With MHKs due to pick our next Chief Min next week (since you know, we can’t be trusted), we thought it was an ideal time to look at some of the big challenges the new administration will face.
At this time, the only nominees are Dr Alex Allinson and Alf Cannan, but there are stalking horses amongst their fellow MHKs and by the time Tuesday comes around, it may not be the simple one or the other choice that it looks like now.
But once the dust settles and a new Chief is chosen, they will get round to picking their Council of Ministers and then get to work on what needs to be done. Then once those men and women get to work, they have much to do.
I haven’t included climate change as that is more of an overarching work in progress which will, in turn, guide how all of these other issues are addressed, obviously this comes with the caveat of how COP26 plays out in the coming weeks and how they impacts on our future energy and lifestyle plans.
It’ll be Over by Christmas…
The prom scheme (boo hiss) is due to be “finished” in the coming weeks. Except of course it won’t be. Numerous elements of the scheme have been dropped, we don’t really know the true cost of the scheme and we don’t know if the dropped works will ever be done. For example, will the roundels (which are definitely not roundabouts, no matter who those road signs say, or indeed what the DoI itself said) be replaced with the granite finish they were expected to be? Will they even survive the winter? Will the new minister recognise how stupid they are and go back to a more traditional road system?
Equally what will happen to the horse trams? They currently are in some state of purgatory as we have no idea if they will ever return to the sea terminal. At one point the DoI wanted to introduce modern trams to the prom, but that seems to have been dropped. This surely reduces the likelihood that the clippety-cloppers will ever go back to the Bottleneck. But if they don’t, then what do the DoI plan to do with the charming mud deposit they currently have on the prom, which thanks to the autumnal weather is increasingly beginning to look like a bizarre tribute to the trenches of the First World War. I think the only thing we can be certain of is the DoI won’t be playing football on it this Christmas.
Ferry up the Mersey
Another DoI scheme, another clusterf*ck. In July Tynwald was due to be asked to pay an extra £13.8m to finish the Liverpool Ferry Terminal. This would’ve brought the budget for the scheme to a little under £52m. However Tynwald refused to support the measure, saying they didn’t have enough time to consider it properly.
Thanks to the monumentaly stupid decision to buy part of Liverpool on a long term leasehold agreement, we are kind of just stuck with the ferry terminal so I imagine that the new Tynwald will have to swallow this sh*t and like the taste of it. Alternatively, they can try to renegotiate the terms with Peel Ports, but given how well that went last time, I fear we’d come back with less than the mess we have now.
With elective surgeries being cancelled and its budget spiralling, we need to see progress in the island’s healthcare provider. If we don’t, then the extra hundreds of thousands we’re putting up to pay for the Manx Care board, not to mention the £10,000 it spent on its new logo and signs, will just seem like money down the drain for very little improvement. This isn’t just about physical health either, mental health services need to be improved drastically.
We know there are doubts in Noble’s staff who say it’s just added extra bureaucracy and concerns from members of the public about transparency, but we’ll have to wait and see what the new administration does.
We’re expecting to see the new Major Capital Projects Board take over all schemes valued at more than £3m from the DoI. Given the DoI’s history of success with these schemes, the move was warmly welcomed when announced in February’s Budget, but since then it’s gone very quiet.
Another gov scheme should come into play here, with the Manx Development Corporation set to help with the regeneration of brownfield urban sites. But whatever system is put into place, including updating the First Time Buyers’ Scheme, the island needs to find an efficient way to ensure young people can afford to live and work on the rock or else we face a future where more and more people head for pastures new.
This has to include working with the private and public sectors to ensure there are good quality, affordable, rental properties on the island, while also ensuring that people can match their expectations for being able to buy a home. If the new administration gets this wrong, don’t be surprised to see more people leave.
We all know the rates system is a mess, a lot of work was done in the last administration but we never got to see an end result. I expect this will come back around but arguments for schemes like an all island rate or leisure rate will fall on their face if the result is just that rural populations see massive increases.
A more difficult challenge, yes there has to be local authority reform, but the often suggested four plus one (Douglas thinks it’s special) fails to significantly recognise the differences between the village and town communities and parishes around our island. However, given the disaster of the local authority elections earlier this year, many local authorities have arguably never been in a weaker position to argue that they have a mandate to serve their communities.
We’re on a slow glide with this one, we all know where we’re going both for medicinal and recreational use. The former should come first and needs to be done quickly. The latter will take longer, but will probably be done by the end of the new administration.
Have you seen the state of some of our schools? The teachers are doing their best, but the buildings need modernising. Castle Rushen High School needs to be resolved quickly, but the wants and needs of the community regarding a local swimming pool also needs to be addressed before work gets underway or else the bill for that when it is replaced will just be even higher.
The island needs to look at maternity/paternity leave and make it a statutory requirement that this can be shared easier to allow families more freedom and flexibility. Equally important is looking at the future funding of nursery care to allow more parents to go back to work.
Fit For Purpose?
The new administration also needs to face up to the reality that we all heard during the election. People see gov as too large and ineffective, we need a leaner gov that knows its role instead of spreading itself so thinly it fails at many areas it shouldn’t be involving itself in.