Blog 11 Oct 20There were a couple of interesting stories that caught my attention this week. In the North of the island there was an exchange of views by local authorities after Ramsey Commissioners announced that it was full and that it was now looking to expand its current boundaries into neighbouring authorities of Garff and Lezayre.

Lezayre Commissioners are fully opposed to any boundary changes, and I think I saw one comment on IOM Newspapers in which Lezayre Commissioners talked about trying to expand its boundaries into Ramsey’s, which reminded me of the film “The Mouse That Roared”…..

It will be interesting to see if Ramsey Commissioners are successful in their attempts to expand their boundaries.

Another story related to five “key workers” that travelled to the island recently, and after getting off the boat in Douglas they headed straight to Tesco, and not directly to the hotel. Fortunately or unfortunately, their boastful comments in the store about just getting off the Steam Packet boat resulted in them being arrested and sent to Jurby Prison for a couple of weeks.

UK newspapers picked up the story and the individual families were outraged at their treatment and the punishment given by the Courts here on the Isle of Man. For some reason they kept accusing UK politicians of double standards, which I thought was very interesting, as they clearly didn’t understand the political differences between the UK and the Isle of Man.

Anyway, according to the Isle of Man Newspapers one of those individuals appears to have brought Covid-19 onto the island, so a massive thank you to the individual that reported the incident.

Again, if you are travelling to the Isle of Man, then please follow all the self-isolation rules when returning to the island – these are in place to protect our Community and our Economy, and as a society we have to get on with our lives, however difficult that might appear at times.

Also this week my political colleagues in Guernsey have gone to the polls in what is being described as a “Super General Election” as the whole island was set to elect 38 Deputies to the States of Deliberation.

Selecting up to 38 Candidates on the Ballot Paper could be interesting, especially when there were around 119 Candidates standing for the election.

Towards the end of the week the results started to come in, and a number of sitting members lost their seats, including three or four Ministers. The turnout was surprisingly high at around 80%, but I wasn’t surprised that Gavin St Pier topped the poll with 13,925 votes and Heldi Soulsby was second with 12,782 votes.

A very tough election in many ways.

As for the rest of my week, another yellow warning set the pace last weekend, which meant that I had plenty of time to take it easy and to catch up with a few things. Saturday morning was all about clearing paths and guttering from leaves before the heavy rain arrived from lunchtime.

On Sunday I was able to go through the DEFA agenda pack as I was listening to Chris Robertshaw, MHK give a talk to the Positive Action Group on “A Government Which Serves the People” at lunchtime.

If you didn’t listen to Chris’s presentation it is worth listening to because he does make some very valid points. However, some of his observations in my opinion were not right, especially around the important role undertaken by Department members.

I think most MHKs would argue that they can influence policies, directions and decisions at a Department level far more successfully than on the floor of the House of Keys and Tynwald Court at times, but that takes nothing away from the actual presentation which I thought was excellent.

Anyway, I was in the office before 8am on Monday and the first job was to prepare several letters in response to some constituent correspondence I received over the past couple of weeks. This was followed by a meeting with my colleague Lawrie Hooper, MHK in respect of the Landlord Registration (Private Housing) Bill 2020 ahead of a Tynwald presentation by the DOI that got underway at 10am.

Again, a lot of the questions were raised by Tynwald members before the legislation starts its passage through the House of Keys and the Legislative Council in due course. Back to the office towards 12 noon for a meeting with a Constituent in respect of a relationship breakdown and ongoing harassment, but more importantly about the role of the police and what protection is being offered in these situations.

A big thank you to Home Affairs Minister, Graham Cregeen, MHK and Claire Barber, MHK for their input into the situation, and to the Department. In between meetings I also continued to work on the Area Plan for the East and a few other projects.

Just before 14.00 I walked down to the Sea Terminal for a meeting with the Landlords Association in respect of the draft legislation. The DOI Minister, Tim Baker, MHK chaired the meeting with the association, which was very constructive and hopefully will lay the foundations for a good working relationship in the weeks and months to follow.

As it was mentioned during the meeting, the Landlords Association has an important role to play on behalf of all landlords, not just in respect of the draft legislation but also on behalf of landlords who may be looking for help and advice. That particular point was made very clearly at the drop in session I attended in Braddan recently. Once the meeting finished I stayed on at the Sea Terminal for a Douglas Promenade Political meeting, in order to get the latest information on the schedule of works.

I was back at the office just before 17.00 and once home it was a quick change before going to Woodbourne House for a “Fostering Forum”, which included an update on the “Mockingbird Programme” that started at 18.00.

I enclose a quick video link that explains the “Mockingbird Programme”. As the Children’s Champion I sincerely hope that the scheme is successful and that we see a big improvement in foster care on the island over the next few years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah9NjPNmO_I

Further details on how to get involved in foster care on the island will be published in the local media over the next few weeks.

I finally got home for around 19.30 and by the time I caught up with correspondence etc it was close to 21.00 when I finished.

In the office before 8am on Tuesday and it turned into one of those days that just went by in a flash, and it felt like I didn’t get anything done. First job was to remind myself of the findings of the Emoluments Committee that looked into Tynwald Members pay.

Just after 9am I headed down to the Sea Terminal for a meeting relating to an ongoing Constituent issue that I have been trying to resolve since being elected back in 2016. Hopefully, I will be able to give a further update towards the end of the month.

Back to the office and throughout the day I received a lot of Constituent calls, but I was also able to catch up with a number of my Tynwald colleagues.

At lunch time I had a meeting with the Policy and Reform Minister, Ray Harmer, MHK and officers within the Cabinet Office, in order to discuss the Area Plan for the East.

Fair to say that the meeting was robust as I outlined my concerns to the Minister in respect of the report going before Tynwald later on this month, which mirrored the information I gave to the inquiry via various correspondence submitted to the Cabinet Office, along with presenting oral evidence.

From there it was straight over to the Barrool Suite for a Tynwald Members presentation by the Emoluments Committee who looked into Tynwald Members pay, which also generated a fair few comments. There will be a Tynwald debate on it later this month, but personally I feel this is the wrong time to be discussing this topic.

The rest of the afternoon was spent catching up with things and this continued into the evening until just before 21.00, along with finishing off any outstanding items in DEFA agenda pack.

On Wednesday I was in the office briefly before driving down to the DEFA building for two department meetings. The first one was on Policy and Strategy, which lasted almost three hours and after a short break we had the Department meeting.

I finally got back to the office just after 14.00 and that gave me time to review a planning appeal, which is one of two that I needed to look at.

Late afternoon Manx Radio published an article entitled “Scouts to say farewell to TT Scoreboard”, which set so many hares running ahead of a formal media briefing that was scheduled for Thursday lunchtime. This meant that I spent most of Wednesday evening answering various questions on the future of the scoreboard, and unfortunately many of the comments posted online were factually incorrect.

As an MHK this is the most frustrating part of my role, because the article in question gave very little information or actual details on the interviews that had already been scheduled, which included Manx Radio themselves. The story simply refers to the Scouts and Cubs being invited to say goodbye, and no mention of the ongoing work associated with the Scouts Association, in order to ensure that they have a vital role to play in respect of the TT Scoreboard in the future….

I will post a few separate pictures of the actual condition of the TT scoreboard structure shortly, in order to show that the structure is unfortunately beyond repair.

I finally finished around 21.30, but I appreciate those people that messaged me for further information.

I was hoping to take Thursday off, but several items appeared late in the week, so I headed into the office for the normal time. Part of the morning was spent going back through the Structural Report, the Consultation Responses and the initial design service documents for the TT Scoreboard.

Just after 11am I headed up to the Grandstand for a pre-meeting with the DfE Motorsport before the media interviews that got underway at 12 noon. A massive thank you to Edmund and Mathew from Manx National Heritage, along with Mike from the Scouts Association for giving their thoughts on the current overall condition of the TT Scoreboard, which can only be described as very very poor.

During my media interviews I mentioned that around 74% (103 replies) asked for “Like for Like” replacement. Just to put some context around that information, the department received around 500 responses to the Consultation. Many of the responses were duplicates, so the actual number of responses was only around 163, which is very low especially when the event attracts around 46,000 visitors. Therefore, the Department gave extra weight to the submission made by the Scouts Association who wanted the “Like for Like” but with some new technologies.

I was back to the office for around 14.00 to start working on a second planning appeal, along with those ongoing projects. I also needed to start looking at the House of Keys sitting, which starts again next week.

I left the office at 17.00 in order to drop Ellen off before making my way to the South Barrule Plantation for the presentation on the new Visitor Centre and the creation of around 40 Glamping Pods, which got underway at around 18.00.

If the scheme is given planning permission, then it should support the current activities already found in the Barrule Plantation, including the Ape Mann, Laser Mayhem and Segway etc. Current self-catering accommodation providers are already very concerned by the idea, especially given the current economic tourism climate. However, I do believe it could be a fantastic addition to our tourism offer.

I could only stay for around 40 minutes, because I had already arranged to meet friends at 19.00, but still an excellent presentation.

At the Covid-19 briefing at 16.00, which is now becoming a regular date once again, the Chief Minister, Howard Quayle, MHK confirmed that the 7 day test that was recently introduced will be removed from Sunday, and thereafter anyone returning to the island will have to self-isolate for the full 14 days.

As for Friday, it was a full day in the office catching up with administration and despite only having one meeting, it was a stressful and frustrating day for some reason, especially with more IT issues, which makes the job a lot harder than it should be.

I also had to work on a lot of tourism and motorsport correspondence, but also a number of Constituent items. I also managed to go through the second planning appeal and by the end of the day, it was starting to feel like one of those periods in which there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

As for the weekend, I have a mountain of reading to get through, especially with regard to the Department work and the House of Keys sitting next week etc, so I am expecting a very busy and long weekend sitting at the kitchen table.