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Home Affairs driving forward ambitious programme of savings and efficiencies 5 April 2013

THE Department of Home Affairs is continuing to drive forward an ambitious programme of savings and efficiencies in order to achieve its budget targets while minimising the impact on frontline services.

The demolition of Victoria Road prison, the sale of Onchan police station and the transfer of the Isle of Man Fire and Rescue Service headquarters have already generated savings and significant capital receipts for Government. In addition to rationalising its estate and leased office and storage facilities, the Department has also combined the prison and probation services and introduced more flexible terms and conditions for staff.

This package of measures has contributed to savings of more than £4 million (12%) since 2010-11, and £8 million (21%) since the Department’s budget peaked in 2007-08. It means that Home Affairs delivers a wide range of community-focused services – including the Isle of Man Constabulary, Fire and Rescue Service, Prison and Probation Service, Communications Division and Emergency Planning Unit – for spending of £367 a year per head of population in the Island, or just over £1 a day per person. Efforts are now concentrated on identifying further efficiencies and cost-cutting initiatives in order to achieve additional savings of £2 million (6.5%) over the next two years.

Minister Juan Watterson MHK said:

‘The primary focus of the Department is protecting the vulnerable and our services are targeted towards achieving that objective. Each decision we have taken in relation to budget cuts has been risk-assessed to ensure community safety has not been threatened and we will continue to work hard to provide best-value, effective services for the people of the Isle of Man. As well as helping residents to feel secure in their local communities, the Department of Home Affairs recognises its role in supporting our national priority of growing the economy. The Isle of Man is firmly established as one of the safest places to live in the British Isles and this reputation, together with an excellent quality of life, is a significant factor in attracting new businesses and key workers to the Island.’

While praising staff for the progress achieved to date, the Minister acknowledged that the Department faces a challenging time ahead as it seeks to deliver further budget cuts. Among the proposals for future savings is the development of an on-Island training facility for firefighters which would reduce the cost of travel and accommodation associated with UK-based training.

The Department is also planning a new custody block at Police headquarters to consolidate all Douglas detention facilities into one location. This will help to improve efficiency and enable the police to vacate the current Lord Street site – freeing it up for development. Staff levels will also be assessed as part of a comprehensive review of the Department’s activities.

As Home Affairs has the highest ratio of salary costs as a proportion of its budget of any Government department, there is likely to be an impact on jobs by the end of the rebalancing process. Home Affairs has lost 44 full-time equivalent headcount since 2010-11, and a further reduction in posts may be required to balance the books.

Minister Watterson said:

‘The Department made some dramatic changes in recent times, and those changes have been well planned and structured in order to minimise the impact on the public wherever possible. We will continue to work creatively and invest in IT, but there can be no doubt that the next couple of years will be extremely challenging and further job losses cannot be ruled out. Overall, I am confident that we can play our part in delivering Government’s priorities while achieving our savings targets in a balanced, pragmatic and sensitive way.’

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