Positive Action Group - Possan Jantys Jarrooagh

Open, accountable government, rigorous control of public finances, and a fairer society for all.

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Obesity outburst clouds real issue

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See orignal article

The sweeping statements made about obesity in the Isle of Man by Chief Minister Bell appears to be based on a commissioned study conducted by Theodoros M. Bampouras, Senior Lecturer in Sport Mechanics and Performance Analysis at the University of Cumbria.


The resultant report of 30th November 2012 is quite specific in that it is confined to data analysis from 5 year old school entrants in 2012.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 09:06

Planning Pandemonium - 'Admission is Astonishing'

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Text of Letter to the Isle of Man Examiner as published October 22nd, 2013

iom_PMAdmission is Astonishing

Those of your readers who have had the frustration of challenging the planning authorities over procedures, decisions and delegations of authority under which the majority of planning decisions are made, may be interested in the revelations contained in this letter.

In recent years I have drawn their attention to -

  • errors in the drafting of the Town & Country Planning (Development Procedure) Order 2005
  • erroneous/unlawful decisions made by the Department, the Planning Committee and officers with delegated authority
  • inconsistency in the wording of delegations of authority; and
  • erroneous/unlawful decisions under such delegations.


Last Updated on Thursday, 18 September 2014 16:07

Bell's Obesity Outburst

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bellIn late August, perhaps to divert attention from criticism of Noble's Hospital and the letter of no confidence in the Health Minister (signed by 10 MHKs), Chief Minister Bell went on a divergent tirade about obese IOM schoolchildren.

Inexplicably he linked his outburst to elderly people placing pressure on health services and that parents of overweight children may be guilty of neglect or even child abuse.

FileFile sizeDownloads
Download this file (dh06_plan_for_tackling_childhood_obesity_21-jan-2013.pdf)Dept Health Plan for Tackling Childhood Obesity637 Kb765
Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 17:55

PAG Public Meeting 30.09.13 - FOI - Martin Rosenbaum

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PAG Public Meeting

Freedom of Information -

What the Isle of Man is missing!

by Martin Rosenbaum

7.30 pm. Monday 30th September 2013

Manx Legion, Market Street, Douglas

Free Admission - Open to all

Martin Rosenbaum is a BBC News specialist in using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. He trains and advises BBC journalists on FOI, and has addressed international conferences on journalism and Freedom of Information.

Martin is an Executive producer in the BBC Political Programmes department, overseeing a variety of radio programming. He produces radio documentaries on topics ranging from the inside story of Gordon Brown's premiership to the politics of The Simpsons.

Martin will present his thoughts on FOI, the issues it raises, the changes it is causing, the stories that result and what it could mean for the Isle of Man.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 08:12

10 months of Parliamentary Questions

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There was a minor rumpus in the final (July) Tynwald - a number of oral questions tabled by MHKs were not able to be answered, because there was not enough time.

Some Ministers were also discontent because blocks of questions were being asked of them. Treasury Minister Teare was one such complainant.

As a result  Speaker Rodan requested the Tynwald Standing Orders Committee to examine the rules and practice relating to oral and written questions.

PAG decided to analyse the question time sessions for the parliamentary year (October 2012 to July 2013)

1. How many questions were submitted and of which type?
2. Which MHKs did the asking?
Last Updated on Monday, 16 September 2013 17:57

The 2013 Budget and the "Unfair Society" - Part Two

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Further to my recent article about the government's "stealth tax" on low income families as a result of the failure to raise the personal allowance since 2010/11, I would then query the continuing catastrophe of
public sector pensions. The public sector pension scheme was revamped just over a year ago, after tortuous negotiations with the unions and their members (and at a cost of well over £1 million, paid to the consultants Hymans Robertson). Shortly afterwards, it was proclaimed by government spin as a major success story, quite forgetting that it remains "unaffordable, unsustainable, and unfair to the taxpayer" (to quote Lord Hutton's review of equivalent UK schemes). I would add that it now constitutes a desperately sad situation of "pensions apartheid" - dividing the public sector (where 90% of workers will have a final salary pension heavily subsidised by the taxpayer) against the private sector where only 25% now apparently have any form of pension scheme applicable at all.

And in the private sector, a pension is almost certainly unlikely to be a final salary scheme but more probably a defined contributions scheme with significantly lower benefits. Essentially, these are "pension pots" - the contributions saved by the individual and his employer go into the "pot" and are then paid out as an annuity on retirement - but a pension pot of £100,000 currently gains at best an annuity of £5,500 per year - meaning that a "good pension" of (say) £25,000 per year requires savings in a pension pot in excess of £450,000..... and how likely is that for the average wage earner ?

By comparison and currently, public sector employees contribute approx £20 million per year in pension contributions, but take out over £60 million in benefits - the difference of £40 million+ being courtesy of the taxpayer. Having a job in the public sector is now the equivalent of being born with the proverbial silver spoon. Broadly, many public sector worker will pay in two years salary (5% of salary per year over 40 years) in pension contributions, but then benefit to the extent of half salary (index linked, and with some very important other side benefits) after retirement - which is now expected to be the next 25 years or so - a phenomenal rate of return for a very modest investment. Those pensions are reckoned to be worth the equivalent of another 40% on top of already generous government salaries – and the bulk of those pensions is paid for by the taxpayer, 80% of whom have neither the certainty nor generosity of such a pension. Can that really be considered to be affordable, sustainable, and fair to the average taxpayer ?

At the same time, this is creating an inter-generational divide - with a growing percentage of our population going into retirement as a result of ageing, leaving our younger population effectively to pay all the (rapidly increasing) pension bills. The electorate broadly trusts government to make the right decisions for society as a whole, but on public sector pensions, I fear the trust is sadly (and badly) misplaced - it remains an area dominated by the self-interest of those in receipt of these overly generous, under-contributed, and unfair pensions - which clearly includes our elected representatives......

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 20:31

The Harsh Reality

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The Harsh Reality - And Why The "Tax Cap" Must Be Rescinded

Our politicians continue to peddle the message that there is a route back to days of prosperity (via an early return to economic growth), and that we can continue to spend, spend, spend.... but the harsh reality is that our government (and most others) has existing commitments already made to its employees and the electorate which it cannot sustain - so we, the people, will be (indeed, must be) disappointed in our expectations.

Weak growth (which is the best that is promised for some years ahead for all major european markets) means that it is likely that political promises will have to be broken, expectations reduced, and "entitlements" in terms of benefits and allowances lowered or removed entirely...... not a message our politicians want to utter nor to be held accountable for, but we are clearly already in a cycle of "salami cuts", with the necessity for a lot more still to come.

The Manx government has gratefully accepted the UK Government's policy of "Quantitative Easing" and the printing of electronic money, as it has kept interest rates down - which has helped household mortgage bills, and those with major debts incurred during the run-up to the "credit crunch" - but provided a very poor environment for those in retirement who had expected reasonable returns on their investments, or those saving for a future pension.

Unfortunately, a corollary of Quantitative Easing is inflation - and in an economy with higher than desirable levels of unemployment and wage restraint, a consequence of the QE policy is to benefit those who are asset rich (e.g. with bond holdings), whilst penalising the poor whose real wages have been squeezed by inflation - in effect, a regressive tax. But given the high levels of debt facing the UK Government (and lots of others), the era of QE and low interest rates is stretching away into the future, as it means government borrowing costs are minimised, and they can "afford" to pay the interest on those debts -
ensuring that it is their creditors who suffer a gradual erosion of the value of their investment.

One of the difficulties facing the island is that it has very high levels of income inequality - 28% of our taxable population has such low incomes that they have no liability to income tax at all, whilst a further
31% are only liable to income tax at the 10% rate - leaving the balance of 41% responsible for a massive 92% of the income tax "take" - whilst some 70+ individuals enjoy a "tax break" of £35 million thanks to the tax cap of £120,000.

Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP (the world's largest advertising agency) acknowledges that "concentration of wealth is a serious issue". John Caudwell, a billionaire who made his wealth with Phones4U, now campaigns for social fairness, and has paid income tax of £253 million to the UK Exchequer on his earnings in the past 5 years - and wants other wealthy individuals to stop shirking their responsibilities and to face up to the moral obligation to pay their fair and reasonable share. The tax cap clearly exists under manx legislation as a maximum for income tax liablity, and whilst it is rational to minimise ones liabilities, there are obvious problems for society to have millionaires and billionaires whilst others struggle to make ends meet with meagre pay rises and rising inflation, and a government unable to balance its books.

The inevitable result is that we will see the "politics of envy", resulting in pressure for greater equality in society, and greater contributions from the wealthy who currently enjoy significant tax concessions, such as the "tax cap", and who are able to shelter much of their wealth via low (or zero) levels of corporate taxation, and in an absence of inheritance or capital gains taxes.

No doubt many will have been following the travails of Google, Starbucks, and Apple with their minimal levels of tax payments to the UK and other governments around the world - the analogy with our own manx millionaires and billionaires sheltering their wealth under generous government tax legislation is obvious. It is perhaps time that our government ceases the pretence that the tax cap protects employment or encourages an inflow of wealthy entrepreneurs - and instead requires those wealthy individuals, just like Apple and Google, to pay their fair share of tax - just like the rest of us........ rather than a continual
cutting of services to the public or by pushing the problem on to a younger generation, as yet unaware of the scale of those financial obligations............

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 July 2013 11:03

Biogas from seaweed presentation

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Seaweed_OnchanOn 11th April at the Manx Legion Chris Greenwell - Senior Lecturer in Geoenergy, Durham University - raised the intrguiging possibility that the Isle of Man could obtain 10% of its future biogas needs from seaweed.

His presentation is attached

Related Manx Radio item

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 April 2013 12:36

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