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.

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