Political surgery dates 2021

Garff political surgeries have been scheduled for the following dates and times in Laxey:

Saturday 16 January 2021 from 10.30am to midday CANCELLED owing to lockdown – date to be rescheduled

Saturday 10 April 2021 from 10.30am to midday

Both will be held at Garff Commissioners Office on New Road. A Garff Commissioner may also attend.

Additional surgeries will be held at the Archibald Knox meeting room on Avondale Road, Onchan:

Saturday 6 March 2021 from midday to 1pm

Saturday 19 June from midday to 1pm

Please see local media for information on additional political surgery dates, which will be confirmed after the House of Keys General Election due to be held on Thursday 23 September 2021.

All constituents are welcome to attend

Any constituency issues can be raised at the surgery with me or Martyn Perkins MHK.

Contact us direct to arrange a private appointment:
Office Tel: 651519 / 651518
Email: daphne.caine@gov.im

Checklist for 2021

  • Local authority reform
  • Rates reform
  • Means testing for local authority housing
  • Flood management strategy
  • Review of preschool funding
  • Review of student funding
  • Introduction of an enforceable Manx provenance label
  • Development of an agri-renewable strategy
  • Encouragement of energy saving technology for new builds
  • Development of multi-agency working for health and police
  • Development of a road safety strategy
  • Adoption of TUPE regulations to protect employment rights

 

One individual cannot hope to address all the issues facing the Isle of Man and I trust that the influx of new Members will bring fresh ideas, consensus and positivity to secure the Island’s future.

If elected I pledge to work for a positive future for all the residents of Garff and the Isle of Man adhering to the principles of fairness, openness and security outlined above for the benefit of the whole community. 

I welcome your comments and input. Please contact me if there is anything you wish to clarify or points you want to raise.

 

Security

Securing the Isle of Man’s future requires the next administration to tackle the public sector pension liability and the future trade agreement with the UK and Europe. Growing the economy is the most palatable way of meeting the estimated £63million annual shortfall in the pension fund from 2021 and that will require some innovative strategies from government also to support existing business. Light regulation is needed to assist them to expand and thrive. Tourism in particular is a good sector for potential growth. I would also like the Island to reinvigorate the film industry that benefited us on several levels through the nineties and early noughties. Government needs to listen to business more in terms of how it can encourage and support growth.

Pensions black hole

The bottom line with public sector pensions is that a huge debt has already been incurred and there don’t seem to be any sensible alternatives to paying it off long-term through tax revenues. If revenues don’t grow overall the pension bill could actually eat into funding for existing services.

The proposed pension reforms if implemented by the next administration will mean that, in the longer term, pensions will become more sustainable although there would still be a shortfall that will need to be met from government revenues. Other reforms may also be needed. By 2021 the predicted £63 million shortfall will have to be met by growth in the economy and contributions otherwise funding might have to be diverted from other services to meet this liability.

While the proposed reforms will require additional contributions, in implementing any further reforms we have to be careful they do not drive people out of the pension scheme or harm recruitment. Trying to cut pensions already in payment, or to tax them, like the Irish did when they were in serious crisis, would lead to massive legal challenges.

Thanks to the reserve fund set up in the 1990s the pension shortfall has been managed to date, and the zero-10 tax regime has helped the Island enjoy 26 years of unbroken growth. We need more creative thinking in the next government to replicate the success of the past two decades with sound fiscal management matched with innovation and imagination.

The Isle of Man and the Three Brexiteers

The United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union was a significant event for the Isle of Man.

The Island will have to seek a replacement for its Protocol 3 relationship with the EU, which allows free trade in manufactured goods and agricultural products. Protocol 3, as an attachment to the UK Treaty of Accession, is dependent on the UK’s membership of the EU and will come to an end when it finally leaves.

There will be no immediate change, however, as the UK’s withdrawal and the negotiation of new relationships with the EU, including the successor to Protocol 3, is expected to take at least two years.

Much will depend on what new economic arrangement the UK can negotiate with the EU, and how the Isle of Man as a Crown Dependency can fit into that framework. We will have to stay very close to the negotiations to ensure that the Island’s needs are known and protected.

With change comes opportunity, and Brexit may well open up new opportunities for the Island and the UK in the longer term. In the meantime uncertainty is bad for business and we must get a degree of clarity. That means opening and maintaining channels of communication with the three Ministers charged with negotiating the future trade agreements for Britain: Boris Johnson, David Davis and Liam Fox.  The Island must also continue to join forces with the Channel Islands and the British-Irish Council to ensure that we are part of the conversation.

My suggestion is the next Chief Minister should appoint a Minister responsible for international affairs (perhaps in place of the current Minister for Change and Reform). Either the Chief Minister or the new appointee should lead the Island’s envoys to engage with the UK Ministers charged with negotiating the future trade agreements. The IoM Government will need to determine what it wants out of the process, and we need to utilise the experience we already have, both in government and the wider business community, to lobby and influence the final outcome for the benefit of the Isle of Man.

Growth

To achieve economic growth requires supporting and expanding existing business and a steady increase in the population to provide workers. Government’s Enterprise Development Scheme, the £50 million fund to promote economic growth, has a target of 500-1000 working people moving here each year for the next 10 years while the Chamber of Commerce wants to see double that rate. I believe a steady growth in immigration must be actively sought; ideally the Isle of Man should be attractive enough for our graduates to want to return home, with a wider range of job opportunities. The opening of the International Centre for Technology at the Nunnery will be a positive step towards training the workers needed to fill current IT vacancies. The next administration needs also to address the work permit system, and consider exempting more roles in areas where there is a chronic shortage of key workers – plus automatic granting of work permits for their partners. Should we also actively seek to develop green energy, clean tech industries? I believe so. The Island needs to be adaptable, remain attractive to inward investment and would benefit from existing business leaders becoming ambassadors for growth.

The debate over our future has well and truly commenced during this election campaign and needs to be fully explored by the next administration at the start of its five year term. If Theresa May can hold a brainstorming session for post-Brexit strategies, so too should the Isle of Man on that and the other major issues facing us today. If the next House of Keys can agree an overall strategy and targets we can begin to plot the route map to achieve them.

The new government will have to quickly determine its targets, not only its economic strategy and rate of population growth but also its aims for the future position of the Isle of Man in terms of its outward image, future trading requirements and business incentives.

To download a full copy of my manifesto, click here.

Garff, Abbeylands, Groudle and Howstrake

There is understandable anger among Onchan residents who suddenly find themselves lumped in with Garff.

Let me come clean – I was amongst those who made a submission to the Boundary Review Committee that the previous constituencies of one, two or three Members was patently unfair and I was pleased when the proposal for 12 two-seat constituencies was approved.

However, the new East constituency was renamed Garff without acknowledging the fact that a good chunk of Onchan was to be included with the old sheading comprising Lonan, Laxey and Maughold. There is confusion as well as anger about this but it is a simple bit of housekeeping to amend the name in the future. I urge you not to protest by spoiling your ballot paper as several people have threatened. I ask you please to give one of your two votes to me, and I will table a motion to change the name to one more reflective of the new constituency.

Local authority and rates reform

Anger for arbitrarily moving part of Onchan into Garff is matched by discontent over a perceived imbalance in local authority rates.

Local authority reform has been too long discussed with no action. The high number of boards around the Island incurs significant cost for no benefit. The Garff Initiative should set an example that other local authorities can follow to join together for the benefit of their communities and reduce costs.

Alongside local authority reform should come an all-Island rate that is fair to all coupled with devolved powers from central government with appropriate funding to enable commissioners to look after their own communities. In the longer term I would like to see local authorities have responsibility for roads, hedges, drainage, glens, footpaths and parks – in fact all their local area. Currently the poor state of Laxey Glen and the delay in replacing the bridges in the Dhoon Glen are a cause for annoyance; signage is also lacking in many areas, and these matters could be better resolved by an empowered local authority.

Electoral reform

MHKs electing Members of the Legislative Council is not democratic but I would not like to see MLCs elected as a third representative of each constituency.
I would like to see more top lawyers, bankers, entrepreneurs being appointed to LegCo, acting as the revising / scrutiny body they are supposed to be, some still being employed full time but taking on one day per week duties in the Council. In my opinion, MLCs should not be members of departments but could sit in Tynwald to enhance debates with their views on agenda items brought by the government.

Stealth taxes

Greater fairness over the water rate is also on my priority list. Why is there resistance to allowing single-person households to install a water meter, if they wish to do so, at reasonable cost and to receive reduced bills for lower water usage? That needs attention along with the end of stealth taxes.

For instance, the toilet tax of £150 now only applies as a separate charge to septic tank emptying. For 2016 it has been absorbed into the general sewerage rate of £0.92 in the £. The effect is the same for households connected to the mains, but now there is no separate charge, so it really is the very definition of a stealth tax with no consideration as to the ability of residents to pay.

Another stealth tax is arguably the steep hike in probate fees approved by Tynwald in July 2013, which amounted to an indirect tax, according to the IoM Law Society president. The cost for having a will officially approved is now calculated on the value of the estate and doesn’t reflect the work involved nor, again, the ability of people to pay. Many fees, such as road taxes, seem to have increased above the rate of inflation with little justification except the need to raise revenue.

Housing

Provision of local authority housing and schemes to enable first time buyers to get on the property ladder also need reviewing. I would be in favour of means testing so that those who can afford to pay more local authority rent do so. Generally I am in favour of a more targeted benefit system to support those in need, the vulnerable, the sick and also those attempting to escape poverty by working in low paid jobs.

Attention is also needed to determine whether more local authority housing is needed for people in some areas. For instance, building single person units in Maughold would perhaps accommodate the elderly wishing to downsize and enable family housing to be freed up for people who cannot afford to buy.

Uplands

Another area of concern is the destruction of our uplands and footpaths by off-road bikes. This is one niche tourism that costs more than it brings in – on both an environmental and a practical level. Local authorities should have the right to close tracks to motorcycles in the event they are damaged or at risk of damage, for instance during wet conditions. It cannot be right that the brief pleasure of a few can result in years of destruction for the whole community.

A bridge of sighs

The replacement bridge in old Laxey cannot open soon enough to reunite the village and enable affected businesses to heave a collective sigh of relief. There is little point in criticising the design when it is almost complete. What is emerging from speaking to people on the doorstep is anger at perceived government waste and ineffective working practices exemplified by the bridge but considered common across government. Transparency and openness in government are not just words to be bandied about. Government needs to be open with the community and communicate better about what it is doing, and also to admit when things go wrong.

Flood prevention strategy

The ‘once in a lifetime’ floods that caused the bridge collapse in December 2015 are being experienced more regularly and with climate change will likely become more frequent. The Island requires a comprehensive flood prevention strategy. Local authorities are again best placed to provide input into regional strategies. Routine dredging of rivers needs to be undertaken where this is shown to reduce flooding. Equally other strategies such as clearing flood plains and planting trees in the uplands to foster natural bogs should be included in area plans.

Linked to this is the issue of untreated sewage being pumped into the sea. The IRIS scheme failed to deliver clean bathing beaches and more should be done to develop regional sewage treatment works to end the release of raw effluent.

To download a full copy of my manifesto, click here.

Education

While the standard of state education on the Island is outstanding, funding for education has been cut year on year for about eight years now.  Although schools have been protected they are under strain struggling to make budgets work and because of rising staff costs, employer contributions, pay awards etc.

Meanwhile cuts to preschool education, nurture teachers and student funding should all be reviewed. There are pockets of real deprivation and lack of social capital, particularly in some rural areas.  Early years support and parenting classes can help with this to a certain extent and free preschool provision for the poorest in society is necessary. Government’s recent doubling of the preschool credit does not go far enough.

Swingeing budget cuts have affected all departments and I can sympathise with the Department of Education and Children because they faced terrible choices. However, education is one area where a whole-Island view should have been taken with education budgets ring-fenced.

Savings were supposed to be made by centralising certain services such as caretakers, school catering. Some centralisation has worked but for others has led to an increase in bureaucracy and less effective working.  There is less flexibility for schools to improve infrastructure and innovate.  At a time of massive curriculum change and technological developments this is problematic.  There are a number of processes which are unduly lengthy and bureaucratic and which require more people to process, for example in the handling of requests for absence through the centralised Office of Human Resources.

Recruitment is becoming an issue for schools (as it is for key health workers and police officers) and we need to ensure that uncertainty over pensions, student grants, and even partner’s work permits is removed.

Academies in England offer incentives such as repayment of student loans, help with housing, enhanced salaries etc, and perhaps this is something that can be copied to attract the brightest of our students to return for a career in education or health.

Uncertainty over pensions is also a real threat.  Lack of certainty puts people off moving to Island schools from England. The next administration must provide that certainty.  Closing the scheme to new entrants would make the existing scheme unworkable – the best solution is to follow the English model for teachers’ pensions.  This has a phased implementation and would be sustainable.

Health

Let’s start with a positive – we enjoy easy access to good health care, wonderful hospital facilities and primary care, i.e. GPs, ambulance service, dentists etc. But it has to be acknowledged that costs cannot continue to rise to deliver that service.

This area needs an urgent but thorough review of how it is delivered. We should look at the Scottish islands and the Channel Islands’ provision.

I don’t agree with the £10 charge to see a GP that has been floated by recent health roadshows. If charges are introduced they have a habit of being increased and extended.

I do accept that the cost of heathcare must be brought under control and that we need to consider what is provided on the Island and what treatments are – or could be – provided off Island or by UK based medics flying in for one day clinics here. That would mean access to the best surgeons in centres of excellence without maintaining whole departments and support teams at Noble’s Hospital.

Recent efforts to review the service have been carried out by the West Midlands Review. I believe their contract has run out and has not been reviewed. If not, why not? Their report on Noble’s Women’s and Children’s department was very critical. It suggested maternity services are at crisis point. I haven’t seen any follow-up responses from the Department of Health and Social Care as to how these failings are being addressed.

In the area of community care, there needs to be more support in the community to free up hospital beds.

The proposed development of regional hubs needs to happen. This brings GPs, physios, occupational therapists and even pharmacists into local heath centres to deliver care without patients needing to go through a GP.

The Island should also develop more intermediate care provision, convalescent centres to enable people to be discharged more quickly following hospital treatment for acute conditions. This has the twin advantages of removing the patient from potential hospital-caught infections and enables a speedier rehabilitation; much better for the patient and a potential significant cost saving.

The review should start at grass roots – ask the patients to detail their experiences and suggest where and how improvements could be made. Ask the porters what needs to be done in porter services; occupational therapists about delivery of the OT service, etc. Staff in each area know what is wrong and often have good suggestions about how to fix it. Who is listening to them?

Agriculture

Farmers act as custodians of our countryside but have for many years been disadvantaged against  EU producers. Previously we had a subsidy-led industry on a headage system but that changed in 2009 with farmers receiving support unrelated to the amount they produce. The red meat derogation stopped in 2010 and many farmers have struggled since, feeling unsupported by recent government policies. Future policies need to empower farm businesses to be able to compete with neighbouring jurisdictions, they need to obtain equivalent returns to their UK counterparts. It is worrying that the price for a lamb now is less than in 2008 yet costs of production have risen.

The public perception of the rich farmer is out of step with the reality for many working long hours for diminishing returns. I believe we must secure the local food supply and retain our ability to produce our own food.  Producers must be profitable in order to invest and deliver that food security.  Government should also work with producers to establish and enforce a meaningful Manx provenance label to enable consumers to have certainty when purchasing Manx produced quality products. A label that states ‘locally sourced’ does not necessarily mean Manx produce.

The Isle of Man winning UNESCO Biosphere reserve status is an honour that has enormous potential in terms of promoting our countryside, the environment and generally for tourism but it seems to have been too little exploited. It should be celebrated by local farmers as custodians of our landscape and provides an enormous opportunity for increased consumption of Manx food locally and potential exports.

Although only providing 1% of our GDP (gross domestic product), agriculture is an economic generator for a range of other industries, making the Island attractive to business investment, tourism etc. We have to find a balance with strategies that support and encourage food production and the maintenance of our countryside. The likely impact of climate change on the Island also needs assessing and addressing in an agri-renewable strategy. This is an area where there is potential to provide agricultural businesses with a diversified income source through the production of renewable energy. Government needs to listen and respond to farmers or their representative union.

Crime

The Island has the lowest crime rate in the British Isles, with recorded offences falling to levels last seen in 1970 and a police force that is fully engaged with the community. The security of the Island is one of our biggest successes but its funding needs to be assured to maintain recent achievements. The low level of crime is a major selling point for the Island for inward investment and for tourism.

The Chief Constable’s Annual Report makes interesting reading, however. Gary Roberts several times makes the point that he should not have to make operational choices between investigating drug offences or child abuse, but that has happened. Also the need for training specialist firearms officers reduces staffing levels in the neighbourhoods and the number of detectives available. The impact of cuts in recent years may mean a reduction in the community policing level that has most likely contributed to its current success. The amount of police involvement in mental health issues also needs awareness and the constabulary should be supported in their efforts to work in partnership with the mental health service. There also needs to be more support for the Youth Justice Team in its programme for assisting young offenders away from a life of crime.

Reducing over-severe punishment for low level drug possession and maintaining the establishment of police officers should also be priorities, along with the development of a road safety strategy.

To download a full copy of my manifesto, click here.

Sea and air routes

The IoM Steam Packet Company wishes to renew its user agreement ahead of its expiry in 2020/26. Acknowledging that they far exceed commitments on service levels, government must be free to achieve the best deal for the Island, which may mean reaching agreement instead of going out to test the market via a full tender. The full facts need close examination before any contract is agreed.

I support greater commerciality in our air services and feel that the Open Skies policy needs further review.

Renewable energy/green tech

Government needs to revisit the AEA renewable energy sustainability study published in 2010. The stated aim was to generate 15% of electricity through renewable sources by 2015. We need an update on what has been achieved, and to confirm the Island’s support for renewable energy generation with clear targets plus updates on what is achieved and when.

I applaud the Island’s first public sector eco houses built in Castletown that provide significant savings on energy bills and I would like to see all new local authority housing embrace new passivhaus technology, plus incentives to encourage more sustainable construction methods on the Island. With 9.9% of households suffering fuel poverty (Cabinet Office report, March 2016) and property responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, this is an area where significant benefits can be achieved for individuals and the environment.

Douglas promenade

The promenade is the gateway to the Island and may be seen as symbolising the state of our latest administration – a total lack of progress because of a bureaucratic planning system, red tape, a lack of vision and failing to carry the weight of public opinion to drive the change that is long overdue. The promenade is a national embarrassment. We apologise when welcoming tourists or business visitors for its lack of repair and progress. Reconstruction is now necessary along its entire length and work needs to commence as soon as possible, incorporating the horse tramway and maximising car parking. The Department of Infrastructure must deliver a cost-effective scheme to achieve this in a timely manner.

Other issues

  • TUPE regulations – the UK’s Transfer of Undertakings {Protection of Employment} Regulations 1981 – need to be adopted by the Island to provide certainty to workers over employment rights when companies or services change operator.
  • I would support abortion law reform and assisted dying for the terminally ill under very controlled circumstances.
  • BBC television licences for Isle of Man over-75s will have to be paid for by pensioners from September 2016.  Eddie Teare, the retiringTreasury Minister, says it would cost £600,000 for the IoM Government to pay for this ‘non means-tested benefit’ and it would be outside the law to withhold the amount from the BBC. I feel other ways of funding the licences from government should be explored. Also, the BBC service provided to the Isle of Man would benefit from further scrutiny and consideration of the more than £800,000 paid annually to support Manx Radio as the Island’s public service broadcaster.
  • To download a full copy of my manifesto, click here.