Paul Craine

Candidate for Middle, Isle of Man House of Keys election 2016

Just one week to go until the election.

I have visited almost 2,000 houses now and enjoyed some very interesting conversations (and challenges) in West and East Baldwin yesterday. I hope to visit the remaining houses during the next week.

The first of Middle’s two ‘requisition meetings’ was held in Marown last night and brought an excellent turnout and some very good questions.

According to the Manx Radio news website:

170 people pack Marown School hall

National issues dominated political debate in Middle last night (14 Sept) at one of five public meetings held around the Island.

Voters go the polls a week today (22 Sept) in the 2016 House of Keys general election.

In Middle, almost 170 people packed Marown school hall to hear the views of the four candidates…

Topics ranged from Brexit, work permits and abortion reform to pensions, renewable energy and housing prices.

The requisition meetings provide a good question and answer session, but not a lot of actual debate between the audience and the candidates or between the candidates themselves.

Probably the biggest issue that we only managed to skirt around last night was the experience of the last five years that growing the economy is not the same as increasing government income. This is a hugely important idea to grasp.

The notion still persists that simply having a larger economy helps to replace the loss of VAT income, provides more money for services, creates more jobs and boosts the population. This flies in the face of the evidence.

Over the last administration the economic growth has been substantial and has averaged more than 5% per year. The most recent figures show growth at more than 5% above inflation. I welcome that and want it to continue.

Despite this economic growth:

• Government income flat-lined at below inflation levels

• the number of people in work fell

• the population stopped growing and showed signs of decline

• the net emigration of young adults led to a reduction of 23% in the number of births since 2010

Economic growth (rising Gross National Income) is clearly disconnected from what is happening in the working economy. Strong economic growth in recent years has not helped to pay for services – and has certainly not benefitted everybody. The 2015 earnings survey shows that mid-point earnings fell by 2.5% last year – the figure for women in non-manual jobs showed a remarkable fall of 8.3%. The Government’s Attitudes Survey showed that over 30% of the population believe they are financially worse off than one year ago.

I agree that government needs to spend wisely and secure good value for money. I agree that every effort should be made to reduce waste, increase efficiency and improve productivity. But the annual budget shortfall of £75 million means underfunding of healthcare, larger primary class sizes and inadequate investment in roads. Further cuts to services will only accelerate population decline and exacerbate recruitment issues.

We need a full review of the Island’s tax strategy to make it fairer and secure sufficient income to pay for public services whilst retaining our attractiveness to inward investment.

The economy must work for everyone.