Chief Minister Alf Cannan has opened the door to responsibility for local authorities to be taken out of the DoI and placed within the Cabinet Office alongside the new Housing and Community Board chaired by Douglas Central MHK Chris Thomas.
Mr Cannan has made no secret of his desire to reform the DoI, which there is an acceptance across the island has grown too big as it found itself being responsible for everything from horse trams and buses to local authorities and capital projects.
When asked, by Gef, whether the new role would signify moving local authorities out of the DoI’s hands, the new Chief said: ‘We will clarify some of the detail around that but broadly the idea is that Mr Thomas will chair a housing and local government, or communities, board. We will put that reporting into the Council of Ministers and that will come through the Cabinet Office.’
During the election of the island’s new Chief, Mr Cannan said in his manifesto that the island should consider appointing a minister for housing. While this position has not arisen, Mr Thomas’ new role appears to have plenty of meat (or vegetarian substitute) for him to get his teeth into.
The newly established Manx Development Corporation will likely also be central to this, with Mr Cannan’s manifesto saying it ‘could play a key role in moving forward any opportunities for appropriate housing on Government owned brownfield sites’.
Reforming the DoI
In his Chief Minister manifesto, Mr Cannan made it clear as to his feelings towards the DoI’s situation, saying: ‘ There is a strong argument to reform the Department of Infrastructure into smaller more accountable bodies in order to restore confidence, along with the need to review the method of managing key infrastructure projects. We should consider how a focused transport division will deliver a fully inclusive bus service and also plan for the future transport needs of the Island.’
Self Inflicted Pain
When asked by Isle of Man Newspaper’s Paul Hardman about the state of the DoI and whether he believed it was a ‘poisoned chalice’, new Minister Tim Crookall said he didn’t think that but did recognise that the DoI has ‘gone through a lot of pain, some of that has been self inflicted I think, over the last five years I think it’s fair to say’. He later added that he was looking forward to working with his new colleagues and when asked if he could do a better job than his predecessor he, rather confidently, just said ‘yes’.