save

10/05/19

saving money an ever-present challenge for government

Revelations that the Manx Government’s much vaunted SAVE programme might not actually achieve its target of £15 million by 2022-23 shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The rationale behind the initiative seemed more like a rather glib PR exercise than a concerted attempt to claw back savings from the government machine.

Efforts to reduce revenue expenditure through streamlining government processes and activities should be an everpresent constant within the system rather than a short term exercise in the hope of coming up with big, shiny end total, followed by much self congratulation.

Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan – responding to a question from Ramsey MHK Lawrie Hooper in Tynwald – conceded that securing savings through this route had proved challenging and continues to be so. It begs the question – why launch such a campaign in the first place. If Mr Hooper hadn’t raised the issue in Tynwald would the SAVE programme have quietly disappeared from the radar?

As part of the original idea the public was asked to come up with ideas for making savings. According to Government figures around 1,300 suggestions were forthcoming, with every one of them reviewed by a team of officers from Treasury and Cabinet. After sifting, around 700 met the brief of making revenue savings suggestions, the rest were ideas for income generation.

All the suggestions and responses were logged and displayed on the government website. The process must have occupied considerable man-hours for civil servants.

Making cost savings across government isn’t easy. To be fair a significant number of initiatives have been instigated to that end, but after a lengthy period of relative austerity, brought about by changes to the way the Island’s VAT contributions are calculated, the requirement for further cost savings remains.

The economy continues to perform well, but as Mr Cannan is the first to concede, there is no room for complacency. 

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but SAVE programmes such as the one we currently have carry a whiff of desperation. 

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