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Chief Minister set to extend programme of community meetings 26 October 2012

CHIEF Minister Allan Bell MHK has reaffirmed his commitment to hosting regular public meetings after another full house turned out for the latest Government event in Port Erin.

Around 150 people gathered at the Erin Arts Centre on Tuesday evening to question Mr Bell and his Ministerial colleagues on a wide range of national issues. The next community meeting in the north of the Island – to be held in Ramsey on January 30, 2013 – will bring the initial run to a conclusion following similar events in the east (Douglas), west (Peel) and south (Port Erin). However, the Chief Minister said the programme of engagement is set to be extended in response to an enthusiastic reception from the Manx public.

He commented:

‘The community meetings have proved an effective way of communicating directly with the public, not only to convey Government’s messages, but more importantly to listen to the views, ideas and concerns of local residents. The events are an important part of my promise to promote open and transparent Government and to work with the public in the best interests of the Isle of Man. We welcome these opportunities for open and honest dialogue and Ministers will make themselves available into 2013 and beyond provided there is continued interest from the public.’

The meeting in Port Erin opened with a presentation by Treasury Minister Eddie Teare MHK who outlined Government’s strategy to rebalance public finances by 2015-16. Social Care Minister Chris Robertshaw then provided an update on the social policy consultation which had generated more than 1,200 responses. Mr Robertshaw revealed an overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that Government should place greater emphasis on targeting public resources to those in greatest need. There was also strong support for means-testing and helping people to become self-sufficient where possible, rather than providing long-term benefits.

The main part of the evening was devoted to an open question and answer session chaired by the Chief Minister. A number of topics were raised including overseas aid funding, renewable energy, Government’s partnership with Pinewood Shepperton plc, the Island’s tourism offering, employment opportunities, dilapidated properties, Tynwald Members’ salaries, first-time buyer housing, and efforts to grow and diversify the economy.

The Chief Minister said:

‘Once again we experienced a lively exchange of views on a vast cross-section of issues. I am pleased the community meetings have been generally well received by the public. They are a genuine attempt to be open and accountable and I think people appreciate what we are trying to achieve. There is the potential to make these events a regular fixture on the political calendar and I look forward to another good turnout when we visit Ramsey in January.’

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