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DEFA responds positively to budget challenges 19 February 2013

Summary

  • 2013/14 budget of £14.3m represents reduction of 4.5% on previous year. Savings of over £800,000 required
  • Compares with budget in 2010/11 of £16.4m
  • Budget reductions achieved through range of operational efficiency savings income generation measures, and some reduction in grants
  • Further workforce reduction of 8 to 10 posts expected, mainly “natural wastage”
  • Plans underway to centralise forestry operations from three depots to one
  • Review to identify any potential outsourcing of operations at Sawmill
  • Charging for fishing vessel licences to include visiting non-Manx boats
  • 8% reduction in Countryside Care Scheme grant payments over next three years. Also Agri-Environment Scheme to merge with Countryside Care Scheme
  • New Farm Horticultural Investment capital funding of up to £340,000 a year. Potential transfer of costs of environmental health services to local authorities

The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) has reduced its 2013/2014 revenue budget by £668,000 to £14.303 million in response to the need to re-balance the Government’s budget. This equates to a budget reduction of 4.5% on the previous year.

Taking into account inflation and the effect of loan charges, this has required savings of over £800,000 to be made and includes the loss of a further 8 to 10 posts, predominantly through “natural wastage”. DEFA has already made numerous changes over the last few years in response to the financial situation faced by the Government.

Since 2010, it has already removed over £1.4 million (9%) from its budget and lost 23 (14%) posts. This has been achieved through a combination of operational efficiency savings, revenue income generation measures, and some reduction in grants. This approach has been continued for 2013/14 so as to meet budget priorities set out by the Chief Minister.

DEFA Minister, Phil Gawne MHK said:

'We continue to work hard to ensure that we play a positive part in helping to meet budget challenges. This has meant scrutinising closely the services we deliver and finding ways to continue to provide as much as we can of them but at reduced cost. I am grateful to staff for showing the flexibility and commitment necessary during these difficult times, enabling us to minimise the impact on the delivery of services to the public. I have every confidence that we will continue to deliver value for money for the Isle of Man, and help grow the Food and Forestry sectors of the Manx economy.'

Notes

1. The Department is currently implementing plans to centralise forestry operations from three to one depot. By being in a better position to align the available resources with areas of operational priority, economies of scale savings will be possible. The Sawmill has already benefited from a significant investment in new technology over the last few years, which now provides an opportunity to review the product margins, staffing levels and operational efficiency. The Department will be looking into the potential scope for further outsourcing its operations, although this will only be done where a clear case can be made that it improves the efficiency of the service to be delivered.

2. The Department has reviewed its sources of revenue income and will seek to raise new income streams of up to £150,000 in 2013/14. One key measure will be the introduction of charging for licences to all fishing vessels in Manx waters, including visiting boats, which for the first time will be required to contribute towards the Department’s administrative cost of supporting the fishing industry, in line with the “user pays” principle. The licence will be valid for two years, spreading the cost for the users.

3. Grants paid to the agricultural sector form a fundamental part of the Department’s strategy to develop the local economy. It is nevertheless recognised that this sector must play a part in helping Government rebalance its finances. Consequently, there are planned reductions in the Countryside Care Scheme payments in the region of 8% over the next three financial years. The Department will also liaise with the industry to consider how the Agri-Environment Scheme can be merged with the Countryside Care Scheme after 2013/14. The Farm and Horticultural Investment capital grants scheme has already been re-launched with new funding of up to £340,000 per annum being made available over the next three years to both stimulate economic development in the construction sector and improve efficiency and profitability in agriculture.

4. The Scope of Government Response has highlighted the need for those services which are provided for or on behalf of local government to be wholly funded by local authorities. The Department provides a range of vital environmental health services to protect not only the vulnerable in our society, but also the wider public. Some of these are statutory functions of the Local Authorities, provided on their behalf, and so during the coming months, this Department intends to liaise with local government, regarding the future funding of these services.

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