Council Held In ‘Great Suspicion’ By Some, Says Chairman

Council Chambers at the Old Wesleyan Chapel

The Chairman of the Council says locals have asked him for an independent public inquiry into the Authority’s governance.

Mike Hicks says the Council has been held under “great suspicion” by some islanders.

They could bring in the Local Government Association or MP Andrew George has suggested that the Department for Education should investigate how decisions have been made and by whom.

But Mike says that will depend on whether Cornwall Council’s auditors’ report raises further questions. The Chairman hopes their findings will be available in late July and that much of it will be made public.

On Monday, Councillors discussed a petition calling for the suspension of Council Chief Executive Philip Hygate and Mike says it ‘concerned’ them. But he says they can’t suspend a Senior officer “on the whim of a few people who get a petition together.”

Citizens group HEART are backing the petition and some of their key team are behind it. Their spokeswoman, Louise Graham, said she hopes that 200 signatories will force a Council debate on the petition but just over 70 names are currently on the list and it looks like they won’t reach their goal by the 19th July when they hand the petition over to Scilly’s MP, Andrew George.

Petition organisers claim some locals feel unable to sign as they, or family members, work for the Council and they are considering putting the petition online. Louise told us Councillors can see that signatories are unhappy and that islanders are prepared to stand up and be counted.

Mike said Monday’s Council meeting didn’t discuss what would happen if they received 200 signatures as that would force a special meeting and there are lots of other issues to deal with.

Some Councillors spoke in support of the Chief Executive in the Councillors meeting although Mike says there were voices of dissent too. As only 16 out of 21 members attended and some members had to leave early for off-island boats, Mike says he can’t state that the majority of members backed Mr Hygate.

But he says he does, and he supports the Senior Management team. He wants islanders to do so, too.

HEART claim there has been a lack of proper procedures and protocol followed by the Council during the former school head’s suspension.

But Mike says he’s comfortable that officers have followed legal advice throughout and that Director, Penny Penn Howard, did have the authority to suspend senior school staff members.

The governors dispute that.

HEART is now planning a  ‘Question Time’ style session, “as a chance to raise concerns” in St Mary’s Church Hall on 19th July. Andrew George will be one of the four panellists but the other three speakers are not yet confirmed.

Admission will be by ticket because of space restrictions, available only from HEART via email.

Mike Hicks says he wouldn’t attend even if asked.  This is because he’d have to refuse to answers some questions due to legal restrictions and that would be counterproductive.

He says he’d considered chairing another public meeting with the MP, if asked.



17 Responses to Council Held In ‘Great Suspicion’ By Some, Says Chairman

  1. Kay July 15, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Excellent idea Kevin.
    Just one word For our elected Chairman ‘Patronizing’
    Sorry Mike but this was not one of your better judgements and the problem goes far deeper than the School issue.

  2. Kev Wright July 14, 2012 at 8:55 am

    As most of us are mere mortals we wouldn’t be able to vote in or out any of the non-elected members of the council (I think) so if a referendum like this were to be held, the results would have to be presented to the elected councillors to then decide on our behalf what the next step would be. So essentially this would have to be an opinion pole but should be done with the same level of privacy as an election vote. The elected members would then have a clearer idea of what the community at large feels and would then decide to act (or not act if there is overwhelming support) on the results. I’m not a politician but I think would legally need to be the way something like would have to be carried out.

    • Todd Stevens July 15, 2012 at 12:01 am

      This is the way forward. Hopefully somone local will lobby our councillors with a petition in order to get a referendum.

      Seriously, its a great idea Kev, I just had to share that thought as it made me hoot! : )

  3. Stuart July 13, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    I feel that the chairman of the council is too old and too ill to do the job properly any more, don’t wish to be rude, just stating a fact.
    I also feel that Kev Wright makes a very good point, let the islands hold a referendum on the subject as everyone could vote in anonymity and would not be subject to the usual retribution

    Also not everyone is aware that there even is a petition because not everyone listens to Radio Scilly (odd though it may seem)

  4. Todd Stevens July 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    If there are no reviews of performance at work, or of contracts, then the door is left wide open for employees to abuse thier position. Thus you get problems arising.

  5. Pat July 13, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Bloody brilliant idea Kev. perhaps then we can sort this out once and for all….
    you ought to think of putting up for council

  6. Simon w July 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Fantastic idea Kev, then those who are too afraid of putting their names to a petition for whatever reason will be able to make their feelings known without fear of reprisals from the authority.

  7. Joe July 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Brilliant.

  8. Kev Wright July 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    The best way to do this would be in the same way as elections are held. A referendum – a simple yes/no question open to all residents where an anonymous cross is put in a box – just the same way in which we vote in general elections. That way everyone would have a clear and anonymous vote without any fear of repercussions. I actually think this is something the council should seriously consider and would put and end to all this bickering. We either have faith in the senior officers or we don’t. Simple.

  9. Graham Coad July 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    According to my maths, a petition on Scilly with 70 signatures, makes around 3.25% of the population….
    Even allowing for some reticence to sign, this is hardly the sort of groundswell of feeling that justifies much action, you would probably get a higher percentage of signatures for legalising cannabis, or bringing back hanging!

    • Todd Stevens July 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      200 signatures are needed to get our council to debate it. This is unreasonable in a population of just 2000 souls. If you take away the old and infirm. The young, those who are not here or are lethargic to politics; then take out many of the off islanders and the 20 per cent of our populus whom are directly employed by the council; then take away all those whom are scared to sign it-(and there are lots of these) and those who have contracts with the council; then that does not leave very many people left to sign it at all. Even those who have signed it- about 80 at present some of these too were scared of retribution for signing. This petition is also highlighting that we have big problem with our democracy here. At two recent town meetings many people spoke of living in fear of our council so somthing is clearly wrong.

      • An Off-Islander July 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        I laughed when i read “If you take away the old and infirm. The young, those who are not here or are lethargic to politics; then take out many of the off islanders and…”

        Does an off-islander not count? There are not many old and infirm enough to not be able to sign their names. The lathargic?! Surely if things were that bad they would not be so lethargic?
        Just for the record while i am here…
        1. I am happy to wait until we find out what really went on with the head master at the school before i make any judgements about either him or the council or govenors. Everyone involved in it deserves that.
        2. I am surprised how many people are blaming the council on a drop in visitor numbers – if my business was doing less well i would look for ways of improving and attracting more people rather than moaning about the council. The only thing they can really do to change numbers on the islands is to get us subsidised transport like the Scottish islands. I hope this will happen.
        3. Looking at this from the outside it does give off a rather Salem Witch Hunt / Friends of Penzance Harbour feel! Everyone should think carefully about what they are doing… the unintended consequence of this kind of activity is a split in the community which is far more damaging in a place like this than any greivance with the council. Lets try to keep things positive.

        • Todd Stevens July 14, 2012 at 11:56 pm

          You misunderstood. It wasnt an attack. I was merely pointing out that there is an awful lot of the local population who either aren’t eligable, or simply cant get to sign a petition even if they wanted to.

  10. pat July 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    I think the Heart question time is a good idea and hopefully l’ll beable to make it.
    it is nice that people are trying to get together to make these islands a better place to live. as the islands are unique. good luck.
    and please support the councillors who are trying to make changes as to the way the council runs. as i fear they may feel isolated if not…the councillors are suppose to be acting/working on our behalf, if the officers have done nothing wrong they have nothing to worry about….

  11. Todd Stevens July 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    If the figurehead of our community thinks that a petition by those brave enough to stick their heads above the parrapet is- “the mere whim of a few” then what the hell do people have to do to make him listen! I know that recently he expressed that he is often ‘kept in the dark’ but surely he cant be that far out of touch. Mike says he backs Mr Hygate. Surely he is supposed to represent the people? I can not believe in a democratic world that 50- 70- 100 voices are less important than one.

  12. Tamar July 13, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I think I may have got things a bit muddled up. I thought that the school governers were asked (told?) to suspend the head? If the council had the authority to do that themselves, why did they get the governers to do it? Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

  13. Mark Prebble July 13, 2012 at 9:46 am

    While I have a high regard for the chair of the council, i ‘d like to suggest that the petition would not appear to be the whim of a few people, but rather a genuine manifestation of the concerns of our community at the apparent lack of accountability and transparency in some of the decision making processes that affect us all. When this is considered in the context of less than full support for the chief executive from elected members of the council, I can only hope that a full and proper independent enquiry will be established as a matter of some urgency to shed light on the way our council is being run.