Blog 15 July 18Last weekend was a reasonably busy period with four Constituent meetings on Saturday, along with starting to prepare for this month’s Tynwald sitting.

On Saturday evening Ellen and I attended the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra Summer Concert 2018, which was being held at St Ninian’s Church. It was a very good concert with standing room only, but unfortunately I also received the very sad news during the concert that TT rider, William Dunlop had sustained fatal injuries as a result of a crash during practice at the Skerries 100 Road Race in County Dublin.

It has certainly been a very difficult year for motorcycle racing, especially in relation to household names associated so fondly with the TT and Southern 100.

On Sunday Ellen and I enjoyed the Secret Gardens in and around Peel and I am still hopeful that Onchan will stage its own Secret Gardens in the near future.

As for this week’s schedule, Monday was taken up with just three meetings…..

I was in the office for 8am, which gave me just enough time to send out a few items of correspondence and return a couple of calls.

Just before 8.50am I drove up to the TT Grandstand for two formal meetings, the first one was catering outlets from the Isle of Man TT Artisan Tent, which was repositioned opposite the new H & B beer tent before this year’s event.

It was a good meeting and it gave DfE officers and myself a good insight into the positives and the negatives from several key local businesses, along with discussing what can or should be changed for 2019.

The second meeting started at 10.30am with the remaining catering outlets located behind the Grandstand.

Again, it was a good meeting and it gave us an excellent insight into trading over this year’s TT festival. I am extremely grateful for local businesses giving up their time so freely.

We also had a quick discussion on site before I drove back to the office for 13.00.

Once I was back at the office I was able to send a few emails and to catch up with a couple of colleagues before heading south at 13.30 to visit Prometic Bioseparations, which is located at the Freeport in Ballasalla.

I guess most people haven’t even heard of Prometic, but they are ‘a global biopharmaceutical corporation dedicated to healing people with rare and unmet medical needs in the field of fibrosis and orphan diseases.’

They have been on the Isle of Man for 30 years, and DfE and Treasury Members were invited to a joint tour of the facilities by way of a thank you to the Isle of Man Government who has supported the business during this period.

I have to admit that most of the information went above my head, but from reviewing their website they are ‘committed to providing patients throughout the world with hope of a healthier future’.

Despite my difficulties following the complexity of their work, it was still a very interesting meeting, along with the tour of the facilities, which are fantastic.

The meeting finished at 16.30, which gave me time to call into the office to collect my things before going home at 17.10.

Once home I needed to catch up with some e-mails and I finally finished for around 19.45.

In the office for 8am on Tuesday and it was a day at my desk seriously trying to catch up with things before the Tynwald sitting next week.

My day started with me reviewing some TT related correspondence before going through the DfE agenda pack ahead of the meeting on Wednesday.

I then needed to review the responses received back from a recent Consultation relating to a review of the current tourism legislation and drafting a couple of correspondence items on behalf of Constituents.

The morning certainly went by very quickly and before I realised it was 12.30 and time to head up to the Barrool Suite for the annual presentation given by the Chamber of Commerce, which was followed by a round of Q&As from Tynwald Members.

At 14.10 I walked down to the Sea Terminal for a meeting with a Constituent, which was a general catch up on various issues and concerns.

I was back at my desk for 15.20 and the rest of the afternoon was spent on preparing for the Tynwald sitting and answering various correspondence on the Eastern Area Plan, which included a discussion with one of the developers, which will be followed up with a site meeting next week.

I left the office at 17.20 and after tea I went through the Public Accounts Committee Agenda. I also needed to draft a quick letter template but I still managed to finish for 21.30.

Back in the office for 8.10am on Wednesday and after grabbing a quick coffee I started to draft several Constituent correspondence items using the template I prepared on Tuesday evening.

At 9.15am I walked over to DfE for the usual Minister and Political Members briefing before the formal Board Meeting, which started by receiving an update from the Chairs and Heads of the DfE Agencies at 10am.
From 11am we started to go through the DfE agenda pack, which was again relatively light.

The meeting finished at 12 noon and it was straight over to the Barrool Suite for an update briefing on GDPR, which included input from Officers, the AG’s Chambers and most importantly, the Information Commissioner, Iain McDonald.

The briefing was called after the Motion was defeated in Tynwald last month.

It was definitely one of the most interesting briefings we have had in this administration, especially around applying the GDPR regulations here on the Isle of Man.

Just a shame that the briefing didn’t happen a couple of months ago.

I had to leave the meeting slightly early at 13.45, in order to send a couple of emails and return a phone call before heading down to a meeting at 14.00 of the Public Accounts Committee.

The Committee meeting last around 2 hours and the focus of discussion was again the overspend at Noble’s Hospital.

The last hour was spent catching up with a few things before I left the office at 17.00. I only had time to drop a few things at home before driving into Onchan village for a meeting with the 2nd Scouts, which was rearranged because of the England World Cup match.

Finally got home for 18.50 and after having a quick tea, I continued to work through the Tynwald Order with the football on in the background – I guess the World Cup won’t be going home, as England got beaten 2-1 in extra time against Croatia……

Recently I looked though the island’s current immigration policy, as someone contacted me with several areas of concerns. Coincidentally, this week I have been invited to deliver an eight minute speech on immigration and work permits at an event being organised for September, so I also took the opportunity to start researching the topic and collecting some notes.

I finally finished for 22.00 after a couple of hours going through various reports on immigration.

On Thursday I needed to drop the car off at the garage, so I didn’t get into the office until 8.30am. I only went into the office on Thursday to collect some files and paperwork, along with sending out some correspondence before leaving at 10.30am to start walking home.

I was invited to attend the final day of the Southern 100 meeting, but unfortunately the invitation arrived after I had already booked the car in for a service.

Instead, I worked from home on the Tynwald Order Paper and completing some tasks around the house, along with listening to the Southern 100 racing.

Towards teatime I received correspondence from the Southern 100 Committee confirming that popular rider James Cowton had died and three other riders were injured in a race incident.

It really has been a difficult and dark period for motorcycling during 2018.

With no briefings and meetings scheduled on Friday, I was able to spend the day at home continuing to go through the Tynwald Order Paper, but I did manage to take a few hours off in the afternoon to complete a few personal jobs around the house.

Most of Friday morning was taken up going through the Public Sector Pensions Legacy Funding paper.

It is fair to describe the situation as one of the biggest challenges facing the Manx Government. It will probably take 35 to 70 years to fully resolve and will be painful along the way for everyone involved, including the Manx taxpayer who will have to fund the gap between employee and employer (also the taxpayer) contributions.

The challenge is how to make public sector pension schemes affordable in the long term. Since 2016 benefits have been reduced and contributions increased and part of the challenge has been addressed for the Unified, Police, Teachers and Tynwald Members’ schemes. Discussions are ongoing with the Judiciary to introduce similar reforms to their schemes, but much more needs to be done.

Previous Governments have simply ignored the problem for far too long, but this administration is trying to grasp the nettle very tightly once and for all, and that should be applauded.

Finished for 16.00 on Friday and at around 19.15 I headed in to Douglas to support Ellen who was taking part in a concert with the Addison Singers Chamber Choir, who had travelled to the island from London to perform a joint concert with our very own Tallis Consort.

An excellent evening of entertainment, and we finally got home at 23.15.

I had to reschedule a couple of meetings for Saturday morning, but hopefully I will be able to attend Onchan Village Fair in the afternoon.

On Sunday I will be going onboard another cruise ship, which will be visiting the Isle of Man for the first time.