Douglas North 2015 Manifesto – David Ashford

A change of location now as we move quickly on to Douglas North!

Opening

David is very keen to display his political experience – 7 years as a Douglas Councillor should give him a good grounding, although his work experience seems a little thin. I always worry when people run off a list of “industries” they have experience in. It made me think about my own experience, where I can safely list a wide array of economic sectors, but when you look a bit deeper not very many would help prepare me for a job as an MHK.

If David thinks his experience is relevant, he should go into a little detail to show why – otherwise I have nothing to convince me his work experience really is adding something to his candidacy.

David’s “priorities” on the surface look good.

More openness – good. Smaller, Smarter Government – good. 30 year economic plan – what?

An economic strategy needs to be constantly evolving, you cant just set down a “30 year” plan and follow it through. The problem when Government sets down a ” 5 year plan” or a “30 year plan” is that it tends to be stuck to quite rigidly (look at our very own “Strategic Plan” which has recently been accused of stifling economic growth) and tends to take so long to be developed that by the time it’s ready it’s already out of date! This is just a soundbite that doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality.

Cost of Living

The State Pension should be inflation linked. Not a bad suggestion, but really the problem with the State Pension is that the current level isn’t adequate. So just increasing this currently inadequate pension by inflation isn’t going to help those most in need.

David’s statement on the personal allowance doesn’t stack up – alter it, but no one should be paying more tax as a result. So how is the increased allowance paid for? In a liberal democracy those who earn more pay more tax, in order that those who earn less can pay less tax. Equally, every time a new tax cut, allowance increase or tax credit is announced for the lower earners the shortfall in tax revenue has to be made up by the higher earners. Just saying “no one should pay any more tax than they do now” shows either David is totally naive or just trying to score political points. I think his comments on the “free TV licence” and “remove bus charges” just reinforce this.

Policing

Continuing community policing is a good policy – although as far as I’m aware there’s no intention to stop doing this. It’s a bit like David saying he is committed to having a secondary school in Peel – no one has suggested otherwise. David lists some figures about reductions in policing staff but I’m not sure the point he is making. Does a reduction in staff correlate with less effective policing? I don’t know, but clearly neither does David.

Transparency

The main thrust here is the extension of Freedom of Information and removing confidentiality clauses where they aren’t necessary. Can’t argue with that, they’re core LibVan policies too!

Infrastructure

David devotes a whole section of his manifesto to the redevelopment of Douglas promenade, which is surprising as none of the other Douglas candidates have even felt it worth a mention. I wonder if this is just David’s Councillor background showing through. I’d have thought if this was a big issue for the electorate all the candidates would have been talking about it – the fact that none are makes me think that perhaps this is a particular issue within Douglas Council, and not with the people who elected them.

The first two bullet points in this section directly contradict each other. David wants to invest in getting the basics right, but only prioritise schemes that promote economic growth. So which is it – “the basics” – or promoting growth?

Growing the Economy

Here we see the 30 year plan again. I’m not sure that devoting half a page in the manifesto to this idea makes it any more sensible.

Marketing as “open for business” in the UK? This is already a key focus for the DED, and the private sector on the Island as the UK is a key market for us. I’m not sure what David wants to do differently to the current incumbents as his manifesto doesn’t give any ideas, but I support the principle of diversifying the economy.

I’m less certain about the Island as a Research and Development centre, the UK does this very well (with tax and employment incentives) and I think the Island would struggle to compete here – but if David has any ideas on how then i’d be interested to hear them.

Education and Health 

I agree that these should be “priority services”, but David’s whole section is just a list of generic comments that don’t have any substance behind them. Everything he says sounds good, and i’d be hard pressed to disagree with him, but there really isn’t anything behind these flashy statements. How does David plan to follow through with his beliefs? What is he going to do that differentiates himself from the other candidates?

Smaller Smarter Government

5 local authorities? Why not 1? or 4? David doesn’t give any rationale for this choice. Why is this reduction needed before any real reform can take place? I’m a Commissioner in Ramsey, and know full well that significant devolution of responsibility is possible right now, without needing to wait for big local government reforms.

David also wants fewer Ministers, but doesn’t say which he’d remove. I’d have thought if he wants to remove a Minister and a Department he’d be able to identify which one.

David is supportive of more involvement with the third sector. I like this idea, although why not include the private sector as well?

Pensions and Means Testing

Big plans from David here – close the scheme to new entrants, and freezing lump sums for high earners. No plans to deal with current scheme members? How does David propose dealing with funding the pension scheme if no new members are paying in. These are sensible starting points, but really need more thought before any action is taken.

David’s comments on means testing are pretty bland, he wants the system reviewed. Which system is David talking about? Housing eligibility? Income support? Child benefit? First Time buyers scheme? We don’t have a single system of means testing, so David really needs to be clearer on this.

Conclusion

There’s a lot missing from David’s manifesto. No comments at all on the continual increase in charges and stealth taxes, no position on how working families are being squeezed and only one brief mention of taxes of any sort. Very limited information on Education and Health and nothing of any substance on Economic growth. David neatly wraps up this superficial manifesto with no comments on our welfare system.

None of the business or political experience David is to keen to promote comes through in this manifesto.

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