The Policy and Reform Minister, Chris Thomas, MHK tabled a Public Sector Pensions – Legacy Funding update in Tynwald this week, which is definitely one of the biggest decisions we will have to make in this administration.
My colleague Bill Shimmins, MHK tabled an amendment, which could have seen the closure of the Government’s “Defined Benefit Scheme” to new public servants in the future. The amendment certainly generated a considerable amount of debate in the chamber, which lasted almost four hours, and the quality of speeches and debate was fantastic.
I think most people in the private sector, and especially those that do not have a pension currently would argue strongly for the closure of the DB Scheme, which I fully support at some point in the very near future.
So what is the problem? Well it is the legacy issue, which is massive – how do we actually fund the current liabilities relating to the DB Scheme but at the same time put in place a Defined Contribution Scheme for new starters?
We also have to be mindful that the current DB Scheme has some income generated through employee and employer contributions, along with pension reserves that run out in 2021/22, but not enough to fund all of its liabilities – and certainly not enough to fund all the future liabilities that run to about £3.2 billion.
As the current Chief Minister outlined in a previous budget speech as a backbencher, it is nothing more than a “Ponzi Scheme”, which requires new members to fund the current membership.
I have posted a separate FB post on this particular topic, simply for ease of reference and to keep my weekly Blog down to a manageable size.
Basically, on the balance of the documents and information available I felt it was best to support the Policy and Reform Minister at this particular juncture, but we definitely need to move towards a Defined Contribution Scheme for new starters at the earliest opportunity.
As one of the most difficult votes I have had to cast since being elected in September 2016, it would have been so easy to back the amendment by Bill Shimmins, but we have to make the decisions at the right time….
As for this week’s activities, well the weather last weekend can only be described as horrible with heavy rain and strong wind, but despite the conditions several familiar faces called in to see me at my political surgery , which was very much appreciated.
On Saturday evening Ellen and I met up with my mum and her friend Ivan for a pre-show dinner at the Mannin Hotel, which I would highly recommend.
As for the show, well the Manx production of Les Miserables at the Gaiety was very special and like so many other people I was blown away by the quality of acting and singing by the Manx Operatic Society.
It is moments like this that you fully appreciate the qualities of living on a small island with so much musical talent.
On Sunday I spent most of the day either painting but mostly preparing for the Tynwald Sitting, especially trying to get my head around all the information on the Pension Legacy Funding issue.
I was in the office early on Monday and straight into the Tynwald Order Paper going through the MUA funding request, which needed comparing against the independent report tabled by the Environment and Infrastructure Policy Review Committee last year.
Just before 10am I drove down to the Peel Centenary Centre (PCC) for a meeting, as they were looking for additional support and help promoting their events, possibly though the Visit Isle of Man Website and on the “What’s On” links etc…
It was a good meeting, but as I said to the trustees, I felt the PCC is certainly punching well above its weight in respect of marketing and providing entertainment on a local level in Peel.
I then squeezed in a visit to Peel Cathedral and I am extremely grateful to Ravina for the invitation and for showing me around the Cathedral, its Archibald Knox Collection and the gardens that are coming along very nicely.
Peel is still one of the best places to visit for locals and visitors and I am certain that the gardens, once finished will draw a considerable number of people to the Cathedral, the gardens and Peel in general.
One particular item did catch my attention during my visit to Peel Cathedral, which is called the “Big Table”, where everyone gets to eat, irrespective of means.
They provide a lunch for up to 30 or 40 people every Monday and the very special part of this arrangement is the payment. Each person is given an envelope and at the end of the meal you pay what you can or what you feel the lunch is worth. If you can’t pay anything this week then you simply seal the envelope and return it with nothing in.
It is so simple it is brilliant…….
From Peel I headed straight into Douglas and the promenade to meet up with the owner of the Halvard Hotel, which definitely boasts some of the best hotel rooms I have seen on the island….
A big thank you to Helen and Carl for showing us around their beautiful hotel.
Once the meeting finished I headed up to Onchan for a tourism meeting with a local business and a hotel owner.
Finally got back to the office for 15.30, in order to continue going though the Tynwald Order Paper before leaving the office at 17.20.
The Tynwald prep work continued at home and again first thing on Tuesday morning before going down to the Tynwald Chamber at 10.30am for this month’s sitting, which started with 12 oral questions and 7 written questions.
This was followed by a statement by the DEFA Minister on Climate Change Mitigation, which generated a considerable amount of interest and questions. There were then two Supplementary Votes by the DHSC who asked for an extra £4 million and from the DHA who requested an extra £1.5 million for the year ended 31st March 2019.
Having read my 2018 Budget Speech again I can see no savings being achieved in the DHSC at the moment, but let’s leave that issue for May’s Tynwald Sitting.
During the lunchtime Ellen and I took the opportunity to head to the Noodle Bar at the beginning of Athol Street, which is another a place I would highly recommend.
Back to the Chamber for 14.30 for an afternoon of heavy debates, including the Public Sector Pensions – Legacy Funding Update, which lasted almost four hours as I have already mentioned.
The Court finally adjourned at 20.10 and once home I still needed to catch up with correspondence and a social media post on the Pension Legacy Funding, but I was able to finish at around 22.30.
Unfortunately, this meant that I wasn’t able to attend the official TT Launch at the Villa Marina, which was extremely disappointing.
Back in the office for 8am on Wednesday for day two of this month’s Tynwald Sitting.
With Tynwald going into a second day, I was able to use the extra time to go through the Sea Services Agreement again and to add further notes before heading down to Tynwald Court for 10.30am.
Most of the morning was taken up by the Sea Services Agreement and other smaller Motions.
Just before lunch I moved the motion, which enabled the Manx Museum to open on Sundays for the next year, which is excellent news for locals and visitors.
The session didn’t finish until 13.10, which meant that I only had around 25 minutes to get something to eat as I needed to be in the Barrool Suite for 13.45 for a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting.
From there we went straight back to Tynwald Court at 14.30 for the remaining items on the Order Paper, which were relatively straightforward.
However, the Public Sector Housing (General Needs) (Allocation) Policy 2019 and the Public Sector Housing (Older Persons) (Allocation) Policy 2019 certainly raised a few questions from Lawrie Hooper, MHK and me during the debate, especially around the “Notice to Quit”.
Item 55 and the final item on the Order Paper was that Tynwald supports the principle of a Youth Parliament for the Isle of Man, which received Tynwald approval.
However, it will be up to the Tynwald Management Committee to look closer at the proposal and to report back to Tynwald in October.
This month’s sitting finally finished at 16.35 and I was able to leave the office at 17.15.
As for Thursday, well I took a few hours off in the morning in order to catch up with various things at home but most of the afternoon was spent catching up with various bits correspondence and other ongoing projects.
At 17.00 I headed into Douglas to meet up with a few backbench MHK’s for tea before walking over to the Gaiety Theatre for the first night of the “Young Farmers”, which was hilarious.
I finally got home for around 22.45.
In the office for just after 8am on Friday, it was all still about continuing to catch up with various things. The first three hours were spent at my desk drafting a couple of letters and dealing with a few Constituent issues, which I should have done last week.
I also needed to prepare for a Committee session on Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People of the Isle of Man, along with drafting a few questions for the House of Keys.
At 11am there was a DfE workshop, which included Treasury Political Members and Officers as we reviewed the current policy around High Net Worth Clients.
I was back at the office for 12.30, which gave me a few minutes to return a couple of calls and collect documents before going down to the Committee Room.
The Committee looking into Accommodation for Vulnerable Young People of the Isle of Man, which is being chaired by Tim Baker, MHK then took evidence from Jim Taylor who has a career spanning more than 37 years in Education and Autism, along with Carole Williams who undertook the CPD training course about Autism for Tynwald Members recently.
The Session finished just after 14.40 and I was able to leave the office shortly afterwards in order to head home.
Once home I still needed to go through a provisional report being drafted by the Committee, along with the House of Keys Order Paper for next Tuesday.
Still managed to finish for around 17.00.
I was hoping to have the weekend off, but I might have to spend a couple of hours at the Onchan Community Hub on Saturday morning because Isle of Man Newspapers published the wrong date in the Manx Independent on Thursday.
The actual meeting relating to the Consultation on the Domestic Rates with Chris Thomas, MHK and I will be held between 10am and 12 noon on Saturday 30th March.