Blog 6 Jun 21Later on this month the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK will be asking Tynwald to approve £400 million of borrowing, which he described as laying a solid foundation for the next Isle of Man Government.

If approved, around £178 million of those funds will be used to refinance the internal debts associated with Manx Utilities. Unfortunately that will not signify lower bills in the very near future; this is just purely a refinancing arrangement.

Further funds (£160 million) will be used to refinance the internal debts of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, which the Isle of Man Government purchased in 2018. This will include £80 million to be paid for the new “Manxman” vessel.

Around £20 million will also be put added into the contingency fund to continue tackling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is a bold move by the Treasury Minister so late in this administration and as a backbench MHK I am desperately trying to get my head round the information, which is very limited at the moment.

I will be listening to the Tynwald debate very closely.

As for the rest of my week – the Isle of Man enjoyed some excellent weather over the bank holiday weekend. I think we enjoyed some of the hottest weather seen so far this year, which isn’t difficult given all the rain we have had recently. Again, most of the weekend was spent at home and in the garden, but we did head out briefly to Laxey on Saturday lunchtime.

On Saturday evening Ellen and I went to the Gaiety Theatre to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird”, which was a brilliant production. It was only on for three nights, and although I am aware of the book and the 1962 film staring Gregory Peck I have never actually read or watched it – but I will watch the film this weekend.

Although the Gaiety theatre was full I cannot remember another occasion when the venue fell so silent as the story unfolded – set in 1930s Alabama, USA – of a lawyer called Atticus as he defended a black man called Tom Robinson with little hope of winning the case – all of this seen through the eyes of a young girl called Jean Louise (Scout) Finch.

A brilliant production, we really do have some amazing talent on our island.

On Sunday afternoon we should have also been witnessing the roads closing around the island from 13.00, with the first bikes heading along St Ninian’s, down Bray Hill and towards the Quarterbridge at 13.30 to mark the start of TT 2021.

The weather was unfortunately perfect for racing, just such a shame that the event was cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid-19.

Let’s hope that we can bounce back with a bigger and better event in 2022.

As for last Sunday evening at 20.00 it was census night on the Isle of Man. A full census of the island has been held every 10 years since 1821, with an interim census being introduced from 1966, and for those that are not aware, a census is meant to be a national survey of people and households etc

More importantly they provide key information for setting future policy, services and direction for the island. Previous censuses on the island were undertaken via a paper booklet that was delivered and collected by an army of volunteers, but this year’s census was mostly undertaken online by default for the first time.

I received various messages from concerned constituents saying that they were having difficultly accessing or completing the form online, which will definitely need further investigation, but I know an apology was issued by the government this week.

Anyone who hasn’t completed their census has until Monday 14th June to complete all the relevant information etc.

As for the rest of my schedule this week – under normal circumstances I should be heavily involved in the TT at this time of year, but instead I was able to spend most of bank holiday Monday putting down the new carpet in the Garden Room, which is slowly coming together. I also managed to work on a couple of election projects, but overall I still managed to recharge the batteries ahead of a very busy period that won’t stop until after the general election in September.

As for Tuesday it was a full day in the office and with no House of Keys this week I was able to get my head down and work on various projects. Most of the morning was spent going through the DEFA agenda packs, which always takes a few hours.

I also needed to draft and send out several letters, and in between everything else I am starting to go through the Onchan Voters List, in order to make a single address label for each household, which will take several hours to put together.

Basically, instead of sending out a manifesto for each voter on the list, I am condensing the list down to per household, just like I did in 2016.

At 13.00 there was a Tynwald Members briefing by the Treasury Minister and his team who will be looking for Tynwald to approve a Government debt issue up to £400 million, which I have already highlighted in the opening few paragraphs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the office, but I had to leave just before normal time, because Ellen and I were invited to the Lord Bishop’s home for a drinks reception at 18.30.

The weather was fantastic and it was great to catch up with a few friends and colleagues informally for a change. We were home for around 20.30, which gave me time to catch up with things before finishing.

As for Wednesday most of the day was taken up by the DEFA Policy and Strategy and the usual Department meeting, which was slightly shorter this week. Those meetings finished for 13.30 and once I caught up with phone calls and correspondence I headed down to the Sea Terminal at 15.00 for the DOI meeting, which related to the recent review undertaken into the Department. I am sure that a full copy of that report undertaken by Beamans will be published in due course.

Just time to call into the office before heading home for the day.

On Wednesday evening I headed north to play in the league snooker, which I found to be very difficult this year.

As for Thursday I managed to get a couple of hours off in the morning, in order to get some shopping done and a few jobs around the house. I went into the office towards 12 noon and after catching up with a few constituent issues I needed to review legislation around the local government pensions scheme.

Just before 14.00 I headed to the Sea Terminal for a meeting with Ian Murray and DOI officers to discuss the local government pension scheme. Back to the office for 15.00, in order to dial into the latest Commonwealth Parliamentary Association BIMR meeting, which related to the workshops that were undertaken recently.

I have really enjoyed working with the UK, Welsh, Falklands Islands and Gibraltar Parliaments over the past year, as we exchanged views and ideas around the Covid-19 Pandemic, especially the recovery stage.

I left the office at 17.00 and part of Thursday evening was spent going through a couple of manuals relating to a Mental Health First Aid Training programme, which we actually started in March.

Day one course was held early in March just as the island was about to go into its third national lockdown. In fact we didn’t even complete the first day of the course because of an urgent Tynwald members briefing in the afternoon.

I finally finished for around 21.00.

As for Friday, I was in the office before 7.30am in order to carry on preparing for the Mental Health First Aid Training programme, which started at 8.50am. The first part of the morning session focused on first aid for suicidal crises, which looked at how to assess if a person may be suicidal, how to talk with someone who is suicidal etc and to access professional help along the way.

We then looked at cognitive behavioural therapy, anxiety and personality disorders, which was a fascinating topic, and one that I will research more in the weeks to come. There was a short lunchtime break at 12.45, which gave me time to return a couple of phone calls and to review a couple of department papers before returning to the course at 13.30.

During the afternoon session we looked at eating disorders, self-harming and psychosis, which included various videos and discussion points amongst the small group of Tynwald Members and officers.

I left the office toward 17.30, but that didn’t give Ellen and me a lot of time, because we were supporting the Housing Matters Summer Ball, which was being held at the Empress Hotel this year.

This particular charity has always been very close to my heart. At the moment Housing Matters deal with one new housing crisis every day on the island, which is far too many.

They also have 180 open cases currently on their books. During 2020 many of the service users were aged under 21, and over 400 children were also impacted. The charity look for appropriate housing solutions, assist with housing applications, along with providing a starter pack for new tenants and ongoing support.

It really is a wonderful charity with some amazing and caring people at the centre desperately trying to help people trying to access housing or other vital services – I just wish we didn’t need this particular service on such a small island.

As for the Summer Ball, it was a wonderful evening, which was themed around the 1920s, and we managed to get home for around 23.00.

As for this weekend’s activities, I will give those details next week.