Blog 9 Aug 20This week the Manx Government removed one of the Covid-19 “Economic Support Plasters” after the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK confirmed that from Monday this week the “Manx Earning Replacement Allowance” (MERA) payments would reduce from £200 to £100 for those who’ve been laid off, made redundant or have lost work since March due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Under the old scheme an individual could earn an additional £50 on top of the Government’s MERA payment, but that particular figure has now been increased to £150 – so in theory the amount remains the same at £250, but that is of course subject to employment opportunities etc, which are very difficult in certain sectors.

Hopefully, not many people will be impacted by these changes, especially when employers have been asking the Manx Government in recent weeks to encourage people back to work. Unfortunately, the tourism sector continues to wait for further news on the island’s borders opening, and for me personally I am seriously concerned about the loss of key skills, as many of our UK and European colleagues working in that sector have already returned home.

In other local news this week, the NASUWT have now voted for strike action over pensions, conditions and workload. In response the Department of Education, Sport and Culture said it was disappointed with the announcement, especially when children’s education has already been heavily impacted due to Covid-19.

No dates have yet been given as to when the strike action will take place….

As for my own activities this week, Ellen and I spent most of last weekend at home working in the shed or in the garden. I was up at 5.30am on Saturday morning moving sand and cleaning up so my good friend Ian could continue laying the new patio area, which is now finished and looking amazing – pictures to follow…

We had to wait a month or so to get hold of Ian, but I would highly recommend him, although he is better known for his skills as a stone mason than for paving, but we very much appreciate the work done.

I also spent a few hours building some new rustic garden furniture for the new patio area, which was a little frustrating at times. On Saturday evening we went to the Seven Kingdoms restaurant for dinner with some friends that we have not seen for far too long. It was great to see the restaurant and bar full of people, and the food was amazing.

On Sunday I was up just after 7am moving 5 tonnes of wood without trying to disturb our the neighbours at such a ridiculous time in the morning, because I wanted to get the job done before the rain arrived. I actually built the wood store several years ago and I think it holds somewhere between 10 and 15 tonnes of wood. In all of that time I can’t remember it actually being full of wood, but that will change this year hopefully….

In the end it took us around two and half hours to move the wood and by the time I had finished the rest of the jobs around the house at around 14.00 I was shattered.

As for the rest of the week, my original plan was to take Monday, Tuesday and Friday off completely, because it wasn’t a busy week in many ways. In fact I am currently going through that period in which I feel totally exhausted all the time. This usually happens around this time of the year when my workload and other pressures reduce slightly.

The same thing happens on holiday, as it normally takes three or four days for me to adjust to a slower pace of life. Hopefully, I will be able to take a few days off towards the end of August and basically do nothing but sit in the garden doing some project work and very little else.

In the end, I didn’t get Monday off after DOI scheduled a meeting, so I headed into the office just before 8am. If nothing else it gave me an opportunity to catch up on emails and to get through some other department work before I walked down to the Sea Terminal mid morning for a DOI policy meeting, which lasted around 90 minutes.

The rest of the afternoon was spent starting to go through the DEFA agenda packs for both the Board and the Policy and Strategy meetings scheduled for Wednesday, along with a couple of constituent issues.

As for Tuesday I was able to work from home, which turned out to be very fortunate by the end of the day. All morning was taken up with going through the DEFA policy and strategy agenda pack.

I then had to go to through the DEFA Department papers, which only took an hour or so before I was able to start looking at a couple of ongoing projects. At 16.00 I suddenly noticed that our heating boiler was leaking and water was running into the kitchen – it was so fortunate that I happened to be at home and working at the kitchen table at that precise moment in time.

To make it even worse, I rang the plumber who asked me to turn a pipe off, which I did but the turning nut broke off in my hand – honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up….

As for Wednesday I was in the office just after 6.30am, in order to catch up with any outstanding correspondence, which I couldn’t access from home due to the ongoing technical issues with the government systems at the moment.

Just before 9am I headed down to St. John’s for the two DEFA meetings, but there was a short delay in starting due to further technical issues when trying to log onto MS Teams from the office.

It was a long policy and strategy committee meeting that didn’t finish until just after 12.30. During the 30 minute break between meetings, the CEO and I discussed dredging at Peel Harbour because I am concerned about the increased and ongoing costs for the scheme.

We then went straight into the Department meeting that lasted just over an hour and I was back in the office just after 14.30, but I needed to be at the Sea Terminal shortly after to attend a political meeting relating to Douglas Promenade and ongoing traffic concerns.

I still managed to get home for around 16.30 and I spent the evening putting together a new outdoor fire pit – I did feel sorry for our poor postman who had to carry it to the door.

On Thursday I was in the office just before 8am but most of the morning was spent in Onchan or at home. The first job was to go through the Ports Division agenda pack and to catch up with other work before heading back into Onchan for a Constituent meeting relating to a family services issue.

With an hour or so free I headed home to do some chores, before heading back into Onchan village at lunchtime to meet a lovely couple that are desperately trying to obtain social housing in Onchan, but have had their application for general housing declined by the Commissioners and the DOI.

From there I headed down to the Sea Terminal for my first Ports Division meeting that started at 14.00. From a tourism point of view, it is excellent to be able to Chair this particular meeting, especially when we look at air and sea routes to and from the island.

An excellent opening meeting, which lasted a couple of hours.

The final hour was spent in the office before leaving at 17.15, but I managed to spend a couple of hours in the garden building the new garden furniture – I will post a few pictures in due course.

As for Friday I was able to stay at home, but my day started before 7am in order to draft a letter to the DOI on behalf of the Constituents that I met on Thursday lunchtime over the housing application. This very detailed correspondence took a couple of hours to put together, because it also required a considerable amount of research to be undertaken.

The rest of the morning was spent in the shed building the new garden furniture, but I still needed to keep an eye on emails, along with taking a couple of constituent calls.

In the afternoon I had a meeting with the Director of Family Services and the CEO of the DHSC, in order to discuss my role as the Children’s Champion, but overall it was an easy day.

Nothing planned for the weekend, but I will have to go into the office at some point to catch up with a few things.