In response to a Government Plan review produced by the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel, Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham said that a decision had been made which would see a standalone department under his remit created.
The Scrutiny panel had raised concerns that plans to split the department, which had been rumoured for several months, were not ‘reflected’ in the four-year Government Plan that was approved by the States last month.
The ministerial response says; ‘The decision to create a standalone department for the economy came about after the Government Plan process had started.
‘Over a similar period, a formal consultation process was taking place alongside the Government Plan – and separate to it – for the Target Operating Model for the Growth, Housing and Environment Department.
‘The outcomes of this consultation were not predefined and there was always a possibility that changes to the department structure would be one of the results.’
The panel also queried how the removal of the Economic Department would affect savings targets that have been set for GHE.
The response says: ‘It is currently envisaged that the redesign of the departments will be achieved within the existing budget. Planning is taking place with these parameters in mind.
‘The internal structural changes will not affect the overarching priority to create a vibrant economy. The workstreams remain the same but improved co-ordination of staff and resources should result in more effective implementation.’
In response to JEP questions, a departmental spokesperson said: ‘We will announce any proposed departmental changes in due course, once discussions are complete, and only after we have first notified any employees who are affected by the changes.’
Environment Minister John Young said that there had been ‘major issues’ due to conflicts of interest since GHE had been formed and he would favour further restructuring.
‘My position has been well known for some time and I have not been happy with creating what is basically a “mega-department”,’ he said.
‘There are in-built conflicts, such as between the operational side, like the activities of the Infrastructure Department, and applying regulations and ministerial responsibilities.
‘There is also the issue of having four ministers in one department and there has been a lot of confusion among staff about what their responsibilities are.
‘Work is being carried out to look at this, which will come back very soon, and I would like to see this resolved in time for the next Council of Ministers.’
He added that the two ways to resolve the conflicts issue would be to move certain responsibilities externally or internal restructuring.
‘I’m expecting there will be some big changes. I would prefer to restructure internally,’ he said.
The Growth, Housing and Environment Department was created as part of chief executive Charlie Parker’s OneGov reform programme, which is aiming to achieve more joined-up government and end the ‘silo mentality’ in the public sector, whereby departments act in their own interests rather than those of the public.
The Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Economic Development departments were all absorbed into the larger department in the early stages of Mr Parker’s reforms.