The first few MHKs have this morning had their chance to reply to this year’s Budget speech by Treasury Minister Alfred Cannan and as usual there has been a mix of interesting responses.
Garff MHK Daphne Caine was the first backbencher to speak on the Budget. She praised Mr Cannan and said he was a clever conjuror to bring this budget before us after the year of the health crisis’.
‘It is demonstrating resilience indeed to come back from a £200m cost of the pandemic to deliver such optimism.’
Mrs Caine applauded the creation of the office of Auditor General, even though Mr Cannan himself voted against it. She also praised tax and national rates being frozen and that pensions are increasing by 2.5% thanks to the triple lock but said ‘other uplifts for those of working age through tax, benefits or support for families is much lower’.
Turning her attention to the DoI, Mrs Caine said she had concerns that the department would oversee much of the capital programme, telling Tynwald it ‘doesn’t inspire confidence of delivery on time and on budget, given our history’.
She said: ‘In terms of delivery we still await the science block at QE11 high school, the new Castle Rushen high school, even the flumes to be reinstated at the NSC and of course completion of Douglas promenade. We may see the flumes this summer; what happens with the prom is anyone’s guess but the schools are still in the design phase. We need this vital investment in our young people, and it should include environmental aspects as standard from now on in any government building. You can appreciate the public’s cynicism over the government’s ability to deliver major schemes and I fear that DoI is simply too big and unwieldy to keep on top of all its responsibilities, making it impossible to retain control of our capital programme and our strategic direction.’
Criticising the Treasury for bouncing the prom scheme further into the long grass with a £1.2m spend for the completion of the horse tram scheme being a matter for the next gov, she said: ‘The worry is with the constant delays and failures over delivering the promenade scheme, certain members of government, of Treasury, are achieving their aim of turning more people against the horse trams.
‘The real focus should be the incompetent delivery of two miles of promenade. Will it in fact be more expensive per mile than HS2 when it is finally finished? The original £21million budget was to complete the whole scheme. And I am not convinced an additional £1.2million to complete the horse tram tracks will be the final figure needed to complete the prom.’
Other topics in Mrs Caine’s speech saw her praise flood prevention work in Laxey, criticise the lack of phone service improvement in her constituency, which is widely known to be patchy in areas, seek greater investment in greener energy and public transport and innovation in education.
She finished by saying: ‘I can support the Treasury Minister on the budget before us. It is not possible to vote for some but not all and this is a solid budget to get us through the unknown challenges to come in 2021.’