Councillors Review Key Worker Policy

Council Chamber at The Old Wesleyan Chapel

The Council has been reviewing its policy for determining Key Worker status, although any changes will need to go through a six week public consultation before being implemented.

Obtaining Key Worker status can bring a number of benefits to people living and working on the islands, the most important of which is being able to access housing that can only be let to Key Workers, including 20 homes owned by the Duchy of Cornwall.

The updated policy states those seeking this status will need to work for an organisation or business whose primary purpose is delivering services that directly benefit the community and will need to work from a base within the islands.

They also need to demonstrate that they can’t find suitable accommodation on the islands or that they’re already living in accommodation that is unsuitable for their needs.

However, Councillor Chris Savill questioned the minimum threshold of being employed 21 hours per week. She thought it should be higher although Chief Planning Officer, Craig Dryden, who sits on the steering group that wrote the revised policy, says this was debated extensively in their discussions and he will await feedback from the public on this.

Employees of private companies who do not provide a service that directly benefits the community including those engaged in agriculture, fishing, retailing and tourism are expected to find appropriate accommodation for their own staff.

And those that can afford to purchase or rent suitable accommodation based on their income, savings or equity in property on the mainland will also not be eligible, although due to the high cost of housing on the islands, the upper limit for ‘affordability’ could be in question.

There are also two categories of eligibility, the first being those workers involved in education, human and animal health, the police, public services posts that are required to fulfil the statutory duties of the Council and those delivering public utilities.

A second category includes tradesmen who “provide a service that directly benefits and supports the continued functioning of organisations and island residents.”

Chris Savill questioned whether this category should include a clause outlining that tradesmen could only get this status if there was a shortage, as this could affect other local businesses.

The Key Worker policy has been controversial over the past years with a perceived lack of transparency on how decisions are made and flexible interpretations of who provides essential roles to the community.

The final decision rests with the ‘Key Worker Panel’ composed entirely of Council Members drawn from the Planning & Development Committee.