Blog 13 Jun 21The weather on the island over the past week or so has been almost perfect, which is such a shame especially when we should have been enjoying a week of top quality racing at this year’s TT Festival – my money is already on two weeks of solid rain in 2022…!

On a personal level I would have preferred to be greeting his excellency the Lieutenant Governor on the start line, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the racing instead of being sat in the office for most of the week, especially when the weather has been pretty good.

Let’s hope that the TT 2022 gets the green light and that the weather is perfect for the full two weeks – more on TT 2022 in a moment.

As for my activities this week, on Monday I was in the office before 8am in order to get through the DEFA agenda pack, but I was also able to work a little bit on the election campaign. At 11.30am I dialled into the DEFA Environment Directorate meeting, which looked at fisheries, biosphere, conservation of birds, along with energy and minerals.

At 12.45 there was a Tynwald Members briefing on the island’s National Insurance scheme, which is long overdue for a review especially around the Classes of NI (2, 3 & 4), who pays, the limits and future challenges etc. Another very difficult topic to fully understand in such a short period of time, but I need to review it over the weekend ahead of the Tynwald debate next week.

From the Barrool Suite it was straight down to the Sea Terminal for the policy and strategy meeting, which looked at concessionary travel, smarter movement strategy and a bus strategy for transport connectivity & accessibility.

On the surface a strategy on the island’s bus service looks relatively easy, but when you actually start to look at the different service users, cost / budgets and timetable etc you realise it is incredibly difficult, and that is even before you consider the equality legislation etc.

I left the office after 17.00, but Monday evening was spent working on the election campaign as I desperately try to put together my letter of introduction, which will be getting hand delivered to constituents over the next couple of months.

I finally finished for around 21.00.

Back in the office for normal time on Tuesday, but with no House of Keys sitting this week my first job was to go through the DfE & DEFA agenda packs, in order to keep myself one step ahead.

At 10am there was a joint meeting between our tourism team and Port Erin Commissioners, which forms part of an ongoing project to help and support local authorities across the island, in order to improve tourism opportunities, information and facilities on behalf of our visitors.

A big thank you to Port Erin Commissioners for their time and input.

I then needed to catch up with a couple of constituent issues that required multiple emails to be sent before I headed up to the Barrool Suite at 12.30 for two presentations and workshops, the first one related to a “Single Legal Entity” for Government and on the island’s “Exit Framework”.

I listened very closely to the discussion around a single legal entity and setting up various arm’s length agencies and boards etc, which could the take the island back to the old Tynwald Board system that was in place on the island in the early 1980’s.

At the time there was a lot of concern around “political accountability” in respect of the old system. In fact that was one of the main reasons why the island moved towards a system of Ministerial Government, and to be fair it has served the island well over the past 40 years.

One of my own personal concerns with a single legal entity is when a particular service or function is withdrawn in the future by one of these arm’s length organisations or boards which the general public do not agree with. Where will the public accountability come from, especially when a future Minister or Chief Minister of the day says “nothing to do with me”?

It really will be interesting to see which direction the next Government takes in respect of the island’s Ministerial system.

The second workshop related to the island’s “Exit Framework”, which was last updated in April 2021. Since then there has been a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK, mainly because of the Indian variant of Covid-19, but in fairness there hasn’t been the same of level of hospital admissions that we witnessed during previous lockdowns since March 2020, which is excellent news.

This is mainly due to the fact that more and more vulnerable groups are being vaccinated, but we need the risk level to be reduced further over the next four to six weeks.

On the island we only have a handful of active Covid-19 cases at the moment and hospital admissions are very low.

It really was a fascinating workshop, especially around obtaining Tynwald Members’ views on whether the Isle of Man should continue to look at introducing “unrestricted travel” from 28th June 2021 as previously announced or does the island delay that announcement for a further four weeks, in order to get even more island residents fully vaccinated.

A number of Tynwald members mentioned this during the workshop, but this is definitely going to be one of the toughest decisions that this administration will have to make, and it will be interesting to see what the final decision from the Council of Ministers will be.

Back to the office briefly and I was hoping to get home for around 16.00, but a constituent that I have been trying to help since March 2017 asked if I would call in for a quick chat, which meant that I didn’t actually get home until around 17.30

On Tuesday evening at 1930 Ellen and I were invited to the Institution and Induction of the Reverend Alessandra Di Chiara as the Team Rector of Onchan, Lonan and Laxey, which was held in St. Peter’s Church this evening.

I have never attended an Institution and Induction before, so it was interesting to witness the Presentation, the Anointing, the Induction and Installation etc. It was a wonderful service, and over the past couple of years Revd Alessandra Di Chiara has certainly embraced St. Peter’s Church and its Congregation, together with the wider Community of Onchan, Laxey and Lonan.

I wish Revd Alessandra Di Chiara all the best for the future.

Wednesday had a usual feel about it, I was in the office for 8am before walking over to DfE for 9am for the political meeting with the Minister. This was followed by the Department meeting, which started with the Agency Chair updates.

The actual department meeting was again relatively straightforward and simple with only a few decisions to be made. I was at my desk later in the morning, in order to catch up with a couple of constituent issues. At 13.00 I dialled into the DEFA Agriculture and Lands meeting, which only lasted around 90 minutes.

I was able to spend the rest of the afternoon in the office.

As for Thursday I was able to work from home, in order to start going through the Tynwald Order Paper, which will definitely go into at least two full days, and possibly even three days this month. There is a lot of information and a mountain of reading to get through before the sitting gets underway on Tuesday morning at 10.30am.

I also had to deal with a number of constituent issues that were very complex, along with going through several department papers, so I didn’t finish until around 17.00. On Thursday evening at 19.00 there was a further public meeting at the Onchan Community Hub, in order to discuss anti-social behaviour, which has been an ongoing concern for many constituents, especially the older members of our community.

The Isle of Man Constabulary, Onchan Commissioners, the Department of Education and Youth Services gave an update on the work undertaken since the first public meeting that was held last year. Although the work is still ongoing, I think there was acknowledgment and thanks to Onchan Commissioners for installing better CCTV in Onchan Park and towards the Isle of Man Police who have increased their public presence in and around the village, which will be welcome news to residents.

Overall I felt it was an excellent meeting with a lot of good questions asked.

As for Friday I went into the office before 8am to get a few things done before heading back into Onchan for a Constituent meeting towards 10.30am. The rest of the day was spent at home working my way through the Tynwald Order Paper, along with various bits of department work.

On Friday evening at 19.00 the DfE motorsport unveiled ‘Isle of Man TT Races back on Course, 2022 and Beyond’. On what should have been Senior Race Day on the island, details around the 2022 and 2023 schedules were released, along with confirming that TT 2022 will also offer Live TV coverage of the event.

I have already published full details of all of the announcements in a separate post, but I do want to pay tribute to everyone in the DfE Motorsport team for taking the time over the past couple of years to seriously look at every part of the TT Festival experience, in order to put forward some of the biggest changes that the event has ever seen. Hopefully we will see the on-island event grow even further, but at the same time capturing a worldwide audience for the very first time that could result in a general boost around our tourism sector.

As for the weekend, the Isle of the Man will be holding its first Pride Festival, which will take place at the Villa Marina Gardens on Saturday afternoon. My colleague Clare Barber, MHK has been heavily involved in getting this event off the ground, which unfortunately was cancelled last year because of Covid-19.

Pokerstars are the major sponsors of the event this year and full details on all the activities can be found via the Isle of Pride website or facebook.

Onchan Park will also be hosting a Party in the Park, again full details can be found online.

I will also be giving a tour of the Tynwald Chamber on Sunday afternoon to a small private group, and I guess any free time will be spent on the Tynwald Order Paper.