Let the church bells ring out and people rejoice, the first draft of the Island Plan is here!

At 24 pages, it is far from a novel, but it isn’t exactly a quick and whimsical read either, so we’ve broken it down into the bits we think you most need to know. You can also read the full document at the bottom of the page or on the Tynwald Business Register (https://tynwald.im/rob).

The Title: Our Island Plan: Building a secure, vibrant and sustainable future for our island

Principles: The gov begins its plan by outlining the principles it wants to operate by, they are calling this approach ‘One Government’, could this be a hint towards a single legal entity? Wait and see. 

The other guidance principles will be listening to the people, taking long-term decisions, looking after the public purse and accountability. 

Justify Your Jobs: Good news for those wanting to see accountability in the civil service, all gov depts and boards will be required to publish an annual report to Tynwald. The Island Plan adds: ‘These will be tabled through the parliamentary year. These reports will lay out clearly the actions undertaken by the department, the positive impact on the island and determine and justify staffing levels.’ 

Education: The gov is also setting itself the target of ensuring lifelong learning opportunities for islanders, saying it is a ‘fundamental pillar of our social and economic success’. To achieve this, it wants to review education funding so resources are properly allocated, ensuring ‘attainment and quality benchmarking of education services’. This work also includes reviewing the education service, establishing apprenticeship partnerships, implementing a childcare strategy and changes to employment law so that parents can access better child care. The gov will also consider the merits of a Children’s Commissioner.

Health Care: Unsurprisingly the gov is wanting people to get healthier. This includes ensuring the ‘healthcare transformation project is delivering the recommendations of Sir Jonathan Michael’s review’. A huge part of this is Manx Care, which is under pressure to cut waiting times across mental and physical health, particularly given the cost of its board whose job it is to ensure delivery. The gov also wants to deal with waiting times as a ‘priority’. 

Social Care: Following the UK’s introduction of an increase in National Insurance to pay for social care, the island needs a solution. The plan says that the gov wants to ‘review financial support towards meeting nursing home fees and social care costs’. While it doesn’t go into detail about what this means, have no doubt, it will likely mean either a tax or NI hike if the gov is to spend more money, it has to come from us. 

Housing: One of the first parts of the plan outlines that the gov wants to ensure ‘everyone has a suitable and affordable place to call “home” and our housing stock meets the needs of our population now and in the future’. To do this, the gov has, for starters, established the Housing and Communities Board, which is designed to ‘bring together and focus policy and actions across gov on housing for all’. This includes ‘legislative, financial and practical interventions as appropriate as a priority for our island’. 

Other work will include putting life into gov owned brownfield sites, bringing derelict buildings back into use, reviewing the Town Centre First mode (in Scotland) as a possible template for regeneration, introducing a new charter for standard schedule or road, roadside and pathway maintenance. The gov will also seek to ensure that the island’s transport system needs to meet the needs for communities. This will be particularly interesting in Mr Cannan’s constituency where residents made it clear during the campaign they were opposed to the on-demand service they have been left with by two successive DoI Ministers.

It’s the Economy Yessir: Growing a sustainable economy is vital for the island’s future, we all know that. For their part, the gov is planning to finalise its long term (10 year) economic strategy, and complete the four phases by June 2022 to produce the final plan. It also wants to implement the recommendations of the July 2021 Poverty Report, including Minimum Wage Increase moving towards parity with the living wage to address income disparities. There’s also some stuff about making sure income tax is managed well and that 2023 will be a Year of Sport, designed to boost tourism, the domestic economy and wellbeing. The gov also recognises that the island needs good airlinks for tourism and business.

Environment: It’s not just about landscapes and sea grass, no the gov wants us to consider the town centres, glens, country lanes and main roads as all part of the environment. The plan says the gov wants to create an environment where ‘people feel safe and is a rich and diverse biosphere that is being protected, nurtured and sustained and held in high regard here and around the world’. To do this the gov will set out a roadmap based on the Prof Curran plan, ensure there is a vibrant island for young people, plan for food security and for climate change mitigations. 

We Need to Change: The plan isn’t all just about telling us what will be done for the island, but also a recognition that Tynwald and the gov itself needs to modernise and change. This plan includes an annual Tynwald Conference, which will be held to allow for public interaction and debate on key issues, updating and debating the Island Plan yearly and a new delivery board at the heart of gov to oversee delivery. 

What It Doesn’t Say: There is plenty of detail (and pretty pictures) in the draft plan. But there are areas which aren’t overly clear. We don’t know how the gov is going to revise social care funding, or even how it will consult on what plans the public wants to see put into place. We also don’t know much about what changes are being made to the island’s housing structure. Chris Thomas MHK is leading this new board, but we don’t know how it will interact with local authorities or if it will have a role in planning, for example.

Something else that is conspicuous by its absence is mention of a Major Capital Projects Board. This was first outlined in the Budget earlier this year, but since then we haven’t really heard much about it. Given the recognised failure of the DoI to manage these schemes, coupled with the sudden departure of CEO Nick Black, it seems odd this isn’t outlined in greater detail. 

Obviously this is a first draft and we can expect more detail to come boht out of Tynwald later this month and before the final plan is put before the January Tynwad. Before then, if you want to have your say, get onto your MHK, most of them have published details for political surgeries, so you can email them, ring them or meet them face to face. After all, it’s our island and they’re our representatives. 

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