Isle of Man Examiner, March 18, 2014

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Not much said on over 65s’ change

I am surprised so little has been said about the over 65s’ additional personal allowance being reduced from £2,020 a year to £1,000.

While the personal allowance has risen by £200 a year the net effect for the over 65s is they will now be liable for tax on an additional £820 income each year.

For those 80 or over their working life salaries were much lower and so were their subsequent pensions.

Scant concern seems to have been given to this aspect in arriving at the decision to reduce and I am very surprised the majority of MHKs went along with it. Shame on you.

It’s a spiteful little move making you want to shed a tear. Old folk remember this come election time unless in the meantime they say, ‘oh sorry it was a mistake’.

B W Hanson, Port Erin, politics

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Cregeen’s head above parapet

In the latest government re-shuffle and the departmental closures, Graham Cregeen has been moved sideways.

Whilst the raison d’etre before doing so is admirable and a good way of saving money for government, I didn’t see any expression of thanks for the hard work that Mr Cregeen put into meeting the bus drivers of the island head on.

It took courage; his actions were fully vindicated as seen by the post investigatory announcement of last week.

We, the public, are the first to complain about government waste, are keen often to vilify politicians, but perhaps should also show our gratitude for those who are prepared to stick their heads above the parapets.

Michael AA Osborne, Castletown

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Education is a better answer

The death of any child is untimely and awful and so it must be for the parents of the young lady killed on the Switchback – my heart goes out to them.

I hear that a petition is being raised for changes to the road in order to make it safer (Manx Independent last week).

This is admirable but education regarding safe driving would be much more effective and, while we do not yet know the circumstances regarding the accident, messages such as ‘don’t drive too fast especially on roads you are unfamiliar with’, ‘don’t overcrowd your car it makes it unstable as well as invalidating your insurance’, would be much more effective.

Young people always want to impress their friends but unsafe driving is not cool and very dangerous, and this message needs to be brought home to young drivers.

Blaming any incident on a road being bumpy, or not having a speed limit is like a poor workman blaming his tools, although I can understand why some people feel a road could be partly to blame with its high bumps, but sense would tell you to take it slowly if only to save the car’s suspension.

Name and address supplied

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Time to go back to the seventies

Throughout history, empires have waxed and waned.

In ancient times we had the Persian, Assyrian, and Egyptian. In more recent times there was the Roman, Ottoman and British.

Currently, there is the American, the European, and the attempts of Russia to recreate its own

Meanwhile, in the Isle of Man, we have the airport, an entity directly employing over 100 people generating a wage bill, which when coupled with its intrinsic pension liability, could exceed £15 million sterling per annum.

Even so, many functions are being outsourced to companies like Resource, which employs yet more staff at a cost to the taxpayer.

The building at Ronaldsway was expanded at the turn of the century, just as a downturn in the finance sector, and a reduction in the growth of air travel, meant spare capacity.

Meanwhile, awash with cash, the Isle of Man Government ploughed in tens of millions into capital projects to to improve its services and retain the coveted ‘domestic’ status.

(This allows Manx passengers to undergo minimum passport controls and baggage screening when they arrive in the UK.)

There was an expensive runway extension, a state-of-the-art radar at Turkeylands and the latest baggage scanning equipment.

The timing could not have been worse. Shortly after these projects were commissioned, EuroManx collapsed, and the number of planes landing and routes being serviced dropped.

A recent article in the Manx press highlighted that in the past year alone we have, (or are about to lose) 48 per cent of capacity on the London routes; Birmingham frequencies have dropped 40 per cent, whilst for Scotland, there is a projected loss of 85 per cent capacity.

Even the mainstay Liverpool and Manchester routes are not immune from the cutbacks with a capacity drop of 17 per cent. A total of nine routes have now gone, including East Midlands, Leeds, Norwich, Anglesey, Southampton, Bristol, Oxford, and Luton, and Edinburgh, many fear irretrievably.

If this were a private concern such a deterioration in landings, and thus loss of revenue, would have prompted a reappraisal, even sackings.

Still, this is the Isle of Man, so arguments that this is a ‘public service’ have held sway.

These are mainly propagated by the civil servants in charge of administering the service, both as justification for their decisions, as well as keeping up the head count, thereby, maintaining ‘the empire’ .

Evidently, the politician responsible for making these decisions, Mr David Cretney, the former Minister for Infrastructure, (as well as fun), was blinded by these arguments, as well as panegyrical consultancy advice.

Still, as ‘open skies’ becomes ‘empty skies’, the chickens have come home to roost.

No one seems awfully keen to shoulder the blame. Note the abrupt departure of Mr Cretney, replaced by the inexperienced Mr Skelly, and the sideways shuffle of Ms Reynolds the airports manager, transferred to the harbours and ports service, whilst retaining her role at the airport.

No one wishes to question their management skills, and obvious dexterity, but the question is: where do we go from here?

With a population of 80,000 people, and a weakened finance sector combined with little tourism, a return to the 1970s, when the island often relied on the back-up aerodrome in Jurby, appears vindicated.

This ‘aerodrome’ could remain at Ronadsway, but it would operate on reduced hours, and only during the daytime. Radar and other facilities need not be upgraded for the foreseeable future.

We would, of course, lose the ‘domestic status’, but the headcount could be reduced, many functions covered by outsourcing.

There would be dislocation for them, and some inconvenience for travellers, but the operating costs would become sustainable, even profitable. That is the way it needs to be when the Island wakes from its hopes and dreams.

Dr J P Sless, Viking Hill, Ballakillowey, Colby

The writer has worked at the airport for 12 years for an independent company and offered his services to the Isle of Man Government as a consultant.

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Report doesn’t mark good work

The Care Inspectorate of Scotland recently published a report of an inspection into services for children and young people on the island.

Specifically, the aim of the inspection was to evaluate the quality of the services for vulnerable children and young people and their families – services provided by a number of government departments and voluntary organisations – a mammoth task, if it is to mean anything.

However, to me the report lacks focus – some of the statements are somewhat sweeping – and the three recommendations – earlier intervention, quicker responses and more joined-up work – were predictable.

What the report didn’t acknowledge was the amount of good work that does go on on the island.

There are many professionals – health visitors, teachers, youth workers, social workers, etc – who are working hard in difficult circumstances and could be demoralised by the criticism which may be inferred from the document.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and there’s always room for improvement. Some of these improvements may be achieved by changing the way things are done – e.g. perhaps Children and Families would work better with schools if it were part of the Department of Education and Children, and perhaps it would offer better continuity of care if social workers worked in ‘patches’ (perhaps linked to the secondary schools and feeder primary schools) instead of short-term/long-term?

However, I also believe that good service can’t be done ‘on the cheap’, and the government must continue to spend money if it is to support the island’s vulnerable children and young people and their families.

For example, I understand that health visitors have large caseloads, so they must struggle to support all their vulnerable families – perhaps we need more health visitors so their caseloads can be reduced?

Family centres and family support workers can offer valuable support to vulnerable families, but we don’t have enough of them.

The Youth Service – often seen as a non-essential service and therefore likely to be cut when savings are to be made – does good work with both children and young people – supporting them, giving them a voice, giving them things to do and arguably reducing antisocial behaviour and crime, yet places like Kenyon’s and Cafe Laare are under threat. The Government should not sacrifice services to the public in its attempts to save money.

In conclusion, I think that the report was superficial in its analysis of the problems and did little to shed light on possible solutions.

I hope that the government will also consult the ‘experts – the professionals it employs and the public it serves.

Tim Norton, Furman Road, Onchan

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