Blog 7 Apr 19Again this week’s activities are fairly light, but it has allowed me to recharge my batteries and to look at some ongoing projects, which I will be working on over the next couple of months.

In this role you do work at a certain level of intensity for long periods of time, so when you do get a few quiet days it is sometimes very difficult to focus your mind – well, it is for me…

Anyway, there were two items of local news this week that certainly generated a considerable amount of comments on social media and via local news channels.

The first one relates to allowances payable to Members of Tynwald, Officials and members of the Public Service etc when off island, which is increasing for the first time since 2013.

I do fully understand that Government Officials and Members of Tynwald etc have to travel to the UK to represent the island’s best interests or to attend certain events as parliamentarians, but it is extremely difficult to support this increase at this moment in time, especially when I know patients travelling to the UK for treatment are only receiving £28 as a contribution towards accommodation or £41.50 if you are staying in Central London, if it is required.

As one Onchan constituent told me this week, it isn’t their fault that the Isle of Man does not provide certain services, which requires them to travel to the UK for treatment etc.

I have raised further questions on this topic for the House of Keys for 16th April relating to contributions paid to patients who require overnight accommodation when travelling to the UK for treatment.

Unfortunately, the report relating to allowances will not be voted on in Tynwald next week.

The second item generated even more comments and that was relating to a 10p (or 33% hike) increase per journey for students travelling to school or college, which can only be described as yet another “Stealth Tax” introduced by the Department of Infrastructure under this administration….

I certainly do not support this decision which is clearly aimed at hitting hard working families once again, and it is definitely one of the poorest decisions made by the Department of Infrastructure, the Minister and Political team, which is extremely disappointing.

Unfortunately, I can’t really add much more at this stage, because I have tabled various questions to the DOI Minister on this topic for Tuesday 16th April in the House of Keys, so please bear with me until then….

The was also a third item of news, which appeared on the front cover of the Isle of Man Examiner this week, and it related to the Steve Mercer incident during the 2018 TT Festival.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of things still going on behind the scenes which prevent the report being published, but I certainly wish Steve Mercer a speedy recovery.

I am also seeing more and more comments saying that this is the worst administration, which I genuinely do not believe. That said, I think the Government is making the tough decisions, which have been ignored for too long, but it is just a shame that some stupid decisions, such as increasing school bus fares by 10p per journey, are grabbing the headlines at the moment.

As an MHK I am always prepared to listen to Constituents’ views on any topic, because I don’t have all the answers, and neither does the Government.

As for this week’s activities, a massive thank you to everyone who called in to the drop in session held at the Onchan Community Hub last Saturday morning with Chris Thomas, MHK on the modernisation of rates on the Isle of Man.

A big thank you to the Policy and Reform Minister for giving up his valuable time last Saturday to listen to Constituents’ concerns on the modernisation of rates.

It was a small group, but there was certainly a healthy discussion on rates, especially around if ratepayers are getting fair value for the rates that they currently pay to local authorities at the moment.

There was also a wider discussion around the actual services being delivered though the local authority rates, and if it is fair that commercial rates are allowed to subsidise domestic rates, which certainly affects the level of domestic rates paid in certain local authorities across the island.

As for the rest of the weekend, it was spent painting the outside of our cottage, which I did manage to finish except for one chimney stack, but it will still require a second coat over the next couple of weeks.

As for Monday, I am not entirely sure how to describe it but with no meetings or briefings I was hoping to work from home on various things.

However, I was having major problems accessing emails and certain apps because of a technical issue with my iPad, so I took the opportunity to meet up with an old Snooker friend for a couple of hours.
I then called into the office to print off various Tynwald documents, which I was able to take home to read through whilst GTS was trying to fix my iPad and email account, but it is fair to say that Monday was all but a wasted day in many ways….

I was back in the office just after 8am on Tuesday and the first hour was spent on a number of Constituent items, which included a child welfare issue plus an Isle of Man naturalisation certificate and why the process can take up to 12 months to complete…

Down to the House of Keys Chamber just before 10am for this week’s sitting, which started with 9 oral questions and 16 written questions.

I tabled a question to the Minister for Heath & Social Care, David Ashford, MHK on the future patient transfer service using EasyJet and the Isle of Man Steam Packet, along with continuing the contract with Flybe. This was after the Department issued a statement in March confirming that FlyBe had cancelled a particular flight, which was being used by patients undertaking appointments in the UK.

Once question time was finished, Bill Malarkey, MHK brought the third reading of the Council of Ministers (Amendment) Bill 2019 and Chris Thomas, MHK tabled the third reading of the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill 2019.

The whole sitting lasted just over an hour.

Once the sitting finished I did a quick Manx Radio interview on the island’s patient transfer service before catching up with correspondence in the office.

Unfortunately, I was still having a few technical issue with emails and with my iPad and it is only when things don’t work that you actually realise how important they are in this role….

At 13.15 we headed up to the Barrool Suite for a CPD training session for cyber security, which was based around looking after information, the devices and the technology we use everyday, especially when off island on Government business.

Once the training session was finished I continued to look at next week’s Tynwald Sitting, which appears to be relatively light compared to last month.

At 15.30 I took the opportunity to walk home before continuing to work on the Tynwald Sitting until around 18.30.

With no briefings or meetings on Wednesday morning I took the opportunity to work at home and continuing to read through the Tynwald Order Paper for next week.

I went into the office just after 13.00 as I was still having a few technical issues with emails, which is making it difficult to respond to Constituents and officers this week, so I can only offer my sincere apologies for any delay in my responses this week.

I also needed to prepare some notes and a short speech for a St Ninian’s High School debate, which was being held at the school on Thursday lunchtime. The topic for debate is the Syrian Refugees global disaster and if the Isle of Man should accept 25 refugees.

I also had several discussions with MHK colleagues on various topics including the DOI’s proposal to increase school bus fares by 10p per journey.

I can assure Onchan Constituents that I certainly do not support yet another stealth tax being imposed by the Department of Infrastructure, which is clearly targeting hardworking families once again.

At 15.30 I drove to St Johns for a planning meeting with the DEFA Minister, CEO, Head of Planning, along with Tim Baker, MHK.

The meeting related to an ongoing planning issue, which I am still trying to fully resolve. Unfortunately, the meeting failed to deliver any changes in order to bring closure once and for all.

The meeting lasted less than an hour and I managed to get home for around 17.00.

Back in the office just after 8am on Thursday, which started with me drafting various questions for the House of Keys on Tuesday 16th April, along with drafting and sending out a few letters.

Unfortunately, I am still losing time with email issues and I also needed to go through some Department papers before drafting responses.

At 10am I walked over to DfE for a tourism meeting with the head of tourism, which was a general catch up and an overview of the work being undertaken by the tourism team at the moment.

I was back in the office for 11am to catch up with a few things.

At 12.30 Bill Shimmins, MHK, David Alford, MHK and I headed to St Ninian’s High School for the School’s last Debating Club of the term. The topic for discussion was the Syrian Refugees global disaster and if the Isle of Man should accept 25 refugees.

My colleague Daphne Caine, MHK and Bill Shimmins, MHK put forward the argument to accept 25 refugees and David Ashford, MHK and I put forward the argument why the Isle of Man cannot accept 25 refugees at this moment in time, arguing that the Island should continue to provide aid, which has benefited more than 30,000 refugees….

I hope Bill doesn’t mind me sharing a funny moment from yesterday….
The school had coned off a few parking spaces for the MHKs. Bill, David and I arrived in one car but Daphne was running slightly late, so Bill kindly stood in the car park ready to remove the cones to enable Daphne to park.

However, once Bill removed the cones another lady drove straight into the parking space. Bill being the perfect gentleman didn’t say a word, he simply removed some other cones.

I can certainly see Bill being a “Lollipop-man” in the future….

A big thank you to all the students and teachers at St Ninian’s High School for an excellent event.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the office until I left at 17.10.

In the office for 8am on Friday and after catching up with correspondence I needed to review a couple of very detailed Motorsport Papers ahead of some meetings scheduled later on in the day.

At 10.30am I walked over to DfE with Tim Crookall, MLC for a pre-meeting ahead of two Motorsport meetings, which were never going to be easy discussions.

Unfortunately, both items are still ongoing so I can’t give any further details at this time, sorry…

Back to the office for around 12.40, which enabled me to grab some lunch before driving into Onchan for two constituent meetings relating to the patient transfer service.

I have to say a massive thank you to everyone who has contacted me over the past week relating to the patient transfer services and for sharing their personal experiences, it is very much appreciated.

Based around the information received, I have been able to table a couple of additional questions for the House of Keys on 16th April.

Back to the office for 16.00 to finish off a few things before heading home at 17.15.

As for the weekend, I am sure it will involve painting and finishing off going through the Tynwald Order Paper.