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Department of Home Affairs 2013/14 Budget Impact

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


  • Savings since 2010/11 of over £4m (12%) and £8m (21%) since budget peaked in 2007/8. Loss of 44 full-time equivalent headcount in that time, including two Corporate Leadership posts
  • Changes so far include merger of prison and probation services, closure of Onchan police station, transfer of Fire HQ, more flexible terms and conditions
  • Reduction in unwanted automatic fire alarms has saved £30,000 a year
  • Further savings of £2m (6.5%) needed in next two years
  • New on-Island training facility for fire-fighters would save £50,000 a year
  • New custody block at Police HQ would consolidate Douglas detention facilities, increasing efficiency and freeing up Lord Street site
  • Further budget cuts could mean loss of 30 to 40 more posts
  • Rationalisation of leased storage and office facilities could save £100,000 over next three years
  • Continued investment in IT could improve efficiency in management of offenders, for example

The Department of Home Affairs is working to ensure that the budget reduction for 2013/14 minimises adverse impact on services, and protects front line services as far as possible as part of our mission to keep people safe.

The Department is also working up different project streams within the Criminal Justice Strategy that could significantly impact resource allocation within the Department and across Government. We have also tried where possible to look at further improved efficiency of assets and manpower across the Department.

Over the past couple of years we have rationalised our estate. The demolition of the old prison and the sale of Onchan police station will bring ongoing savings along with significant capital receipts for Government.

Longer term savings will also come from investment in capital programmes and in 2013/14 we plan to develop an on-Island training facility for fire-fighters which will reduce the need for them to visit the UK for training. As well as saving the cost of travel and accommodation the facility will mean that training can be achieved more regularly and that fire-fighters remain operationally available should a serious incident occur. This project should realise £50k savings per year once the facility is operational.

During the coming year we also plan to progress the development of a new custody block at Police Headquarters. This would consolidate all Douglas detention facilities into one location which will improve efficiency in running the cells. Additionally, it would enable the Police to vacate the current Lord Street site to free that up for development, and to transfer to a new facility where the Financial Crime Unit and Drugs Trafficking Unit could co-locate to work more closely together and improve efficiency in the prevention and detection of serious and organised crime.

As DHA has the highest ratio of salary costs as a proportion of net spend of any Department, there will inevitably be an impact on front line services by year three. In coming years, as the more significant savings are realised, this will lead to a review of flagship programmes such as neighbourhood policing. In the three years since 2010/11 the DHA has saved over £4m (12%), and has saved more than £8m (21%) since the budget was at its highest in 2007/8. During that time we have lost more than 44 full-time equivalent headcount including two Corporate Leadership posts.

The past three years have seen dramatic changes within the Department but the changes have been well planned and structured in order to avoid impact on the public wherever possible. Significant changes include the merger of the Prison and Probation Services which now both come under the leadership of the Prison Governor; the closure of Onchan Police Station and the transfer of Fire HQ to the DHA HQ.

Additionally, changes have been made to some terms and conditions to allow for more flexible working arrangements and thereby operate with fewer posts. Several management posts have been removed from our structure and although our policy to date has been to protect front-line services where possible, there have been reviews of all services which could result in fewer staff across all services – fewer police, fire-fighters, prison officers, probation officers and support staff. These changes are all on top of general cut-backs in training, travel, overtime and all other discretionary areas of spend.

Furthermore, specific projects have been ongoing to bring about savings and improve efficiency. For example, in the Fire and Rescue Service officers have been working hard with local businesses to reduce the number of unwanted automatic fire alarms, which are a significant and unnecessary cost. This project has been extremely successful to date with a reduction of over 20%, saving upwards of £30,000 per year.

The primary focus of the Department of Home Affairs is protecting the vulnerable and our services are targeted to achieve that objective. Each decision we have taken in relation to the budget cuts has been risk-assessed to ensure that community safety has not been threatened and we continue to work hard to provide best-value, effective, community focussed services.

DHA is leading one of the most significant change projects within Government - the reform of the criminal justice system. Our vision is that the system will contribute to a safe society with services that are responsive to the needs of the vulnerable. The Criminal Justice Strategy was unanimously received by Tynwald in December 2012 and the Programme Board is currently confirming the priorities for the next stage of the project which will start to deliver both efficiency and cost savings such that the criminal justice system will represent good value to the tax payer.

We recognise that our people are our most valued asset and our People Strategy reflects the values embodied within the Agenda for Change – that staff are innovative, empowered, willing to challenge and have a strong focus on service. Without the commitment and energy of our people we would not be in the strong position we are today. However, the hard work is not over. Further savings of £2m (6.5%) need to be found in the next two years.

Finding this level of savings on top of the £8m already achieved will be very difficult and it is likely that reductions to service will occur although these will be mitigated where possible with efficiency improvements and greater partnership working. The detail behind the impact of these further budget cuts is currently being developed.

They could mean that 30 to 40 more posts are lost within the Department unless significant alternative savings are found. So far, future plans include the rationalisation of leased storage and office facilities within the Department. As and when leases end, they will not be renewed unless absolutely necessary and savings of more than £100k should be achieved within the next three years. Additionally, and subject to the availability of funding, the Department hopes to continue investment in IT projects that will bring about improved efficiencies.

Current IT projects include the creation of a unified system for the management of offenders within the Prison and Probation Service; the implementation of a system to manage the maintenance and operational readiness of fire and rescue assets and equipment; and the implementation of SharePoint across the Department to reduce bureaucracy through electronic form entry and improved document management.

Minister for Home Affairs, Juan Watterson MHK, said:

'The Department has made a tremendous effort over the past few years and has achieved significant savings. Whilst we have a way forward for 2013/14, the next couple of years will remain extremely challenging and we unfortunately cannot rule out further job cuts at this point. However, the officers charged with delivering the savings have the skills and values required for such a challenge. I am therefore confident that further savings will deliver Government’s priorities in a balanced and sensitive way.'

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