Five years ago I was overwhelmed by the level of support the people of Douglas West gave me to become one of their elected MHK’s and as those years have flown by they have been both challenging and rewarding. It was with some uncertainty and naivety that I embarked on a political career, but I have learnt so much during this time that now feel justified in again asking for your support. I believe that I now have a range of experiences and knowledge that will help me to better serve the people of this constituency and the Island.
My main reason for entering politics was the issue of Education and this remains a key area to which I believe I contribute positively. However, it was apparent that I needed a broader level of knowledge and I have worked hard to gain an insight into all factors that affect the people and Government of the Island.
As a teacher I always understood the value of people and the importance of relationships, so I have brought this philosophy into my political role, I hope successfully. In Tynwald, some Members believe that the best approach is to attack and criticize and these people often grab headlines, however this will never be my style. I genuinely believe that more progress and benefit can be achieved by working with people and exerting a positive influence, rather than being constantly negative. I try to resolve problems, rather than merely highlighting them. I have always appreciated the value of working with others, therefore I have developed a wide range of relationships with people inside and outside of Tynwald that I use for advice. Any decision is mine, but I still have a lot to learn from others and am not afraid to listen.
I have become increasingly concerned by the fact that some people are disillusioned or dissatisfied with their elected politicians and the Government. In Douglas West only 60% of voters exercised their right to vote five years ago and there is a real chance that figure will be even less this time. In other constituencies, the figures are even worse. I believe that both Tynwald and Government must communicate far better with the people of the Island as to why projects or proposals are necessary. I then feel we must have the commitment to make things happen, rather than be a ‘talking shop’ as we are far too often. I entered the political arena to make a difference and although there are often frustrations and still many problems to grapple with I am very optimistic about the future, but progress will only happen with the support and confidence of the people of the Island.
I gave up my career as a teacher to be your full time politician and representative and have no other work commitments. I believe the position of a modern MHK is a full-time job and is one of the most important positions on the Island. I have been honoured to hold the role for five years. Whether I continue is up to yourselves as voters, but I would urge you all to use your right to vote for either one or two candidates of your choice.
I would be pleased to arrange absent or proxy forms if you are unable to vote in person on the day, or to arrange transport if you need assistance. Please contact me for further details.
I thank you for the opportunity you gave me five years ago and for the friendship and help that many of you have given me in that time. I assure you that if you choose to support me again I shall endeavour to live up to the levels of honesty, integrity and hard work which I believe should be the hallmarks of all those chosen to hold such an important and responsible position in our community.
May I thank you for taking the time to read my manifesto and would welcome any comments or questions you may have.
As a parent and former teacher, I am still very concerned about all issues affecting the education of our children. I believe passionately in the importance of a good education to allow each child to thrive and achieve his/her potential, but this can only be achieved if we acknowledge the importance of the classroom teachers who deliver this education, day after day.
I have fought hard to force the Department to carry out a Teacher’s Survey and this has now been completed. We now have information regarding issues of low morale, excessive workload, teacher shortages, pupil behaviour, etc, and we must react positively if we are to retain and recruit the best teachers possible for our children.
The principle factor in children’s behaviour and attitude is the family and I will continue to strive to make parents accept their responsibility in their child’s development.
As everyone who knows me will understand I could fill this manifesto on this one issue, but suffice to say that my commitment to educational affairs is as strong as ever and I am optimistic that if elected I shall have an opportunity to become involved more directly in this area.
It has always been the case that groups of young people wish to congregate together and this can lead to problems. I have promoted and supported the introduction of ‘The Alcohol and Drugs Committee’ and ‘The Children and Young People’s Committee’ - both of which have a high political profile and have been given the resources to make things happen.
There is no single solution, but we are at last recognising that we have to invest in a variety of activities to distract young people from anti-social behaviour.
The facilities for sport and music on the Island are second to none, but the children who cause problems often do not want organised activities.
I am fully aware of the drug issue, however, the real curse of the young people on the Island is alcohol. We are all aware of the reports of young children being drunk on the promenade, but sadly in most occasions we find that the children get their drink from their homes. We as parents (and grandparents) have a responsibility to protect our children, but also to protect the rest of our community from the vandalism, abuse and rowdyism caused by children who consider alcohol to be part of their routine.
I will continue to fight for facilities for young people, but also for improving collaboration between Education, Social Services and the Police to try to break this culture of alcohol amongst some of our children.
There has been an enormous amount of comment expressed over the economy throughout the last five years and this will surely be a major feature of the future well being of the Island. All politicians, like their constituents, want to get the balance right.
I moved into the Department of Trade and Industry in order to learn more about the efforts being made to diversify the economy so that we are not so dependent upon the financial sectors. I am pleased that the areas of shipping, film industry and e-business in particular are all showing positive signs of growth and benefit to the Island, but we must continue to look for opportunities which protect our financial base in order to finance the major infrastructural projects currently underway.
As I was elected onto the Standing Committee on Economic Initiatives (one of three major committees appointed by Tynwald), I feel well informed about the current international threats to the economic future of the Island. I believe that the "Edward’s Review" imposed by the U.K. Government made the Island politicians realise that we cannot trust anyone else to look after our best interests - it is our job and we must elect people who are up to the challenge. There are certainly more difficult times ahead both domestically and internationally and the monitoring of the economy will always be one of my core priorities, as it is the foundation necessary to achieve any improvements for the Island and its people.
I strongly support a firm regulatory regime, which protects our reputation, but I will not accept imposed conditions from other jurisdictions and I shall support the Government policy of ensuring that ALL financial centres must operate on "a level playing field".
I am pleased to see Economic Development Zones being created in Ramsey and Port St Mary, as the development in Douglas has been at an unsustainable level. As we need to broaden our economic base, we also need to spread the work around the Island in a more balanced manner.
Although in recent years we have enjoyed a successful economy, full employment, annual growth of reserves and expenditure and a major improvement in pensions and services to the majority of the people, it has come at a price.
Much concern has rightly been raised about how sustainable is this growth and will the Island be able to cope with increasing numbers of people and the associated pressure on the infrastructure. There is no easy answer, but like most of politics, it becomes a matter of balance.
We now have in place the Residency Act, which will be the mechanism used to control population growth. I was involved in its preparation and have always supported the principles that lie beneath it, so I am pleased that it has completed its passage through to this stage.
There are many conspiracy theories’ that Government has a target in mind as to how large the population should be allowed to become before introducing the Act, but these are nonsense. The legislation is bureaucratic and will not be popular with everyone, but it is a safeguard that is now in place and will be used in the future, when necessary.
In my view, this is the single biggest failure of Government over the last five years and I sympathise with all of you that have suffered personally, or through family members, in either being unable to afford to purchase or paying excessive rental costs. The faults were made over successive years in the mid-ate 1 990’s when insufficient housing stock was developed, coinciding with a period of strong growth that meant demand outstripped supply for at least four consecutive years and we have all witnessed the impact.
A number of factors are worth noting as indicators of how our society is changing, and the need for improved strategic planning. We have a population which is living longer, more family separations, a need for immigration to satisfy employment pressures and a wealthier group of young people who aspire to home ownership whilst single. All these factors are placing increased pressure for new housing units, yet we have seen opposition from many areas to prevent any further development.
This matter must remain high in the political spotlight, to avoid the danger of our young Manx people being forced to leave the Island when they see no prospect of being able to own their own home. An additional problem is how will we ever be able to attract those such as nurses and teachers to come to the Island, unless there is a mechanism in place to provide affordable accommodation.
Government have implemented a well thought out housing scheme that is now in place. and along with building proposals this will have a major beneficial impact on the Island. I believe this should have been introduced three years ago, however in the next 2-3 years I anticipate the housing market should be in a considerably more stable position.
Law and Order
During my time at the Department of Home Affairs, I was delighted to have the opportunity to help the changes taking place in the Policing of the Island.
Through working with our Chief Constable we promoted the increase in visible policing, community bobbies, police forums (meeting with the public to listen to their fears and priorities), the new Police Station in town (currently under construction), a range of legislation improvements and greater resource and manpower increases than ever before.
We introduced the breathalyser; sex offenders register; tagging criminals; curfews; anti-pedophile measures; anti-social behaviour orders; control of knives; rehabilitation of offenders; anti-stalking orders.
I support a strong system of social order and laws, which give the courts the power to deal with the small number of people who fail to accept any responsibility for their behaviour. I don’t just talk about it - these powers were delivered.
Unlike some of my colleagues, I am actually very optimistic about this issue, and this is not complacency. We are all aware of the many undesirable aspects of modern living: drugs, vandalism, loutish behaviour, excess alcohol consumption, violence, etc, and it would be easy to become despondent and fearful for the future.
However, I believe we are going through a transformation in the attitude of the police and associated services which should give us optimism. The police deal with the problems of society, they do not cause them.
As stated earlier, I will continue to fight for much closer liaison between the Police, Education and Social Services to share information and to jointly find solutions, as most of the culprits are known to each of these services.
I assure you that I am fully aware of the problems of crime and disorder on the Island and believe that if the public continues to work with and trust the changes happening in our Police then things will improve. We must resolve the adequate resourcing of officers being in the right place at the right time, but these changes are beginning to happen.
I believe we should encourage progress when it happens and I believe the police are improving and want us to work with them, not to constantly complain.
My disappointment is that if the press or politicians continually spread fear then people feel frightened and we lose some of our treasured quality of life. Although life is changing and we all have had to make some adjustments to protect our belongings more than previously, the Island is still a safe and secure place to live.
This remains the most regular cause of concern within the constituency, as it adversely affects so many people’s lives on a daily basis and despite our best efforts over the last five years the problem is
still deteriorating. It is easy to see that we have such a high level of car ownership on the island and this causes problems throughout Douglas. Whether it be the speed of cars, the volume, the ability to park near your own property, or any combinations if has a negative impact on many of our lives.
I will continue to fight to extend Home Zone areas and associated 20-mph speed limits, traffic calming measures, disc zones and the introduction of some one-way restrictions. These are not always popular, but if we are to retain the residential nature of Douglas West then we need to make changes that benefit householders. Importantly there needs to be much better communication with residents who live in areas affected by traffic problems and I shall continue to push the Department of Transport to improve their relationship with the public.
I would prefer to keep vehicles out of Douglas and will, therefore, always promote better and cheaper public transport, along with some of the imaginative proposals for commuter traffic, which are in the pipeline.
I am in favour of the principle of an all-Island maximum speed limit.
I am in favour of an MOT type of regime being phased in, specifically to get some of the unsafe vehicles off the roads for good. This will not be easy, but there are too many cars which are driven in a condition which puts other road users at risk.
I have always believed in the need to reform local government, as it is inappropriate to have so many small authorities that can wield considerable influence, yet have so little actual responsibility. I still believe in a restructuring where a smaller number of district authorities are able to be given greater roles in their local affairs, but with that goes greater accountability.
However, another failed attempt to introduce any reform recently in Tynwald has again highlighted our ability to talk, but not to take action.
As Tynwald seems incapable of resolving this issue, the most likely method will be from the local representatives working together voluntarily. I have recently accepted a role on the Douglas Development Partnership that I hope will allow me to build bridges between Government, Douglas Corporation and the Chamber of Commerce, in order to try to enhance the attractiveness of our town. The future success of all local representation will come through these types of partnerships and co-operation, not through the mistrust and enmity, which has been the trademark of the last five years. I shall endeavour to broker such arrangements amongst local authorities, but first we need to achieve a level of mutual respect and understanding.
I strongly believe that Tourism can be a viable area of growth for the economy of the Island and am pleased to see that many Hotels are beginning to see an optimistic future for their businesses. I welcome the investment already committed to this sector and believe future holidaying trends will have the potential to keep this sector growing.
However, the greatest disincentive to this sector remains the cost of getting here and we must actively facilitate more operators making use of our land and sea facilities. It is a serious concern that we may lose the Heathrow connection and low cost air operators will only come if they can guarantee numbers of passengers. This will be the initial challenge to the Department and the industry, which must work more closely with the Department of Transport. Furthermore, there is a need for us to have a structured and positive approach to Marinas, as this would encourage a whole new group of visitors to our shores.
The future of Agriculture is important to the Island for economic and aesthetic reasons and I am proud of the way the Island has stood by our farmers throughout the ‘foot and mouth’ crisis. I believe that Agriculture is a fundamental industry to the Isle of Man. I believe that farmers accept they may have to adapt to new methods of funding, such as environmental payments for land stewardship, but it is too early to plan for that future until we have seen the ramifications of the recent problems in the United Kingdom.
I spent two enjoyable years working with our fishermen and I have the utmost admiration for them. We as a Government and people of the Island must ensure that we always have a viable fishing fleet, as it is a part of our culture and heritage. I will continue to support this industry and welcome the efforts being made to increase the range and value of the produce being landed and processed on our shores.
The construction industry is vital to the success of our strategic planning, be it in housing, private sector developments, or Government projects. I have established good relationships in this area and will support their efforts to improve the image, safety issues and professionalism of all involved. The DTI are working closely with the Employers Federation to make available training in a range of matters that will benefit the industry and also their customers.
There will be a great need to strategically plan for the future of our manufacturing operations on the Island, as world events are capable of having a significant impact that may require a level of repositioning. This sector plays
an important role in our economic and employment base and I will continue to work with those involved to ensure we are able to plan effectively to safeguard our current successes, but also to take advantage of new opportunities.
I first became involved in this area through my work as Chairman of the Post office and although there has been much hype and publicity of failures in the dot.com industry, I have no doubt that we are in a strong position to benefit from the opportunities afforded by doing business electronically. Our telecommunications network and our reputation as a well-regulated financial centre gives us the ideal platform to be at the forefront of advancements in this field. We are blessed with some outstanding talent on the Island and I see Governments role being twofold; firstly, we need a legislative environment which allows and encourages businesses to develop the potential and this is progressing well: and secondly, we need to enable our community to deal electronically with Government, businesses and each other and I have been involved in this for some time.
I am delighted that the DTI and Treasury have injected considerable resources and money to train, support and assist all sections of the Island to advance and embrace this technology.
This has probably been one of my most rewarding roles in Government, to be Chairman of such a valued and marvelous organisation of over 300 staff and a £16.5 million turnover. This year we posted record profits of £2.1 million, but more than this is being reinvested into automation, electronic business, upgrading facilities and in training our staff.
I believe my experiences in this role have been invaluable and I look forward to building on the skills I have learnt.
Politicians have a responsibility to ensure that we spend public money wisely and for the good of the people. We all feel that there are projects that either don’t make sense, or cost too much - or quite frequently both! For many years there wasn’t the money available to spend on maintenance of the existing properties owned by Government, let alone the money to replace buildings or the infrastructure that had well exceeded their intended life.
We now have an obligation to deal in a modern and environmentally acceptable manner with a range of issues:
IRIS is progressing well and is ahead of schedule and despite major disruption throughout the Island, it has afforded us the opportunity of upgrading other things in tandem with the work being done, i.e. roads, rail track, etc. I am confident that we will all benefit from this scheme when it is completed and it has my full support.
Incinerator - although I voted against this facility I fully acknowledge the level of our problems with disposal of waste and I shall now concentrate my efforts on ensuring adequate monitoring of emissions and that the facility is operated safely. We are assured that reduction, re-use and recycling, will still have a major role to play in the future and I will push to see that we do not just throw all our waste in to be burnt.
Prison - Ever since my first visit to the prison I have been aware of how totally unacceptable the present
facilities are (for staff and prisoners) and have supported the need for improvements. I believe we owe it to the staff and ourselves to have an acceptable prison that has Facilities likely to reduce re-offending, rather than the current regime which is only made bearable due to the exceptional people who work there, yet has limited rehabilitation opportunities.
My priority is to get a site and I would reluctantly have accepted Ballafletcher, after receiving assurances that we could mitigate against the visual impact. There will never be a perfect solution, or an ideal site for this facility, but I am extremely disappointed that in five years we have failed to deal with a major issue such as this - too much talk, not enough action!
The matter will now be referred to a planning enquiry that will afford all those involved an opportunity to express their viewpoints - this process means any decision will not be in the next 1 2 months.
Hospital - this is nearly completed and will be a fine building for future generations. There is no value in worrying about its position, we must now pull together to make it an outstanding asset for the people of the Island. The importance of ensuring the facility is adequately staffed and its full potential utilized for the benefit of the whole Island will be the focus of my attention.
Born: in Douglas 1960
Educated: at Murray’s Road, Ballakermeen, St Ninians’ High School, Worcester College B.Ed (Hons) 1982
Family: married for 15 years to Maureen (Mo) two sons aged 14 and 10
Other Work Commitments: None
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Published by John Shimmin
Printed via the IOM Elections Website. www.iomelections.com
REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE ACT 1995