This week the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK outlined his third Budget for this administration, which was described as a Budget of Confidence.
Personally, I felt that this particular Budget was heading in the right direction, given the circumstances and the uncertainty facing the Isle of Man over Brexit and other challenges at the moment.
Yes, the Treasury Minister could have paid a little more in certain areas, especially around benefits etc, but overall most benefit payments have been increased by the rate of inflation or better.
A 15 year low on unemployment on the Isle of Man has also resulted in more people in work, which creates greater confidence and more people contributing into our society, but the next step is for the Isle of Man to deliver a “living wage”.
We are certainly a step closer to achieving this goal during this administration, but we are not there yet…..
Unfortunately, the only blight on the Budget and this administration is from those Departments that continue to impose “stealth taxes” and impose hikes in excess of the 2% income targets set by the Treasury Minister in his Budget speech last year, and again this year….
Anyway, more on that later.
As for this week’s activities, a massive thank you to everyone that came along to my Political Surgery last Saturday, and there was certainly a variety of topics up for discussion.
Prior to my 10am surgery, I had scheduled a meeting at 9.15am with two very big supporters of Home Education who have ongoing concerns with the proposed change in legislation.
My political surgery didn’t finish until around 11.45am and once home I needed to draft various emails etc.
I didn’t actually finish work on Saturday until around 16.45.
On Saturday evening Ellen and I attended the Southern 100 annual dinner, which was a wonderful evening, but also full of tears and emotion especially when James Cowton’s family collected an award on his behalf…..
Unfortunately, James lost his life at the Southern 100 last year. It is often known as the friendly races, but it also known as the family races because of the close bond between everyone involved within the club.
Manx Radio’s Tim Glover did an excellent job as compère.
We got home for around 23.40 after a very special evening – it was an honour to attend the event.
Other than going for a walk on Sunday morning, I spent a considerable amount of time on various work-related projects, along with doing a couple of hours of painting as I listened to Manx Radio’s “Perspective” programme, which focused on the Hospital overspend and the vision document that was copied and pasted from Wigan Council.
I also took the opportunity to table various questions for written and oral answer in the House of Keys on Tuesday 26th February.
I was in the office for 8.10am on Monday for what should be a very busy week ahead, but by the end of Monday I was still in two minds whether to speak on the Budget or not….
Writing this particular section of my Blog late on Monday evening, I have gone through the Budget pack several times over the past three weeks, and I am finding it difficult to find any fault with this year’s Budget or any big topics to boast about – so on the surface it seems another steady as you go Budget.
In fact, I have gone through the last four budgets this year to look over all the costs and financial information.
Just before 10am I drove into Onchan to attend the Springfield Court coffee morning, which was the first one of 2019, and it was good to catch up with a few of the residents over a cup of coffee and a biscuit.
Back to the office and straight into a meeting with Kate Lord-Brennan MLC and other Tynwald members, in order to better understand her Motion (Abortion Reform, Post Legislative Scrutiny) being tabled in Tynwald this month.
Other than attending a Public Accounts Committee meeting between 14.00 and 15.40 in the afternoon, the rest of the day was spent in the office going through the Budget information and documents ahead of Tuesday’s sitting, along with responding to various department and constituent correspondence.
I also finished drafting my speech, but I wasn’t overall impressed with it, as I really didn’t have anything to hang my coat on….
I left the office at 17.15 and I was intending to continue working on the Budget, but in the end I spent a couple of hours painting in the house, for no other reason than to switch off before a busy couple of days.
In the office for 8.15am on Tuesday going through my notes and making numerous changes to my Budget speech, but I was still undecided if I would make a speech on the budget.
Just before 10.30am I headed down to the Tynwald Chamber for this month’s sitting, which started with the Treasury Minister standing on his feet for 90 minutes delivering his third Budget speech.
On the surface it was a steady Budget, a fair Budget for this island at the moment, but I still don’t agree with the current Tax Cap Policy, which increased again this year.
National Insurance holidays of up to £4,000 should encourage some Manx Students back home after completing their University studies, but it could have gone further if the Treasury had agreed to follow Lawrie Hooper, MHK’s original idea.
Most Benefits increased by at least 2%, State Pension by 2.5% and the Winter Bonus was increased to £350 from £300.
Personal tax allowances increase yet again to £14,000 for individuals or £28,000 for a couple. Personal tax allowances have increased from £9,500 to £14,000 in recent years, and lifted more than 6,500 people out of paying tax altogether since 2014/15.
A further £3 million into the Department of Home Affairs is excellent news, and although I can take zero credit for the extra funding, it is in line with my election manifesto promise to put the necessary investment back into our Police Force.
At lunchtime I briefly attended the Baker Tilly (Isle of Man) Budget Special in the Barrool Suite, but took the opportunity to grab a sandwich and work on a few things.
Back to Tynwald Court at 14.30 to continue with the Budget Debate, which didn’t finish until 17.15, after which Tynwald Members had the opportunity to grab a cup of tea.
The sitting continued at 17.45 with various Tynwald Orders relating to the Budget process and the final item on the Order Paper was the setting up of a Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee on the Abortion Reform Act 2019.
The Court adjourned just after 20.00 and I managed to get home for around 20.30, which gave me time to respond to a couple of urgent emails before finishing at 21.15.
I did have an embarrassing moment on Tuesday and I certainly learned a valuable lesson about trying to read messages and respond to Constituents during a Tynwald sitting, especially the Budget.
I certainly won’t be adding anything further, other than to offer my sincere apologies to the Constituent for my misunderstanding, which fortunately was taken in good spirit…..
I was back in the office at 8.15am on Wednesday for day two of this month’s Tynwald sitting.
Before the sitting I had to make several calls relating to a local authority housing issue, along with drafting a couple of notes for the Abortion Committee debate.
Tynwald continued at 10.30am with the debate on the Abortion Reform Act 2019 – Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee motion being tabled by Kate Lord-Brennan, MLC.
I was first speak on Wednesday, and I didn’t make the best start as I didn’t even realise that I had described the Health Minister as the Treasury Minister……
Anyway, as I mentioned in my small contribution to the debate, I have wrestled with this motion, which I genuinely believe was brought with the very best of intentions by Kate Lord-Brennan, MLC.
After an excellent debate the Motion was withdrawn without a vote.
The final item on the Order Paper was the Question Paper, which had 18 questions down for oral answer and a further 21 questions down for written reply.
It was certainly a lively question session, and you can definitely tell that the atmosphere is changing in the Chambers.
This month’s sitting finished at 13.40 and from there I headed over to DfE to sign some paperwork.
The rest of the afternoon on Wednesday was spent at my desk drafting several items of correspondence.
I also needed to draft various correspondence on behalf of the 2nd Onchan Scouts, which relates to an ongoing funding scheme.
I left the office at 17.15.
With Tynwald finishing inside two days, Thursday was a day of reading or at least trying to catch up with a mountain of reports and documents etc.
I went into the office for 8.15am before walking over to DfE for 9am, in order to attend an urgent Motorsport meeting.
The meeting lasted less than an hour, so I was able to catch up with various tasks in the office before going to the Dentist at 10.45am.
Once the Dentist had finished with me, I needed to carry out several personal chores in town and out at B & Q before heading home for a couple of hours to start going through various reports, including the PAC first report for the session of 2018/19 in respect of the Overspending at Noble’s Hospital.
The report needed careful reading before it is published in March.
Just before 15.00 I received a message from Manx Radio asking if I would do some radio interviews on my questions in the House of Keys next week.
I was back in the office for 16.00 in order to catch up with things, especially emails, but I left the office at 17.10.
After tea I continued to work though various bits of correspondence until around 20.30.
It was Ellen’s birthday on Friday and fortunately I didn’t have any briefings or meetings, which meant I was able to take a few hours off as we headed to sunny Ramsey.
Before heading North I still needed to review a Motorsport paper going before the DfE board next week.
On the way into town and then on to Ramsey, Ellen and I called in to see an Onchan Constituent who asked me to witness some documentation, which I was happy to do.
I have been helping the Constituents with some travel arrangements, and I have to say a massive thank you to the DHSC Patient Transfer team for all their help in sorting out their travel, especially at a time when my Constituents are already stressed from having to go to the UK for a major operation.
I was also extremely honoured to be given a fruit loaf and a card by way of a thank you, which were gratefully received.
As for Ramsey, we went for a coffee in the Mooragh Park and a walk around the town before having a birthday lunch in Milntown.
Once home I caught up with any outstanding emails, but it was still a very enjoyable day…..
On Friday evening I attended the Hogg Motorsport annual fund raising event being held at the Palace Hotel, in order to make a special presentation to the Hogg family for their amazing fund-raising efforts over the last 30 years…..
Fingers crossed that Saturday will be a day of painting and other garden tasks, along with watching the rugby, but I will need to spend some time on Sunday preparing for the House of Keys sitting next week.