Blog 23 Dec 18This week has almost been a non-event for me, mainly because I have been suffering from a touch of man flu, which any bloke will tell you is just one step from death’s door – unfortunately, wives and partners never understand the seriousness of man flu…..

On a more positive note, Christmas is fast approaching and like most people I am looking forward to taking a few days off over the festive holidays.

That said, I fully acknowledge and appreciate those people who have to work over the Christmas period to keep us all safe and secure etc, so a massive thank you to anyone having to work over Christmas this year.

Despite my illness, I still managed to attend several events in Onchan and Douglas last weekend.

I have always enjoyed the run up to the Christmas holidays, and in this role you had better like mince pies, carol singing and nativity plays at this time of year.

Fortunately for me I do and there is also the sense of Community, which I appreciate ever more these days.

Last Saturday afternoon I attended the opening of a new office in Onchan by Regal Windows, which has a small unit next to the war memorial.

A massive thank you to all the staff at Regal Windows, and I certainly wish them all the very best for the future.

In the evening Ellen and I also supported the Manx Festival Chorus who were performing “Messiah” by Handel at St George’s Church, which was very very good.

Last Sunday we attended the Onchan Silver Band concert in the afternoon, which was being held in the Parish Hall.

Onchan Silver Band was being supported by Ashely Hill School, and again it was a wonderful concert.

In the evening Ellen and I went to St Peter’s Church, Onchan to attend the Nine Lessons and Carols service, which remains one of my personal favourites in the run up to the Christmas holidays.

A glass of mulled wine at the end – what more do you need…?

Two fantastic events which bring the Community together just before Christmas.

As for this week, well, I was under the weather for most of it, but hopefully I will have fully recovered by Christmas Day….

I was in the office by 8.15am on Monday and with no meetings or briefings scheduled until 14.00 I was able to seriously catch up with things in and around the office.

It took me an hour or so to catch up any outstanding emails, along with dealing with several ongoing Constituents issues.

I then received a phone call out of the blue at around 10.30am from a trustee of the Isle of Man Post Office asking if we could schedule a meeting, which I was more than happy to arrange.

With my calendar free until 14.00 on Monday I was able to schedule a meeting for around 11am. It was definitely a robust, open and frank meeting, but at the same time a very helpful meeting, especially around my questions and concerns on the Post Office Pension Scheme, reducing the delivery from 6 to 5 days and the MARS Scheme.

One thing that we have to remember is that MHKs might have certain skills in a particular area of business etc, but they certainly won’t be experts in many of the areas that need to be considered when fulfilling their duties from time to time….

Therefore, it is vitally important that MHKs listen to any professional and officer advice given, and fully understand this information, in order to make balanced views based on the evidence available.

The meeting lasted around 90 minutes and I was able to table various questions and concerns regarding the proposed changes being undertaken by the Isle of Man Post Office, along with obtaining a better understanding of where the Post Office is heading into the short, medium and long term future.

Maybe in hindsight the meeting should have been scheduled a few months earlier…..

From there I went back to my desk to continue working on various things, which included drafting several letters of thanks.

Just before 14.00 I headed up to the Barrool Suite for a workshop on poverty, organised by the Tynwald Select Committee looking at poverty on the Isle of Man at the moment.

The workshop was definitely the best event I have attended in the Barrool Suite since being elected as an MHK.

Two thirds of Tynwald Members attended the workshop, which also had many third sector charities including Housing Matters, Foodbank, Graih, along with Government Departments such as DOI (Housing), DHSC, Treasury, Family Service and Prison Service.

It was like speed dating, Tynwald Members moved from table to table and they had 15 minutes to outline their concerns, share their own experiences and to outline what things they would like to see implemented, in order to help tackle some of the poverty situations found on the Isle of Man at the moment.

It also gave us an opportunity to listen to the third sector who outlined their thoughts and the work they undertake.

A lack of education, not being sure how or where to access certain services or information and housing, along with long-term mental health concerns all came out very strongly, in my opinion.

I am looking forward to reading the Committee’s report in the New Year.

The workshop finished just after 16.00.

The next hour was spent at my desk before leaving the office at 17.15, and after tea I attended the St Ninian’s Christmas Carol Service, which was being held at St Ninian’s Church.

Another truly wonderful Christmas concert and I got home for around 20.30.

I was back in the office for 8am on Tuesday ready for the last House of Keys sitting of 2018, and before the sitting got underway I had to deal with three Constituent concerns relating to planning, staffing and potentially contaminated fuel at the garage at Onchan.

The sitting got underway at 10am with just 5 oral questions, along with 17 written questions, which was followed by the First Reading of the Dormant Assets Bill 2018.

The final sitting of 2018 only lasted around 30 minutes and from there we headed up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by the Emoluments Committee, which is chaired by the Speaker of the House of Keys.

Unfortunately, I can’t give any further details on the discussion at this early stage, but it was certainly a very strong discussion amongst the Tynwald Members.

After the presentation, Tynwald Members took the opportunity to relax and to open “Secret Santa” presents, which is always an interesting moment amongst the Members taking part.

Tynwald Members and staff then enjoyed Christmas dinner in the Barrool Suite, which Clare Bettison, MHK had organised, and it certainly was an enjoyable occasion.

A massive thank you to Clare for organising the event, and just to avoid any questions Tynwald Members paid for the Christmas lunch….

Back to the office to catch up with a few things before I drove home at 14.45.

Unfortunately, I was still under the weather on Tuesday so I took the opportunity to get home, light the fire and to start going through the Public Accounts Committee agenda pack.

I was only home for around 15 minutes when there was a knock on the door from one Commissioner and one Officer from Onchan District Commissioners who were investigating recent flooding in the area.

Once I had shown them around I was able to continue going through the PAC agenda paper before finishing around 17.00.

I had less then 4 hours sleep on Tuesday night and I was in two minds if I should cancel my meetings on Wednesday.

In the end I went into the office for 8am as I still had a couple of Constituent issues that needed to be resolved from Christmas.

At 10am I walked over to DfE for a Motorsport meeting, which was a general catch up on the 2018/19 events.

Things then finally started to slow down this week, which gave me an opportunity to catch up with several other ongoing projects.

At 14.00 the Public Accounts Committee held their final meeting of the year, and the Committee’s focus continues to be on the overspend at Noble’s Hospital.

The meeting finished just before 17.00 and after sending out a couple of emails I left the office at 17.30.

Still suffering from man flu on Thursday morning, but went into the office at 7.50am because I needed to draft a number of letters which should have gone out two or three weeks ago.

I left the office at around 10am once I had caught up with emails and the letters were drafted and sent out.

From there I went into town to grab the last couple of Christmas presents before heading home for the day.

Other than keeping one eye on emails, I took some time off on Thursday, in order to try and get myself better before Christmas.

Last day in the office on Friday before the Christmas break.

I went into the office at 8am and the first job was to go through the DfE agenda pack, along with reviewing several legal documents.

Just after 10am I headed over to DfE for a meeting with the CEO and Deputy CEO relating to TT Motorsport issue.

At 10.30am we had a DfE meeting before going into a further workshop to look at several ongoing projects on immigration, population and regeneration schemes.

The Policy and Reform Minister, Chris Thomas, MHK was also invited to attend the meeting, especially as many of the topics being discussed crossed over into the Cabinet Office.

The workshop finished just before 13.00 and once I got back to the office and caught up with any outstanding emails etc, I headed home at around 14.00….

I guess the only thing left is to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for 2019.

Thank you for following my weekly Blog in 2018…..