Heart Members Call For Councillors To Be More Accessible

Heart of Scilly’s AGM

Councillors need to be more accessible and accountable, and hold regular surgeries.

That was the view expressed by some members at the Heart of Scilly annual general meeting last night.

Committee member Mark Prebble said some councillors were more accessible than others, with some being “evasive” when their constituents have called for meetings.

When Heart was formed, the community group wrote to all 21 elected members but only 3 or 4 actually replied.

Mark explained that the lack of response concerned him and that is why he became engaged with Heart.

Carmen Stevens felt it would be better if councillors published their private email contact details rather than use their official Council email addresses. There were concerns about using the Town Hall network for private matters.

Di Barnes’ idea of a regular meeting between locals and councillors at a set venue was well received, while Fran Grottick said Mike Hicks had been in favour of surgeries but many councillors had been preoccupied with recent events.

Barneslie Ward explained how similar town meetings where held in the 1960s.

That’s something Heart will pursue and they also want at least two of those public meetings involving councillors before the May election.

Heart will ask members to come and explain what the councillor role entails and address the electorate, outlining their beliefs and policies.

Linda Wornes felt that locals aren’t clear what their councillors believe in and stand for. She claims that, “a leaflet ahead of an election isn’t enough.”

More work needs to be done to engage Off-Islanders and chairman Adrian Davies said there had been some “mutterings” from residents there.  Heart may hold meetings away from St Mary’s in the future.

Barneslie maintained that the two ring-fenced Off-Island Council seats should be replaced with a system where all islanders can vote for all candidates. He argued that the Off-Island situation is unfair as members can gain important positions, including chair of committees or Council, without ever facing a competitive election.

But Adrian said each Off-Island has its own problems and residents there need a distinct voice, although whether they need to be represented in the current way is debatable.

In all, 34 people braved the weather and cold conditions. Mark said the group had reached 50 members, which was impressive.

There was much talk about the Council election next year.

Heart won’t endorse candidates. Mark felt they would be on “thin ice” but they can provide support and help for candidates who follow the group’s transparency and ethical principles.

And as every potential candidate needs the written support of ten locals before they can stand, they could help in that process too.

Locals will be encouraged to come forward with ideas and concerns and to get involved in driving Heart.

Fran Grottick told the meeting that the constitution allows for co-opting so anyone who wants to serve on the committee should come forward.

During the meeting, Adrian Davies was re-elected to the chairmanship of the committee. Mark Prebble remains as treasurer and Fran Grottick was returned as secretary and press officer.

Diane Cidade took the vice-chairman role, a new post.


6 Responses to Heart Members Call For Councillors To Be More Accessible

  1. Todd Stevens December 6, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Some of our councillors have been around soooo long that I think they become immune to people complaining-even when the complaint is ligitimate. They just want to keep the status quo no matter what-head in the sand. I have spoken to a couple of councillors who have attitudes just like this. They dont WANT to see any wrong doing. But thier attitude would change dramatically when they become a victim.

    Also, I feel that the more ruthless kind of CEO will target these types of councillor and get them on board. These become his back bone-the ones that will keep him in the job-no matter what he does. surround yourself with a few like this and your inlike a tick on a dog-suckling the blood. With familiarity comes contempt. Lack of change only breeds corruption.

  2. PAT December 5, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I agree Jenny that maybe some councilors are not getting the thanks they deserve at the moment, they are putting a lot of work in. but i am sure the public and HEART do appreciate what they are doing and yes the councilors do get paid and i think they can claim travel expenses etc. may be not a lot… i also do think that when these troubles are sorted, it would be a good idea to hold some sort of surgeries etc. Working with the public, your community helps all to benefit in the long term…

  3. Stuart Moore December 5, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    No one forces people to stand for election, people choose to do so for whatever reason, however because the position of councillor is a position of public office, councillors must expect to be questioned and held to account by the people they represent, that is the nature of our democratic system.
    Our council has a broad spectrum of people and there are some councillors who serve the community extremely well and work extremely hard but I also think there are others that love the kudos of the position more. Some councillors work harder than others (see link) http://committees.scilly.gov.uk/mgUserAttendanceSummary.aspx
    I believe that councillors get paid around £5k pa and a committee chairman gets somewhere around an additional £5k pa on top of that. Plus there are travel expenses; off island councillors get their boat trips paid for and then there are the ‘fact finding’ trips to the mainland, so they’re not out of pocket.
    Being a councillor is for the most part a thankless task but from my experience people only complain when things go wrong, it’s like the electricity supply, all the time it works people don’t give it a second thought but when its not working then people start to complain and I guess you could say the same thing about the council. If the council was running efficiently and fairly no one would be complaining, but people are complaining because they feel they have good reason to.
    Unfortunately the current problems have been allowed to occur because the councillors have failed to hold the senior officers to account, however I believe that certain members of the council are now working hard to rectify these issues.
    Please understand that these are my thoughts and not those of Heart

  4. Fran Grottick December 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Dear Jenny,
    I can assure you that at each and every HEART meeting, the Chair has acknowledged the valuable role of a Councillor in our community life.
    HEART aims to support those Councillors who work with honesty and integrity in their challenging role.

  5. Mark Prebble December 5, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Hi Jenny
    The chair of the Heart of Scilly Community Association in his report at last night’s AGM acknowledged that being a representative of the community is not the easiest of jobs. He also thanked those councillors who take the time to respond to letters and phone calls on a wide range of matters affecting our community.

    Unfortunately it appears there are members of the council who are less than forthcoming in responding to letters and requests as was evidenced by a number of people’s experiences related at the AGM.

    The general feeling expressed by members was that it is less a point of they should do something, rather more a point of, wouldn’t it be nice if councillor X actually replied to a letter or email rather than ignoring it.

    One last point, they may be underpaid but they are paid.

  6. Jenny Green December 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    I sometimes think our Councillors get a hard time. They are volunteers, who give up their own time, some more than others, to serve the Islands. They have reams of paper reports to read, meetings to attend, trips to the mainland to represent the islands etc. All as unpaid representatives. Occassionally a thank you to these people would be nice, not just the constant drip drip of, ‘they should do this, they should do that’.