under review. A wide range of options are highlighted in a consultation document and public feedback is being invited on proposals including –
- Charging for school bus services
- Raising the age of entitlement for free bus passes in line with the state retirement age
- Charging Tynwald Members and Government employees for parking spaces
- Charging residents for on-street parking permits
- Charging for parking in central Douglas
The Isle of Man’s bus services are currently subsidised to the tune of £5.5 million a year.
The cost of operating the 32 daily school service routes is approximately £1.25 million a year. Free school bus travel was introduced in 2000.
The consultation asks for public comment on a number of suggestions to recover some of the operating costs, including the possibility of introducing a fare of 50p per journey for school services.
Minister Skelly said: ‘The Department aims to provide bus services to support economic activity and social inclusion. However, in order to safeguard the long-term viability of all bus services, and fill the £500,000 budget shortfall inherited by the DoI when it took on responsibility for the Public Transport Division, some difficult choices must be made.’
The Department of Infrastructure also provides, manages and maintains, at a significant cost, a number of car parks and free parking spaces for members of the public and Government employees.
It is intending to recoup a proportion of these costs and wants to gauge the response of staff and the public to the possible introduction of new all-Island charges.
Minister Skelly said: ‘The proposals regarding bus services and car parking could have an impact on a large cross-section of the Manx public and I would urge people to participate in the consultation and share their views. We will listen carefully to what people have to say and take on board their comments as we work towards a more sustainable future for the Department and its key public services.’
The £5 million revenue savings target will also have an impact on jobs at the Department, with more than 20 employees set to leave this month as a result of voluntary resignations through the Mutually Agreed Resignation Scheme 2014.
Further reductions in staff costs may be required and discussions will be held with staff and unions.
Minister Skelly commented: ‘As I have stated previously, compulsory redundancies will be a last resort, but cannot be ruled out.’
‘Overall, our package of measures is intended to be as fair as possible in difficult circumstances and to maintain our commitment to the national priorities of rebalancing public finances, growing the economy and protecting vulnerable people.’
The consultation document regarding proposed changes to public transport and parking can be found here http://www.gov.im/ConsultationDetail.gov?id=443
The closing date for submissions is 31 July 2014.
Category: Finance & Business