Hundreds Of Islanders Want Change At Council

Some islanders are afraid of the Council and feel concerned about the repercussion of upsetting senior figures within the authority.

That’s the opinion voiced by many locals in a public meeting on Thursday called to discuss ongoing concerns over governance within the islands. Some attendees spoke of a climate of fear, which emanates from the Town Hall.

The session was arranged by Dr Adrian Davis, Louise Graham and Lisa Magill all of whom spoke at the meeting. Adrian said he was keen to find positive solutions to the perceived problems.

The group will be called HEART, which stands for Honesty, Ethical probity, Accountability, Respect and Transparency.

A number of suggestions for long and short-term goals were discussed in the open debate.

People were divided into groups and asked to come up with suggestions for change.

23 short-term and 33 long-term plans were shared including more public surgeries, groups of islanders standing in next May’s Council elections and arranging a vote of no confidence in the Council’s Chief Officers.

The meeting also heard some suggestions that the Chief Executive role could be abolished. The formation of a ratepayers’ group was discussed too.

A working group will now assess those and additional ideas with the intention of taking some suggestions forward.

The meeting was convened following what they group claim is widespread discontent at the way in which the suspension of the headteacher was handled and questions over the Council’s involvement.

During the session, some attendees asked for the truth over the reason for Bryce Wilby’s suspension. They felt they couldn’t really express an opinion until there were answers.

The group circulated a list of questions sent to all Councillors asking who drove the process that led to the suspension.

The Council has said the matter is due to an alleged financial irregularity after work by auditors.

There were two Councillors present to hear the views of islanders in the forum.
 

Meeting was “moderate and respectful”

 

One of them, Vice Chairman Amanda Martin, estimates the crowd to be in excess of 250 and she said she was very impressed with that turnout.

HEART recorded at least 160, which they point out is 10% of the St Mary’s population.

Amanda felt the meeting was moderate and respectful. She says people are very concerned and admires those who organised and attended the event for taking the time and trouble.

Amanda says she does listen to people, so there was nothing said she hasn’t heard before, but she found the meeting useful in that it confirmed what she’s heard is a generally held opinion.

Gordon Bilsborough was the other Councillor present. He said there was a “long list” of suggestions voted on by the attendees although he said some of these were “rather vague.”

They included allowing all Islands’ electors to vote for all Councillors instead of the current system of ring-fenced members for the off-islands. There were also demands for a public referendum on major Council decisions and a feeling that Councillors should be more assertive when dealing with Council officers.

Gordon says Council Chairman Mike Hicks urged Councillors to stay away from the meeting, but he and Amanda felt it was important to attend. He says he was keen to hear the views of the electorate, which he described as “the cornerstone of the democratic process.”

However, Gordon felt disappointed that he was not allowed to comment on the points raised in the meeting.

Speaking to Radio Scilly yesterday, Mike Hicks said he had not heard back from the group.

He hasn’t been formally approached and did wonder whether someone would get in contact with him but he says that’s up to HEART.

And he is unsure how they saw his role or that of other Councillors

Bryce Wilby, the suspended headteacher wasn’t at the public meeting.

He says it was “nice to hear that there was a lot of support from the community for change and that the Council do have to do things properly from now on.”

He adds that he is grateful for the support that has been offered for himself and his family from the community.

At the meeting, former school governor Tim Guthrie made an emotive speech about the hurt and upset caused to the Wilbys by the way in which the suspension is being handled.

The meeting voted to communicate to the Councillors, Chief Executive and school governors that they are appalled by what they refer to as the current unprofessional treatment of the school headteacher.

The Council has declined to comment.

Press Officer George Pearson was on leave yesterday. His email auto responder was directing press enquiries to the Director of Finance, Peter Lawrence. He chose not to answer our request from a comment.

There’ll be another meeting of HEART on June 11th at a venue yet to be arranged.

 



3 Responses to Hundreds Of Islanders Want Change At Council

  1. sadporth June 2, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    can anyone tell me who Lisa Magill is?

  2. John Hicks June 2, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Good for Gordon and Amanda, and well done to all locals who have decided enough is enough. I know I don’t live there any more but I follow quite closely the goings on, and am pleased to see that through this new group there will be better and more constructive dealings with both the councillors and the officers and in turn the stability of the Islands and the unique-ness of them will be maintained.

  3. Mark Prebble June 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    I’d like to congratulate the organisers of the HEART forum for conducting a positive and inclusive event. Their concerns for transparency and accountability would appear to be shared by a substantial number of the electorate. Their commitment to addressing the issues rather than the personalities is to be applauded and adopting a democratic approach to progress is to be encouraged.