Innovation is at the heart of enabling the island to flourish. Digital and green technology and reskilling are helping to build a healthy economy.
Working in the Economic Recovery Group, we have reduced unemployment to under 500 with schemes such as Restart, where people are paid by the government to retrain on the job. Virtual working has proved to have excellent benefits, enabling flexible hours and bringing business to the Isle of Man.
Following Brexit, it is important to seize good opportunities such as new trade deals in financial services with countries like Japan and Australia. We also need to keep attracting global workers and entrepreneurs, through high quality public services and a safe setting.
Tourism is a key part of the economy but needs to be all year round and present the best the island has to offer, both culturally and environmentally, to the widest possible market. With the reduction of global travel, the Isle of Man may benefit from increased tourism from the UK and Ireland. In similar fashion, where other economies such as Iceland have spread their tourism across the year, we can do the same.
I argued for raising the tax allowance threshold and we have seen an increase of £3750 over the last five years, helping those on lower incomes.
As an island, we need to remain tax efficient and nimble. There will be challenges to our corporation zero/ten tax regime. As with changes to beneficial ownership rules, we can lead by positioning our legislation to meet these challenges. Increasingly, expertise and innovation can be our competitive advantage.
We need to keep investing in our high quality legislation drafting team so that it can to respond quickly to change and take advantage of new opportunities as in the case of medicinal cannabis.
A well-funded school-led education system with the aim of raising standards for all our children is the way forward. A fit for purpose Education Bill, in dialogue with our school leaders, needs to be developed. It is essential to invest in the wellbeing of all staff and enable separation of delivery from policy and inspection.
I campaigned for the expansion of pre-school credit which has happened and needs to continue further.
We can open more possibilities of lifelong learning by allowing people to retrain or do an apprenticeship, taking advantage of virtual learning as a mode of engaging.
I am a member of the Health Transformation Board which directs new changes such as the creation of Manx Care, bringing together primary and hospital care, but critically separating policy and delivery.
Other positive steps are to improve data and communication, make better links to specialist services in the UK and fully resource primary care.
I would like to see more funding in mental health for all ages with specialist resources so that treatments and support are offered locally.
As there are still too many unnecessary trips to the UK for short consultations, we should make provision for these to be undertaken virtually.
A new capacity bill is needed to protect the vulnerable on the island and we need to progress long term funding for residential care.
Our Biosphere status is one of the qualities which makes our island special. So we need to protect it.
Planning policy should enhance the environment and going forward Manx Wildlife Trust should be given interested party status in the planning system. We need to leave large hedgerows and spaces for wildlife to flourish in our countryside. Our birdlife is under threat and funding has been invested to create coastal reserves. While chairing the Climate Transformation Board, an action plan was developed to achieve net-zero by 2050.Tynwald approval was given for the Green Living grant which I brought forward in July 2021, for any property where it’s most needed. A free energy audit would be offered with a view to providing a grant. Solar energy should become the default for government buildings as well as for all new housing and developments. Using green electricity from Ireland and the UK could meet much of the increased demand. Hydrogen and biogas may ultimately replace natural gas as technology improves.
Research is being carried out into our seas looking at planting sea grasses and developing our coastal wetlands to reduce our carbon footprint. We do not need unnecessary or expensive schemes as we move to net carbon zero, but we need to build sustainably.
We have seen an increase in house prices since COVID-19 and so it’s more important than ever to provide affordable housing. While DOI minister, we devised a mid-rent pilot scheme which has been very successful and should be expanded across the island. In addition, a deposit guarantee from the government for first time buyers would supplement existing schemes. New legislation will protect the rental deposits while regulations are tailored not to become overly burdensome. As minister responsible for the Eastern Area plan, brownfield sites were designated for new housing and formed the framework for urban regeneration. We have created a development agency to transform derelict government sites and provide modern housing.
Homelessness legislation is needed in the Isle of Man to provide pathways to help people who are sofa-surfing or relying on friends or family for shelter.
We have returned to community policing through additional resources. This is most welcome and will see an increased presence on our streets. The Domestic Abuse and Sexual Offences Bills were important examples of social legislation. We need to combat the increase of dangerous drugs and a future border force is a way to tackle this.
A combined police fire and ambulance base in Peel could improve response times and outcomes.
Communications and low transportation costs are vital to the island’s economic prosperity.
Telecommunications enable us to operate a business globally. I have pushed for an all-island fibre network which is now being rolled out and will contend for it to cover all rural areas.
The Douglas promenade is now nearing completion. While initially I instigated a quick resurfacing of the road, providing some relief to vehicle drivers, I then made the critical decision to take on the huge project to reengineer the promenade, where there were serious underlying problems untouched for many decades. Gas pipes, power lines and sewage pipes were crumbling under the road and fire hydrants were unfit for purpose. The final finish is going to provide a welcoming and ultimately safe gateway to the island.
Acquiring the Steam Packet Company and the procurement of new vessel the Manxman, were vital to secure our links to the UK. However, as post-pandemic travel resumes, we need to review our open skies policy to ensure our need for connectivity is met.
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.
In my last manifesto, I outlined the importance of cross-departmental teams. Over the last five years, we have worked well together through cross-departmental boards on climate change and housing both of which I chair, as well as economic recovery and health transformation. This is a model for the future and works best when accompanied with full financial freedom. Earlier this summer, I launched a consultation on regulation. It is critical that the regulators are independent from operations and I support an independent regulatory authority taking on responsibility for regulatory functions within Government.
Budget house-keeping and spending is justified not assuming budgets was a policy from in my last manifesto. I took this on board in my role as minister and we were able to make many savings including £1 million by outsourcing the airport bagger handlers.
COVID-19 has radically changed the way we live and put immense pressures on people in all walks of life. I have great admiration for people who have worked tirelessly in essential sectors where the day never stops. The same is true during the floods and storms. The government has also had to adjust and become more flexible. We have created various virtual ‘task and finish’ teams. As chair of the Public Services Commission, work is underway to embed these lessons in the New Public Service project, which is delivering more empowerment, less days lost to sickness and better outcomes.
Since the last manifesto, I was committed to make TV licenses free for over 75s and argued for flexible pensions, both of which have been introduced. Tynwald have approved reforms I brought forward to put public sector pensions on a more sustainable footing and have allowed flexibility to move towards fully funded defined contribution schemes.
Just heard the very sad news that Michael Cowin - AKA Pullyman - has died at the age of 80. He was hilarious, heartfelt and tireless raising thousands for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. RIP fella
Thanks to Russell Moore for sharing these incredible pictures from last night. You can see his pictures and others, as well as tips for photographers on the link below #isleofman