Blog 16 Dec 18The Post Office Strike and the Manx Radio Select Committee on Public Service Media Report were two of the key topics of discussion this week, especially in Tynwald.

Despite some negotiations between the CWU and the Post Office the strike action by postal workers went ahead as scheduled on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th, which is very disappointing for everyone involved.

The Tynwald debate on the Post Office was certainly a lively debate amongst the Tynwald members, but the block vote from the Council Ministers and a few others ensured that the Post Office recommendations were through the Chamber – and more on that particular topic later…..

With regards to this week’s activities, Monday was one of those very pleasant days you get from time to time in this role.

I was in the office for 8am and I was able to finish off any prep work for this month’s sitting of Tynwald.

I was scheduled to attend Springfield Court for their coffee morning, but the residents were heading out for their Christmas lunch, which meant I had an extra hour or so to spare on Monday morning.

This enabled me to go through the DfE agenda pack, which was around 154 pages with several key decisions to be made on Wednesday.

I also needed to draft several letters, along with various ongoing discussions with colleagues relating to the Post Office situation at the moment, which is turning into a shambles, with both sides on Monday blaming each other for the lack of negotiations.

On Monday lunchtime I drove into Onchan to attend my first nativity play of the festive season, as Year 3 and 4 Students of Onchan School put on their production of “What’s Going on Behind the Stable Door?”

As I put in a separate post, I really did enjoy the show, along with many proud parents watching in the audience.

There was even a Christmas sing-along at the end……

Excellent music throughout and the students should be proud of their achievements, especially at such a young age.

Back to the office after lunch and the rest of the afternoon was spent at my desk continuing to prepare for Tynwald or catching up with correspondence.

I left the office at 17.15, but I only had sufficient time to get changed before heading down to the Steam Railway Station in Douglas to meet up with members of the Vintage Motorcycle Club, who were having their annual trip to Castletown via the Pie & Mash Dining Car.

A massive thank you to the Vintage Motorcycle Club for a wonderful evening, and I finally got home for around 23.15.

Back in the office for 8am on Tuesday for this month’s Tynwald sitting, and the first hour or so was spent preparing for Tynwald and going through my speaking notes, especially on the Motion relating to the Post Office.

At 10.30am we walked down to the Tynwald Chamber, which started with me asking the Post Office Chairman to outline the plans they have put in place ahead of any strike action on Thursday 13th & Friday 14th December.

There were then 15 oral questions on various topics, along with 32 written questions.

Once the oral questions finished, we then went through the main Order Paper, which started with a debate on the Isle of Man Post Office.

There were five recommendations being tabled by the Chairman of the Post Office, Julie Edge, MHK, and the debate lasted well over three and a half hours.

I certainly couldn’t support four of the five recommendations personally.

Therefore, I seconded an amendment tabled by Dr.Allinson, which unfortunately failed.

I voted in favour of recommendation 1 of the original Motion being tabled, which acknowledged the significant contribution made by the Post Office and its staff, but I couldn’t support the remaining recommendations.

During the lunch break a few of us including Martyn Perkins, Lawrie Hooper and Daphne Caine headed to the noodle bar on Prospect Hill, which gave us an opportunity to switch off for 35 minutes.

From there we went straight back to the Tynwald building and up to the Barool Suite for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting, which started at 13.45.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time and from there it was straight back into Tynwald Court, which reconvened at 14.30.

The excellent debate on the Post Office continued after lunch. It was great to see the public gallery now full with row after row of postal staff, which was fantastic.

It is worth noting that a number of Tynwald Members, not just the four members of DfE seriously questioned the vision and direction being taken by Isle of Man Post Office at the moment.

Congratulations to my colleague Tim Crookall, MLC who received a round of applause from the public gallery for his contribution to the debate, which didn’t go down well with the President of Tynwald who asked for “Order, Order or I will have you all removed…..” A very interesting moment!

Despite an excellent debate, all the amendments being tabled by Members failed and the original recommendations tabled by the Chairman of the Post Office received the support of Tynwald Members by 15 votes to 8 from the Keys and 5 votes to 3 in LegCo, which is very disappointing but that is Manx politics.

That said, I feel I must take this opportunity to clarify a couple of points, especially to residents of Onchan who placed their trust in me back in September 2016.

I certainly want to refute several comments that have appeared on social media since Tuesday, in which both Lawrie Hooper, MHK and I have both been accused of undertaking a personal agenda against the Chairman of the Post Office, which is a million miles from the actual truth.

I would also encourage anyone making such comments to actually listen to the debate via the Tynwald website….. I felt my speech was measured and honest as an MHK, which also highlighted my serious concerns from reading all the documents.

For anyone interested, my speech is around 35 minutes into the debate….

As an MHK I am elected to review all the relevant information and to form an opinion without fear or favour, which was one of my key election promises back in 2016.

I initially raised my concerns as a Department Member during a presentation given by the Post Office Executive, which was then followed up with various emails to the CEO of the Post Office via the Department.

I guess only the Chairman, CEO and the Executive Board can explain why the communications between the Post Office and DfE suddenly stopped and the strategy document went straight to the Council of Ministers, which was extremely disappointing, if not a little strange – but again, I guess that is Manx politics, as I have already mentioned.

I can also assure Constituents that when I am scrutinising documents or information I certainly do not look at who is personally tabling the Motions; my decisions are made solely on the evidence being presented, and I certainly do not take things beyond the Chamber. Once the debate is finished, then I move onto the next item.

I can only hope that Onchan residents viewing these comments online via multiple “fake accounts” being set up at the moment actually question the motive and individuals behind these accounts.

After the Post Office Motion there was an even longer debate, which lasted almost four hours on the Select Committee on Public Service Media that related to Manx Radio and its role as a public service broadcaster.

Unfortunately, the amendment tabled by Tim Baker, MHK completely split the Chambers with the House of Keys supporting and LegCo Member voting it down.

That meant that the vote and the Motion was halted because Tim asked for a combined vote, which is now held over until next month’s sitting.

A very strange end to a very emotive debate……

I had a speech prepared myself, but after about two hours of debate I realised that most of my points had already been made.

I think the funniest part of the whole debate was from Chris Robertshaw, MHK who associated the various amendments being tabled by the Members with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears – ‘This amendment is too hot, that amendment is too cold…. but that amendment is just right’ – very funny!

The rest of Order Paper was relatively straightforward and this month’s sitting finished at 21.00. I then had to catch up with a couple of emails before I finally finished at around 22.00.

Although Tynwald finished in a single day, I was back into the office for 8am on Wednesday and got straight into the DfE board notes and a couple of particular agenda items, which required careful decisions to be made.

Just after 9am we headed over to DfE for the usual Minister and Political Members briefing.

At 22.00 we had our regular update from the Chairs and Heads of the four Agencies, which lasted around an hour.

This was followed by a presentation from Dawn Kennish on the equality duty being placed on the Public Sector. A very interesting meeting. It is a minefield to navigate around but hopefully it will make things fairer for certain sections of our community as we head into 2019.

We then went through the remaining agenda but I had to leave at 12.45 in order to drive up to Manx Radio to do a quick interview on the Post Office situation.

From there I went straight into Onchan and St Peter’s Church for the first of two Onchan School Christmas Productions.

The Onchan School nativity production had a wonderful twist at the end relating to WWI.

I then headed back to the office for around 45 minutes to send a few emails, before driving back into Onchan to watch the Ashley Hill School Pantomime, which was fantastic with lots of “hissing” and “booing”.

After picking Ellen up at 17.10 we headed home to get changed and to arrive at Government House for 18.30, in order to support the Christmas Reception being held by Sir Richard & Lady Gozney, which Is always an excellent event, with everyone taking part in the carol singing.

We finally got home for 20.30, but I needed to spend the next couple of hours catching up with emails and messages etc….. before finally finishing at around 22.30 after a very nice day….

I was running slightly behind by Thursday morning, so once I arrived in the office I needed to go through the Visit Isle of Man agenda pack, along with a couple of reports ahead of our meeting, which started at 10am.

There was also an excellent presentation on the visitor numbers and where visitors come from, etc.

The meeting finished at around 12.30.

After getting my photo taken I went back to the office to drop my bag off before walking back along Hill Street to St George’s Church for the Tynwald Carol Service, which was fantastic.

Once the service finished it was straight up to the Barrool Suite and a further workshop on the Public Sector Pension, which appears to be getting more difficult each time we obtain additional information or more pieces to the jigsaw.

I also had to deal with a few TT issues throughout the afternoon, but I finally left the office at around 17.15.

I didn’t sleep well on Thursday night, mainly because I have caught a cold from somewhere.

Originally I was meant to attend a very important meeting on Friday morning relating to the TT, but the meeting was cancelled late on Thursday afternoon.

This meant that I had a few hours spare on Friday, so I took the opportunity to head to Tesco and to go into Onchan for a couple of Constituent meetings.

I was also able to complete a few personal tasks at home, but in the afternoon I attended another Christmas play at Ashley Hill, Onchan.

This particular play was based around “Scrooge”, as well as around the students’ course work, and it was another excellent production.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at home catching up with various things, not forgetting numerous emails and phone calls.

As for the weekend, I have three Constituent events I will be attending.

Further details on these events will be posted over the weekend.