Blog 29 Sep 19In my 2016 House of Keys General Election Manifesto, I made reference to “Members’ Expenses” that all Tynwald Members receive. I promised Onchan Constituents back then that I would publish a full list of my expenses incurred each year, if elected…..

What I didn’t realise was how difficult it would be to publish this type of information, because I was never going to be able to publish a list of expenses that everyone would agree with.

Members’ expenses are not something new, Tynwald Members have been receiving these monthly expenses for many years and some would argue strongly that these funds are nothing more than a pay rise disguised as expenses, which was introduced a long time ago and probably went under the radar of the Manx Public.

For all intents and purposes, we might as well simply say that the basic pay for Tynwald Members is £50,882.60 and not the £43,479 as published under the remuneration and allowances on the Tynwald website.

For myself personally, I find it hard to justify looking at my payslip each month and seeing a line entitled “Member Expenses”, especially when there are no guidelines around these payments.

If nothing else my expenses list that I have published annually has certainly put the topic in the public domain and an independent committee is now looking into Tynwald Members’ remuneration and expenses.

As for this week’s activities – last Saturday was a very long day.

I arrived at the Onchan Community Hub just after 9.15am as I had scheduled a Constituent meeting before my Political Surgery that started at 10am.

The Surgery was also very busy with a few regular faces calling in to say hello, along with a few new people with individual concerns. Items for discussion included the Christmas bonus, reduction in someone’s income support payments, bereavement payments, state of roads in Onchan, complaints about GPs and the Hospital, along with a request for support ahead of an event next year.

At 11.30am I had a meeting with a group of motorhome owners who were a little upset with the question I tabled to the DOI Minister recently in respect of updating legislation etc, along with the answer given by the DOI that will certainly require further investigation.

A massive thank you to the motorhome group that came along and for giving up part of their Saturday morning. A very constructive meeting, which gave me a better understanding of some of the issues they face, especially in respect of facilities and parking etc.

At 12.30am I had to rush from Onchan to Noble’s Hospital to meet up with a Constituent after receiving a request from the family. It was a very difficult meeting because I have known the individual for many years, and I was a little shocked by his condition.

That said, I was still able to make him smile…..

Hopefully, we can get the help and support that he will need in the weeks and months to follow.

From Noble’s Hospital I headed straight to the Salmon Lake Centre in Laxey for the Isle of Man Green Party Conference, which got underway at 14.00.

A massive thank you for the very warm welcome I received from the Manx Green Party Committee and other delegates attending the Conference.

I am not planning to join the Green Party ahead of the 2021 General Election, but I definitely need to educate myself on all things environmental, along with listening to alternative opinions on a topic that is clearly dominating the news headlines across the world at the moment.

What also attracted me to this particular event was the wonderful line up of keynote speakers, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Dr. Fox gave a presentation on Past, Present and Future before Kylie Rollins outlined some of the challenges and rewards she faced when setting up the Secret Pizza Company on the island.

After a short break there was a presentation from Dr. Uniacke entitled Clarity on Energy Sustainability Trilemma. The final speaker was Devon Watson on Fare Free Campaign, which certainly needs further investigation because I see the benefits for introducing this type of free travel.

A fantastic afternoon and I finally got home for around 17.30.

Unfortunately, I was wide awake from around 4.30am on Sunday morning, so I took the opportunity to draft any correspondence that I had promised to send at the political surgery on Saturday.

I also took the opportunity to watch the Rugby home nations in the World Cup, which is being staged in Japan.

On Sunday lunchtime I headed up to Manx Radio with the DfE Minister, Laurence Skelly, MHK in order to take part in the Mannin Line Programme that was running a feature on the Douglas Promenade and the overall effect the work is currently having on businesses and hotels at the moment.

Sunday also marked my third anniversary of being elected to the House of Keys on the behalf of the Constituency of Onchan. There will be plenty time for reflection and for looking back in two years’ time, but I still feel an immense amount pride and honour to serve the people of Onchan and this island over the past three years.

I know I haven’t got everything right, and I know I have let a few Constituents down along the way, but I have genuinely given everything to the role.

On the flip side, I don’t think I have ever felt so much pressure and stress from a role, especially in a world of social media where all decisions are scrutinised and judged so closely, not forgetting the pressures from within the Parliamentary and Government structure themselves.

I still wouldn’t change it for the world….

As for the rest of this week, in the office just after 8am on Monday before heading back into Onchan for 10am to attend the Springfield Court Coffee morning, which is always a welcome distraction and it was good to catch up with various people.

Back to the office to park the car at 11am before walking down to Eagle Lab in Victoria Street for the launch of the next phase of “Our Extraordinary Story” that outlines the Isle of Man tourism strategy and promotion over the next 12 months, which includes the new TV campaign.

The tourism team is small, but it does an amazing job to sell the Isle of Man as a destination of choice, especially when the choice of holiday destinations available is endless….

A massive thank to Angela Byrne, Head of Tourism and her amazing team, especially when I know how hard they have worked over the last three years.

The new Isle of Man Visit Agency is the partnership between industry professionals and government officers, along with myself as the Political Member. After 18 months of hard work we are now starting to see various projects implemented, in order to improve the overall visitor experience.

I would certainly encourage local residents to take a look at the Visit Isle of Man website and to help promote our beautiful island wherever possible.

There is also a new feature called “Instatourism”, which invites you to embark on your own visual tour through multiple choice options to continue your journey, and it also allows you to wander the island and see yourself in different locations across the island.

More details can be obtained via the website.

Back to the office briefly after the tourism launch before walking down to the Villa Marina to observe some of the ongoing Public Inquiry for the Area Plan for the East.

Upon reflection I wish I had stayed in the office, because I wasn’t very impressed with some of the evidence being presented by one key individual.

It was very fortunate that there weren’t many Onchan ratepayers in the room…

As for Tuesday my time was taken up completely with either attending the Public Inquiry and listened to some of the evidence being taken or preparing some notes ahead of my own evidence sessions on Wednesday morning on behalf of Onchan Constituents.

I think I spent around 13 hours on Tuesday on the Area Plan for the East alone.

News also broke on Tuesday morning from the Supreme Court in UK, which ruled that Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the UK Parliament for five weeks was unlawful, which meant that the House of Common could continue with its business from 11.30am on Wednesday morning.

The scenes in Westminster on Wednesday evening before, during and after Boris Johnson giving a statement on the situation was toxic, but there is still no resolution to the Brexit situation.

As for myself, I was in the office well before 8am on Wednesday to go through my notes and make some amendments before heading down to the Palace Hotel on the Promenade just after 9am.

The Inquiry got underway from 9.30am and because I was away for the first week of this Inquiry, the Planning Inspector gave me an opportunity to present my evidence around future housing provision, population forecasts, drainage and schools etc in Onchan.

I was joined by Ross from Onchan Commissioners throughout the morning session, which was welcome support.

The Inquiry also gave me an opportunity to present some new evidence, which I had gathered over the past couple of weeks, especially about inward migration data.

At 11am the Ballachrink site (OH011) was discussed and I was able to go through my evidence paper that I had already submitted to the Inquiry in August 2018 and 2019, along with making a few additional points, before being cross-examined by the QC representing the Cabinet Office and Lawyers representing the Dandara Group.

Although we clashed on a couple of points, overall I was very happy with the manner in which I presented the evidence and from the cross-examination.

Just time to do a quick Manx Radio interview before heading back to the office at around 12.30 to catch up with emails and phones calls.

The afternoon session started at 14.00 and the topic of discussion was “Reserved Sites”, which gave me an opportunity to put forward a recommendation for consideration about how these particular sites should be released in the future.

Once I had finished giving my own evidence I stayed in the room to listen and support David Quirk, the previous MHK for Onchan, who was giving his evidence on a number of Onchan sites that are included in the draft Area Plan.

Finally got back to the office at 16.00 to catch up with a few things before leaving the office just after 17.00.

Just enough time to grab some tea before heading down to the Palace Hotel once more for the evening session of the Area Plan for the East, which allowed the general public to raise any valid concerns etc.

The session got underway at 19.00 and to be honest I expected a lot more people to attend, but it still was an excellent session with a lot of valid points being raised, although I managed to get home a little earlier than expected.

Just time to send a couple of emails before finishing at around 22.00.

I was able to draw breath on Thursday as a couple of meetings scheduled in the morning had been cancelled or moved, which gave me an to opportunity to look at other ongoing topics.

Other than attending a Motorsport briefing at lunchtime which lasted around 2 hours, the rest of the day was spent in the office until around 17.00.

Friday was a strange day, I still got into the office for 8am to do a few things before driving to a building site for a planning pre-enforcement meeting, which was very constructive.

Back to the office briefly, before walking down to the Sefton just before 11am for what should have been an overview of certain sites, including a couple of sites located in Onchan.

Unfortunately, the day’s proceedings were delayed somewhat because of a legal argument between developers that went on for a couple of hours, along with a technical review of a couple of documents.

I spent the best part of six hours listening to points raised and cross examination, just waiting for my moment to repeat a couple of lines of my evidence that I gave on Wednesday on the site located in Birch Hill, Onchan before leaving…

I felt like the poor bloke with the triangle in an orchestra sitting there listening to the music, waiting for that one moment when he is expected to strike the triangle in the right place before leaving….

Nothing planned for the weekend hopefully, but I am doing some project work along the way.