Chief Minister Allan Bell MHK says he has taken on board the views expressed by members of the public during Wednesday night’s (March 28) community meeting in Douglas.
More than 100 people attended the Manx Museum lecture theatre to take advantage of an opportunity to discuss matters of national importance with Government Ministers. The Chief Minister opened proceedings by saying the event heralded a new era in open and transparent communication between the Council of Ministers and the Manx public.
He highlighted the massive fiscal challenge facing the Government and reiterated his three main priorities: to encourage further economic growth, rebalance public finances, and protect the more vulnerable members of the community.
Mr Bell said:
‘I was one of the main architects of the strategy to create a Prosperous and Caring Society in the Isle of Man 25 years ago, and I’m just as passionate about that today. We must now focus on laying the foundations for how we want the Island to look in the next 20 years. We need the people of the Island to work together with the Government to achieve a brighter and more sustainable future.’
Following the Chief Minister’s introduction, Treasury Minister Eddie Teare MHK outlined the Budget process and the need for significant savings across all Departments, before the meeting was opened up to questions from the audience. All the Ministers – with the exception of Juan Watterson MHK who was off-Island – were on stage to address matters relating to their particular Departments.
There were lively discussions on a number of topics including pre-school provision and university tuition fees, local authority reform, the challenges presented by an ageing population, rising living costs, Tynwald Members pay and pensions, public sector housing, and the diversification of the economy.
Mr Bell said he welcomed the opportunity to engage directly with the Manx public and had listened with interest to a wide range of suggestions, comments and concerns.
Mr Bell said:
‘In an open and transparent democracy, the free exchange of views between Government and the community is to be embraced and valued by us all. This meeting provided a useful forum to discuss the Council of Ministers’ position on current issues, and to seek input from local residents at what is a critical time for the Isle of Man. As a Government we need to explain our policies more effectively, listen more and be more humble. I am fully committed to promoting an open and honest dialogue with the public, and we will continue to get out into the community and listen to what people have to say on key issues.’
The intention is to hold further community meetings in the north, west and south of the Island over the next 12 months, and details regarding dates, times and venues will be confirmed in due course.