This week is the start of what I consider to be a very busy period for me, which will lead up to the 2019 Budget. The Treasury Minister will be delivering his third Budget on Tuesday 19th February in Tynwald, but there is still a lot of work to do before then.
Hopefully by then we will also have a better understanding of how the UK intends to leave the European Union, but I have a feeling that we are definitely heading now for a No Deal, which will benefit no one…..
My Blogs for the next couple of weeks will also be slightly different for reasons that I will explain over the next week or so, but please accept my apologies that this week’s Blog only covers up to and including Thursday.
I think I also mentioned in previous Blogs that our little cottage is in desperate need of painting inside and out, but by the end of last year I had only managed to paint a single wall inside.
I certainly have to get the job done this year ahead of the mother in law flying over to the Isle of Man to join us for Tynwald Day.
It has been a real privilege to be able to share Tynwald Day with close family and friends over the last couple of years.
More importantly, I am planning to undertake a further education course towards the end of the year, which will take up to 12 to 18 months to complete.
As for last weekend’s activities, Ellen and I took the opportunity to call in to support the official re-opening of the Manx Deaf Society building, which has been beautifully refurbished and is located on Somerset Rd, Douglas.
During the visit I had several discussions with Society Members who have an amazing knowledge and passion for the Isle of Man TT.
The DfE Minister, Laurence Skelly did a lot of the ground work a few years ago, in order to enable the Deaf Society and its members to enjoy the TT races at the Grandstand through sign language.
There was also an excellent discussion around the commentary and how the Deaf Society keeps it members fully informed through sign language as the race unfolds.
I was surprised to discover there is only around a 10 second delay in their commentary, which is amazing given the speed and the riders involved.
Given the fact that a number of the top riders at the moment have the letter “H” as the initial of their surnames, the Society have incorporated some special signs for all the top riders. John McGuinness is a pint glass, Josh Brook is a twisting of the moustache, and unfortunately I can’t share the sign for Michael Dunlop, but it did make me laugh….
The rest of the weekend was spent painting and visiting B & Q before dropping Ellen off at the airport on Sunday afternoon.
I also needed to draft a few emails on Saturday evening, which related to the Department of Health & Social Care.
On Monday there was a DfE cross agency away day, which was held at the iMuseum, but I still went in to the office first at 7.45am, in order to catch up with some correspondence and other things there.
I had initially planned to take the day off but unfortunately the away day was added to my calendar, so I needed to attend, especially in the morning.
I arrived at the iMuseum for 9am, in good time for the Minister’s opening remarks at 9.30am.
We then had two presentations from Caroline Thompson from “Be the Spark”, which is based in Wales. Caroline outlined their many successes in 2018 and their strategies for 2019, along with providing details on the Culture change for the ecosystem in Wales.
The second presentation was from Jim Walker who is the Vice Chairman of “Visit Cumbria”, which outlined some of their challenges and opportunities that they face during 2018, and going into 2019, including planning and Airbnb, along with details on their policy to encourage greater public and private sector partnership.
Each session had a Q & A, which was very interesting.
There was then a panel discussion in which the guest speakers were joined by the four DfE Isle of Man Agency Chairs.
Lunch was taken at around 12.45 but I didn’t attend the afternoon session, which focused more closely on the four Agencies.
Instead I went back to the office to catch up with a few things before heading home, but I was able start painting from around 15.30.
Before I realised, it was 20.45, which gave me time to catch up with any urgent correspondence before finishing at around 22.00.
I went into the office for 7.30am on Tuesday, in order to catch up with any remaining correspondence. I also had a phone conversation with a concerned Constituent who asked me if I was setting up a coffee shop within the newly refurbished Isle of Man Bank Building in Onchan village, as that was the latest rumour going around the village….
Happy to confirm that I have no intention of setting up a coffee shop in Onchan or anywhere else, but I am extremely grateful for the Constituent calling me directly to ask the question.
I have always had an open door policy as an MHK and I will always make myself available to answer any questions or concerns Constituents might have.
Anyway, we went down to the House of Keys at 10am, which started with 11 oral questions and 14 written questions.
There was also the first reading of the Highways (Amendment) Bill 2019, along with the Second Reading of the Income Tax Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.
The sitting finished at 11.30am.
Once the sitting finished I headed straight into Onchan to visit the Constituent who had called me before the House of Keys sitting as I felt it needed a face to face discussion over a sausage bap and a cup of coffee.
I then called in to see another Constituent before heading back to the office and straight up to the Barrool Suite for a presentation by DfE on its “Locate strategy”, which started at 13.00.
I left the office at 14.30 on Tuesday, in order to drive back into Onchan for a further Constituent meeting relating to a hospital appointment, and from there I headed home for around 15.30 to watch the latest Brexit debate unfold in Westminster.
On Tuesday evening Westminster debated several Brexit amendments, but in the end only two amendments went through, and these were very strange.
The first one was from Dame Caroline Spelman who tabled an amendment that the UK rejects leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement and Framework for the Future Relationship, and although the amendment was voted through it isn’t binding on the Government.
The second one was from Sir Graham Bradly, who called on the Government to find alternative arrangements to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, within a few minutes the EU dismissed that amendment, so where does the UK Prime Minister go now?
She is certainly running out of friends both in the UK and in Europe.
Apologies, I digress slightly – I was back in the office Wednesday morning at around 8.20am and it was straight into some prep for an oral session with DHSC officials next month, which will be an ongoing project for the next couple weeks.
At 10am I had a meeting with a third sector charity, in order to gain a greater insight into this particular charity, which is still trying to establish itself on the Isle of Man.
Mid morning Tynwald members were able to collect their 2019 Budget packs, but unfortunately the contents have to remain private & confidential until the Treasury Minister, Alf Cannan, MHK delivers his third Budget Speech to Tynwald Members on Tuesday 19th February.
I am extremely grateful that the Treasury Minister and his Department have given Tynwald Members reasonable time to review all the relevant information ahead of the Tynwald sitting.
The next couple of hours were spent going through the information before attending a presentation by the Treasury team, which started at 14.00.
The last couple of hours were spent at my desk catching up with various things before leaving the office at 17.10.
After tea I needed to read through a few DfE and Public Accounts Committee papers but was able to finish for around 20.00.
Not entirely sure if it is just me personally, but I do feel guilty when I take any time off during the week, but with the knowledge that I will be working most of the weekend I decided to take some time off on Thursday, in order to complete various tasks around the house.
I was having a conversation with a Minister during the last Tynwald sitting and he asked why I had mentioned the fact that I was ironing in a previous Blog, which is a fair point I guess.
As I explained to him, I don’t normally detail any of my household activities during the weekend, but if I have any downtime during the week I should at least try to explain the reason why to Constituents…..
I certainly don’t want give the impression that I work continually, but as I have mentioned previously I am paid to fulfil a role, and that role isn’t a 9 to 5 job between Monday and Friday.
Anyway, I was up early on Thursday (7.30am) which allowed me to continue painting the inside of our cottage.
We are currently changing the colour scheme to slate grey and a dark berry red, but the red walls require several coats, which certainly takes up considerable time.
Other than taking a few phone calls and responding to a couple of urgent emails, I was working on the house until around 15.30.
From 16.00 I started to catch up with any outstanding correspondence until around 18.00, but I also needed to deal with a couple of Constituent issues.
Details on Friday’s activities, along with what I am up to over the weekend, will be given next week.
Hopefully, I will also find some time over the weekend to start drafting my Budget speech, along with continuing to prepare for the Public Accounts Committee oral evidence session with the CEO of the Department of Health & Social Care next month.