In a year of austerity that has seen some pretty tough cuts to services in the Isle of Man, but with the promise of some much tougher ones to come, it is only right that we turn our attention to the Treasury Minister Eddie Teare.
The question we must ask as this series of reviews of ministerial performances continues is can we bank on Eddie to make the right decisions?
We all know there has to be some bloodletting to shore up the Manx economy, but Mr Teare doesn’t want to find himself of sucking the blood out of services that cannot afford to spare any.
So far he has managed to avoid the real flak that has been directed at the government. That is partly due to the fact that the disparity in performance of the various government departments has helped to deflect attention from the people holding the purse strings, ie those at the Treasury, headed up by the honourable member for Ayre.
This year’s Budget was not brilliant. In fairness, that would have applied no matter who was at the helm in the Treasury; it came way too early in the life of a new government, at just four months in.
That is always the case under the Manx system but there was an argument this time for an interim Budget in February to be followed by a second one in October (whisper it, but perhaps an extra sitting of Tynwald could have been scheduled for September, given the extreme nature of the economic situation the Isle of Man and its neighbours find themselves in).
An interim Budget would have bought a little time for the government to avoid the mish mash that occurred in February where some departments fared much better than others.
But that has gone now. Realistically, you couldn’t expect the new government to get a full grip on spending at that stage. What we saw, however, was a government that still consisted of departments acting in isolation from one another, with some crucial cuts being made in certain areas and others finding dubious things to spend up their individual budgets on.
Mr Teare did well to avoid much direct criticism over the cuts to nursery education and care homes. In part that was down to the fact, at least where education was concerned, the Treasury offered the then minister Peter Karran an alternative, one he was too pig-headed to give proper consideration.
A lot of pain is set to be felt in the welfare sector over the next few years, but much of that will be left at the door of Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw.
Mr Teare is clearly seen as a safe pair of hands. It was he the government sent out to announce the plan to invest in Pinewood Studios. Allan Bell wanted to be sure that someone who he believed the public could trust should be the one to justify a plan that, if we’re honest, many of us have some qualms about.
But there is unease at the plan to transfer over £55m from government reserves to help with the economic situation, mainly because we are also seeing vast amounts being taken to cover the depositors’ compensation fund – a move that may pay off if it boosts confidence in the Isle of Man banking sector at a time when that industry is not finding itself at the top of anyone’s most trusted list.
But with a further amount to be drawn from reserves next year and £24m being used on the Pinewood scheme, the government reserve fund will have more than halved under Teare’s tutelage.
Given the extreme financial position the island has found itself in, it is just about acceptable, but it’s not a trick he will be able to continue to fall back on. People won’t want to see the reserves drop below £150m.
His next Budget in February may make or break Mr Teare – and Chief Minister Allan Bell. He has recently admitted that what government departments want to spend and what he wants them to spend have yet to match.
The budgetary process has begun and next time we will expect that he will be doing more to ensure that we are presented with a fairer approach across the board than was presented in the 2012 Pink Book.
If he doesn’t manage to achieve that, then he may find himself remembered as the Manx Nosferatu, the vampire who drained the state of its lifeblood.
GNU Rating: 9/10. He appears to have the faith and trust of both the chief minister and – just about – a reasonable portion of the public. That could change in a few months’ time unless his next Budget is better than the last.
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If you found this article interesting you may also wish to read this one about the need for a more unified government:
The above article refers to the budgetary problems at the Department of Education and Children, you can read more about those in the two articles linked here:
An earlier article covered the welfare reform issues:
Some followers of Manx politics will recognise this is not the first vampire comparison involving the present Isle of Man Government. But I can nip in the bud any claims of plagiarism as I was the one who made it last time, with this piece that appeared when I still worked for the Isle of Man Examiner. Take a look at the piece if you like. The art work trickery was down to the skill of Gary Myers.