Councillors Demand More Scrutiny Of AONB Costs

The AONB needs “scrutiny” after costs have rocketed with little explanation.

That’s according to the Chairman of the Council’s Planning Committee, Amanda Martin.

Members heard that the department was set to spend £7000 on transport costs this year, a £3000 overspend on the estimated budget.

Richard McCarthy felt that increasing the budget to match the amount spent was too “convenient” and members were unsure where the money was going.

Chief Planning Officer, Craig Dryden, said £1500 of the excess related to the National AONB Conference which brought some delegates to Scilly last year.

The Council would claim that money back.

The cost of off-island boating trips so the AONB could go on beach cleaning duty was also a cost factor, Craig said.

But members felt that off-islanders could play more of a role to trim the costs.

Christine Savill said off-islanders always used to remove beach litter but conceded that health and safety regulations may mean there are problems with that now and Amanda felt that the AONB needed to better publicise when it was beach cleaning so people could join in.

Staff costs within the three-person team have gone up by £10,000.

Craig said £4000 of that was because of work on a special project and that additional work would be grant-funded.

The AONB Officer, Trevor Kirk, had also been through “job evaluation” and had received a pay rise.

Craig explained that 75% of the AONB costs came from grants.

Marian Bennett wanted to highlight what was good about the AONB and praised the “enormously beneficial” work of the department in maintaining the environment. She reminded Councillors of the economic benefits our landscape brings.

But Amanda ended discussion on the AONB budget by requesting a written report on all the AONB activities.  She told Councillors she wanted to know “who was doing what” and their responsibilities, adding, “and I do mean from the top.”

Dudley Mumford suggested that a small panel should look into costs and Amanda said she’d back that.

Members should expect “better accountability” and they had previously asked for more details about the department’s activities, she said.


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