The next few years will see significant change. Technology continues to improve rapidly and so we need to be at the forefront of innovation such as bio-medicine, IT, crowdfunding and bitcoins.
A key advantage is that as well as being innovative, we are able to react to change quicker than others because our Island can write its own laws and create its own legislation. The Government needs more qualified staff to write legislation so that bills are not delayed and we can implement change more quickly.
Brexit affords both challenges and opportunities. We can help grow the Island’s economy by forging new partnerships for example with China and India whilst maintaining access to current markets. We need to keep attracting global workers as well retaining the 3000+ EU workers already on the Island.
Tourism is a key part of the economy. With a possible reduction of global travel, the Isle of Man could benefit. We need to encourage more hotel accommodation and activities such as mountain biking.
We cannot remove VAT as some have suggested. This would create a £242 million black hole. I support a simple, fair tax system. Raising the tax allowance threshold would help those on lower incomes. Replacing the existing charitable allowance with a full 20% tax allowance for Manx charities is important as it is the local charitable sector which leads the way for supporting the vulnerable.
Communications and low transportation costs are vital to the Island’s economic prosperity. Telecommunications enable us to operate a business globally. A 4G network made available in the home and at work would improve communication and increase competition. An alternative proposal of using the power lines, which is outdated technology, would be slower than what we have now and would be a step backwards, not forwards.
The Island’s size makes it a perfect location to advance new technologies such as the installation of fibre in new homes instead of the existing copper.
Education is critical to our future and is lifelong.
I have fought for expansion of pre-school provision and this was approved in Tynwald in July. Class sizes in school should be kept small. Resources to support children’s learning should be invested in wisely.
In secondary education we should expand IT and entrepreneurial skills to enable a smooth transition into a business context
I would also propose a scheme to offset tax on earnings against the IOM Student Loans, to encourage degree students to return to work on the Island.
In addition a government sponsorship scheme for our future Island-based doctors, nurses, teachers and police could be explored.
For those who need to retrain or acquire new skills, we could provide opportunities through the University College Isle of Man.
With the growing demands of healthcare, we need to become more efficient. By adopting an early intervention approach, we can treat people before problems become greater and provide better preventative care. This strategy will channel more care and resources into the community, rather than simply into Nobles hospital.
One area I have been promoting is better use of technology. This will remove rooms of paper files, save money and improve health services. It is due to start later this year. Joining up the systems between the hospitals and the local GP will serve the community better. Above all it is essential to attract quality staff and reduce reliance on agency workers, for example by offering more affordable accommodation.
Within Department of Health I was given the challenging area of Children & Families which has had historic problems. These problems are being addressed and we received a positive report from the Scottish inspectorate. In addition we have been able to save money and come under budget in this division. Improved IT services and departments working together at an early stage were key.
This same approach could deliver savings in other areas.
I also believe in simple, but creative solutions such as a grant scheme to help workers switch from cars to bikes, so improving our nation’s health and reducing the parking and congestion at rush hour.
We have an excellent police force on the Island. We do not want to see police numbers or the budget reduced.
We benefit greatly from low crime level, but we need to carefully monitor and review our security at ports and harbours. We need legislation on legal highs and further collaboration between mental health and the police.
The Police are beginning to embark on a period of embedding technology. Technology could remove some of the administrative burden. IPads could be used to record crime details on the spot, rather than imputing back at the police station, resulting in more time on the beat.
New types of crime are being committed online or involving the use of technology. More resources are needed in this area.
State pensions have been put on a more sustainable footing. In Tynwald I proposed flexibility in the pension age, especially as women approaching 60 have lost out. Tynwald has agreed to look into this.
In addition to the state pension, all Manx workers should have either a private, public sector or company pension.Not all employers provide a pension, which means many will not have sufficient to live on. For that reason we need a workplace pension scheme in the Isle of Man, supported by government and employers.
For those with private pensions, annuity rates are very poor, leaving pensioners with low levels of income after having saved for many years. I support flexible pensions providing access to funds when needed.
Regarding public sector pensions, it is very concerning that the public sector scheme was not funded since its inception. This has led to difficult decisions. I supported the motion in June to reduce the future liability. However, there remains the legacy funding gap for those who will retire over the next 20 years which needs to be managed.
I support the reinstatement of a free TV licence for pensioners over 75, ahead of the BBC providing this from 2020.
Farming is crucial to our Island. It is vital to widen export market opportunities for local produce and protect against low quality imports. We can build on the Manx pedigree for high quality produce such as Manx flour for export use in artisan bread. We need to ensure that Manx Farmers receive at least the same support as those in the UK and Europe and to enable them to maintain our environment and UNESCO biosphere status.
A key problem is the current performance of the meat plant, which is making substantial losses and has difficulties in delivery. The meat plant needs to be put on a sustainable footing. This may mean simplifying existing methods.
The fishing industry is important to the Island and following Brexit we need to secure the waters around the Island for our fishing fleets.
Over the last year I have seen the dedication and hard work of our public service. However many obstacles are put in its way, with department rules and government procedures slowing and preventing the service from working the way it would like to.
Eliminating the annual £80million budget deficit will require action on a number of fronts. The method of working to Budget targets needs reform. All spending should be justified and not assumed. Over the last year as Vice-chair in the Public Service Commission, we have been reducing paperwork and red tape across the public service to create efficiencies.
However, it is vital the government reviews its processes and exchanges between departments and teams. This will identify where key problems exist. We also need to update our data exchange legislation so that government can work effectively whilst protecting the citizens it serves.
We need to encourage performance based on outcomes and we need to commission projects across departments. This can be done by cross departmental budgets. MHKs as political members should have responsibility across departments.
Encourage better use of energy, providing incentives to reduce consumption. We should allow households to supply the national grid with their solar energy for example and then allow them to be paid based on the amount produced, rather than as a one-off payment.
Encourage recycling and reuse, for example by making more recycling bins available and educating children.
Longer term keep a watching eye on wave and tidal technology as to whether this could become a viable alternative for the Isle of Man.