Some Councillors Angry Over Attempts To ‘Muzzle’ Them

Some Isles of Scilly Councillors say they are angry at what they say are attempts to ‘muzzle’ them over the Council’s governance crisis.

The press and public had to leave Tuesday’s Council Planning Meeting to allow Director Penny Penn-Howard to advise members on what they could say to the press and public over the Bryce Wilby suspension.

Penny suggested that they say nothing, but that approach hasn’t worked. Four Councillors have told us they won’t be told what they can and cannot say by a member of their staff.

Penny suggested that Councillors’ comments could be seized upon by Mr Wilby’s representatives. Their remarks could be used by his team as the basis for an increased financial settlement made to the suspended head teacher.

She is said to have told members it all comes down to money.

It’s unclear whether Council management now feel Mr Wilby will receive a payment to compensate for his suspension. The Council press office wouldn’t answer our questions about that.

Gordon Bilsborough is unhappy that Ms Penn-Howard addressed members in the private meeting.

Gordon told us: “No officer can start telling an elected member what they can and can’t say and I resent that deeply.”

He says he suspects now that some information has been withheld from some members, adding, “We’re a democratic society and they can’t deny elected members information that they should know.”

In the closed-door session, Councillors were also advised that a BBC Cornwall reporter was on St Mary’s and asking questions about the school and Council. One Councillor named him and revealed where he was staying, suggesting that members be on their guard as they may not recognize him and could inadvertently reveal facts.

Ms Penn-Howard is also said to have explained to Councillors that they didn’t have to answer questions from the public about what had happened at the school. Some members may feel that they had to respond but they shouldn’t feel obligated, she advised

One Councillor reportedly asked why the Chief Executive, Philip Hygate, wasn’t there to answer the Councillor’s questions in person. Penny Penn-Howard is said to have asked Councillors to trust her and that she’d be able to say more at a future date.

Some Councillors feel that a rift has developed between Cornwall Council’s auditors who carried out the investigation into the alleged financial irregularities, and the Islands’ Council over this issue.

Penny is reported to have been unhappy that Cornwall had issued a press release saying their auditors report was finished and without running it past her. Penny said it hadn’t been signed off yet.

However, it seems that Cornwall could be distancing itself from the islands’ Council ahead of the release of their final report into Bryce’s suspension.

The findings are meant to be presented to the Full Council on September 27th, but Tuesday night’s private session revealed that it might not be ready by then.

Radio Scilly sent a list of question to the Council press office but they declined to answer any of them.

Instead, they replied with a statement saying: “The Council appreciates that there is significant interest in recent events relating to the departure of the School’s Head teacher. There are however ongoing legal discussions relating to those issues, so it would be inappropriate for anyone at the Council to make comments about any related matters at this stage.

“Rest assured that the Council is taking appropriate advice from its officers and legal advisers, and that a statement will be issued at the appropriate time. The Council’s overriding aim of course remains the smooth and efficient running of the School, and the interests of staff, parents and pupils, as well as the island community as a whole.”


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