Blog 9 Dec 18Most of this week’s activities rotated around just three or four big political topics, which are causing major headaches on multiple levels.

By teatime on Tuesday evening week it was confirmed that Isle of Man postal workers will stage a two-day walkout on Thursday 13th and Friday 14th December.

There are 282 full time staff employed at the Isle of Man Post Office with over 200 in the Communications Workers Union. 193 members were balloted and the voted was 179 for and 13 against Strike Action.

As I mentioned in a separate FB message last weekend, I had scheduled a meeting with Terry Pullinger, Deputy General Secretary of the Communications Workers’ Union (CWL) last Sunday who was on island speaking to CWU members and to ballot postal workers on potential strike action.

We now know the outcome of that ballot…..

I am proud that five MHK’s including myself reached out to Terry Pullinger, in order to listen to those concerns and to obtain an overview of the ongoing negotiations between the CWU, Isle of Man Postal Workers and the Executive.

There will certainly be more discussion on this topic over the next 7 days as the Post Office Chairman, Julie Edge has tabled several recommendations for Tynwald Members to consider on Tuesday 11th December.

As for this week’s activities, I was in the office for 8am on Monday and unfortunately access to e-mails had been limited over the weekend, so I spent the first hour catching up with various bits of correspondence.

At 9.30am I had a meeting with Julie from Housing Matters who called in to see me, in order to outline their ongoing concerns at the moment.

I first met Julie at a Family Services function last week, at which moment we had an initial discussion on various family and housing matters. As time was tight I took the opportunity to invite Julie for a more detailed discussion on Monday morning.

It was a very interesting meeting especially obtaining her thoughts on benefits and the daily struggle facing the organisation and a certain section of our community.

I was genuinely shocked to hear that housing matters have around 60 open cases at the moment in which people are looking for housing and support on various levels, including housing, repairs and deposits etc…

At 10.15am we walked across the building to the Legislative Chamber, in order to listen to some of the evidence being given by Michael Manning (Graih), Neal Mellon (IOM Foodbank), Lieutenant Dylan Nieuwoudt and Derek Norton (Salvation Army).

In April 2018, a Select Committee of Tynwald was established to examine issues relating to poverty on the Isle of Man, which appears to be on the increase.

It was a very difficult Committee session and it is fair to say that Graih, IOM Foodbank, Housing Matters and the Salvation Army undertake an amazing role within our Community, but we need to find the solutions to something that is considered a hidden problem on our island.

Central Government also has a vital role to play, especially in relation to some basic benefits that are being automatically reduced over a period of time, which I didn’t know until Monday.

In my opinion Government needs to acknowledge that there will always be a section of our Community that is unlikely to find suitable employment due to ill health or mental health issues, and that needs to be recognised by Treasury and other Government departments.

That said, I am hearing excellent reports and feedback in respect of the engagement shown by the Senior Management within the Treasury team, along with Ralph Peake, MHK who has Political Responsibility for this area. However, this will always be a very difficult topic to fully understand, because as a society we also need to encourage people back into work wherever possible….

Landlords must also be held accountable through tougher legislation for trying to squeeze out just a little bit more than the current maximum housing allowance level currently provides.

A couple can claim between £116 to £197 for housing depending on their individual circumstance, but some landlords are also asking tenants to find an extra £9 or £10 per week – it doesn’t sound much to most people but if you haven’t got it…..

Unfortunately, simply increasing the benefits is not the solution because those landlords will still ask for the extra £9 or £10 – it needs tougher legislation and minimum standards for rental accommodation.

There is also a serious problem around some landlords no longer offering accommodation to those individuals on benefits or to those under the age of 25, which is a serious concern.

I will definitely be monitoring this situation very closely over the next few months.

As for the rest of Monday, it was spent at my desk drafting various letters, questions for Tynwald next week, along with continuing to go though the Tynwald Order Paper.

I left the office for 17.15.

Back in the office for 8am on Tuesday and it was one of those days that just flew by with lots conversations with colleagues, especially around the Post Office.

I actually started to send emails from 7am in connection with a particular TT issue, which will definitely cause me a few headaches over the next couple of weeks.

At 9am I had a meeting with the Director of Motorsports relating to a separate TT matter, which was held in my Tynwald office.

At 10am I went down to the House of Keys for this week’s sitting, which only lasted around 15 minutes and it involved just three oral questions and the third reading of the Criminal Evidence Bill 2018 – definitely one of the shortest sittings of this administration.

Once the sitting finished I headed to the Tynwald library to get my Government IPad finally sorted, which took around 40 minutes.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had nothing but trouble with emails, BoardPad and my IPad in general.

At 12 noon I was meant to be heading into Onchan, in order to help out at the Onchan School Christmas Fayre, but unfortunately I needed to stay back for several small DfE meetings.

Given the fact I wasn’t able to leave the office as I was waiting for other people to finish their meetings, I took the opportunity to attend a CPD training session for members, which started at 13.30.

The CPD training was on the various Government accounts etc, along with understanding the terminology.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in and around my office speaking to colleagues on the pending postal strike that was announced just after lunchtime, along with drafting various emails.

I left the office at 17.00 and once home I needed to go through various TT documents, which I had already reviewed but needed to double check all the details, facts and the advice being sourced ahead a meeting scheduled on Wednesday morning.

I finally finished for around 21.15.

Post Office, TT and Manx Radio remained very high on the agenda for Wednesday as I headed into the office for 8am.

After grabbing a coffee and listening to Terry Pullinger on Manx Radio regarding the Postal Strike, I just had enough time to send a few emails before Tim Crookall, MLC and I headed over to DfE for a TT briefing.

It was only a 20-minute meeting to discuss a particular thorny issue before sending out some correspondence.

The rest of the morning was spent going though a large amount of documents relating to the Post Office Motion going before Tynwald next week.

At 12.30 some Tynwald Members headed up to the Barool Suite for the presentation given by the Post Office Chairman, Trustees and Executive, which wasn’t well attended by Members (14 or 15).

I then spent the next hour or so reading through TT related paperwork.

I left the office at 17.10 and once home I started to read through the Select Committee Report into Public Service Media, which is also being table in Tynwald Next week.

I also drafted several emails before finishing at 20.00.

In the office for 8.15am on Thursday in order to start going through the rest of the Tynwald Order Paper, especially the Second Report of the Select Committee on Public Service Media, which was very heavy reading…..

Just before 10am I walked over to DfE for a tourism briefing, which was a general catch up with the Head of Tourism.

Once I was back at my desk I continued to review the Public Service Media Report along with catching up with correspondence.

At 12.45 there was a presentation in the Barool Suite by the Senior Management and Board Members of Manx Radio ahead of the Tynwald debate next week.

Manx Radio has serious concerns about the implications of the recommendations within the Select Committee Report.

Personally, I am proud that we have a National Radio Station called Manx Radio, I certainly wouldn’t support the idea of “BBC Isle of Man” becoming our National Radio Station.

I am definitely looking forward to this debate next week, but I hope common sense will be applied, as I think we need to look again at the whole situation with regard to Manx Radio, the Management Structure, the Location, Programming etc …

From that presentation we went straight into a presentation relating to the Eastern Area Plan, which was a further update and an opportunity for Members to ask multiple questions.

Just enough time to catch up with a few things before heading home at 17.00.

I felt Friday wasn’t as productive as it might have been, despite being in the office for 8.15am.

The first couple of hours were spent catching up with a couple of Constituent matters relating to planning and a housing application. I also continued to work through this month’s Tynwald Order Paper, which look relatively light apart from the two topics already mentioned.

At 11.30am there was a DfE workshop, which lasted around 90 minutes.

From DfE I walked back to the office to collect my car keys before driving up to Manx Radio to do a couple of small interviews relating to some of the 11 questions I am asking next week.

Back to the office to start looking look at the Tynwald Select Committee which was established last month to look at accommodation for vulnerable adults leaving care on the Isle of Man.

At 14.30 we the Committee, which is being Chaired by Tim Baker, MHK met to look at the topic and initial direction the Committee should take, and which individuals and organisations should be contacted initially,

I headed home at 16.00, but unfortunately the Onchan Torchlight was cancelled due to the weather.

Ellen and I had promised to take our friends’ boys two years running now, but unfortunately on both occasions the event was cancelled, so this time we headed South to take the boys out for tea.

I will probably spend a couple of hours on the Tynwald Order Paper on Saturday and I have one or two possible events in Onchan on Sunday.