Douglas South 2015 Manifesto – Amy Burns

Time for Amy Burns – third of the Douglas South Contenders.

Opening

I’ve already covered this in detail here and won’t review this again. I know politicians are expected to stretch the facts to fit their agenda, but in this case I think Amy really has excelled herself.

Rates Reform

Another Douglas candidate plumping for an all-island rating system? As I’ve said before, I really think this shows a complete lack of understanding as to what rates pay for, and how the system works.

Amy claims Douglas ratepayers bear the burden of cost, so lets see what Douglas Rates actually pay for shall we?

According to the Douglas Rates Statement – Parks and gardens, Waste collection, Administration, Douglas Market, Bylaw control, Cemeteries, Horse Trams, Housing, Library, Lighting, Finance costs.

So basically, local services provided for Douglas residents.

Aside from the Horse Trams all the other town authorities provide the same services and the biggest areas of expenditure aside from Administration (Being waste collection and lighting) are provided by all local authorities. These local services are funded locally, out of local rates. No subsidy from Douglas.

Am I using Douglas rates when I’m working or shopping in Douglas? Perhaps, but the same is true of Douglas residents going elsewhere on the Island. It’s also worth remembering that Douglas collects significant commercial rates from companies operating there which deal with their employees or customers rate-borne costs. When you bear this in mind, you begin to wonder exactly what it is Amy thinks Douglas ratepayers are subsidising the rest of the Island for.

This is just the first of many instances that demonstrate Amy has little idea how our Government works, which is of significant concern when she is asking voters to trust her to help run this same Government.

Infrastructure

Amy wants local contractors to be used in our infrastructure work – isn’t the vast majority of infrastructure work already performed by local workers (either government or private sector)?

I fully agree with Amy’s view that we don’t need any more “grandiose, ill thought out schemes”.  It’s interesting then that Amy is advocating exactly the kind of scheme she is against – the construction of a “close circuit stadium”. This does make me wonder what sort of scheme Amy would consider “grandiose” or “ill thought out”.

Tynwald

Amy supports an elected upper chamber – which I think is right on the money – and I can see the logic in holding simultaneous elections to both Keys and LegCo. I can also agree with an elected Chief Minister (although Amy doesn’t suggest how either of these feats might be achieved).

Amy also believes the budget system is “unfit for purpose” – which I agree with – but then she completely fails to explain why (other than some vague supposition about how the money is spent). Without identifying what’s wrong, how can the system be improved? There is also no explanation of what the system could be replaced with, not even a brief suggestion. Whilst Amy is clear that she wants more money spent in Education, Health and Social Care, she doesn’t explain where this money would come from.

Given the financial situation we’re in, I expect candidates to have a much better grasp of this key issue.

Structure of Government

I found this section very difficult to read. Amy wants to protect “public servants” but still “restructure” them from the “top down” – How she can achieve both is completely beyond me.

Amy advocates the “pyramid system” and believes that Government should be run in accordance with the “pyramid effect”. Now, I have some experience in management theory and business strategy and can honestly confess I have never heard of either. A quick Google search didn’t yield any information either.

I don’t have any issue with Amy accusing the Government of being “top heavy” (although I’m not sure I agree with her conclusions), nor do I disagree with her statements about the slow progress of the review of Scope of Government, but when she is referencing made up management theory I just can’t take her suggestions seriously.

This whole section is unstructured and makes no specific points. It is a list of broad generalisations being trotted out with no factual backing, and completely lacking in any substance. Amy offers no alternatives to the current scope or structure of Government and no suggestions on how she would tackle the “bloat”. Finishing off with only a brief mention of Pensions being “under the spotlight” reinforces my view that this entire section reads like Amy is repeating things she’s heard without having given them any real thought.

Health

Dental waiting lists need taking in hand – good, so how will Amy do this? No ideas offered.

On the plus side, Amy wants “some kind of external public committee” to investigate the issues at Nobles. Has the West Midlands Quality Review completely passed her by?

Home Affairs

More community service schemes being advocated here, although Amy isn’t heavy on the detail this at least is something I can agree with.

Amy lumps Education in here and wants us to be “inline” with the UK – but then in the next paragraph contradicts this by wanting more independence for the Island from the UK way of doing things. Surely our potential MHKs should be fighting for an education system that is better than the UK, that is as good as we can make it – not settling for less.

Economy

Amy believes in a proactive approach, with “sound investments”, which is excellent. Could she perhaps have elaborated on this? It’s a good soundbite, but lacks any substance.

She is certain that increased trade with the commonwealth is a way to boost our economy. Any more info? What sort of trade? How do you encourage it?

Amy also wants people to not be able to claim benefits until they have paid Tax and NI for five years

Now this really demonstrates a lack of knowledge about our tax and welfare systems. A large number of benefits are “contributory” which means you can’t claim them unless you’ve paid sufficient NI beforehand, and those that are “non-contributory” are primarily those designed to help get people into work.

Tax has nothing to do with welfare rights – what about people who have never paid tax because they are low paid? Or those whose partners are the sole earners?

Amy advocates a ten year residency criteria before being eligible for social housing. I’d like to be the one to point out to her that this is already the case.

How can someone who has so little understanding of the current systems (and who has clearly done no research before publishing her manifesto) be relied on to make the right decisions for us all?

Here’s an interesting statement “most pensioners living in the Isle of Man with less than £13,000 savings are worse off than their UK counterparts once the cost of living has been factored in”. I challenge Amy to back that up with some facts because as far as I’m aware, it’s complete nonsense.

Amy talks about the “economy” like it’s a single tangible thing. “We should continue to attract the right economy” – what does this mean?

How does one attract an “economy”? “Economy” is simply a way of describing the extremely complex interactions involved in all aspects of the creation, distribution, sale and eventual consumption of goods and services. It’s not something that can be “attracted” and whilst I appreciate Amy is probably talking about encouraging growth (although again without any suggestions as to “how”), describing it in these terms doesn’t fill me with confidence.

Conclusion

Amy Burns displays a lack of understanding about various aspects of our Government and does little to convince me that this is likely to change. I don’t expect candidates to be experts in everything, but I would have expected enough background research to cover the basics.

Links –

Amy Burns Manifesto

Douglas Rates Statement

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