Councillors Reject Calls To Change Reserved Off-Island Seats

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The off-islands currently have two reserved Council seats each

There still needs to be reserved seats for off-island councillors in any future shake-up of Scilly’s electoral system. And there appears to be little support for an elected mayor.

That’s the view of many of the councillors who were questioned at the Heart group meeting.

Barnselie Ward has supported abolishing the ‘parish’ electoral system for some time. He has proposed that all islanders vote for the same list of candidates who would represent all of Scilly.

Cllr Marian Bennett voiced some support for that principle, adding that councillors, “do represent all the islands, we are speaking for the whole of the Isles of Scilly.”

Vice chair Amanda Martin agreed that the system needs looking at. She’s uncertain whether the off-islands need two seats each, but believes they each need one.

And Cllr Gordon Bilsborough said it is unfair that an off-island electorate of 54 people should have two members when one councillor served 100 people on St Mary’s.

He wanted to reduce the entire council from 21 to 13 seats. He’s tried to cut two St Mary’s seats and half of the off-island places previously and claims it would cut costs and create a better electoral contest.

But Cllr Bennett took issue with previous claims that off-island elections were a walkover. She agreed that her election had been ‘non-contested’ but hoped off-islanders were happy with their representative since they had not been opposed.

Cllr Roy Duncan said he wouldn’t change a thing. He felt the current representation was right.

Some committees require off-island members and it was difficult recruiting to all committees now. Although members gave examples of meeting that had been cancelled because too few members could attend, Amanda Martin advised that this was not the norm.

She would like more people to stand for election, claiming that, “sniping from the parapet is easy.” And Cllr Martin would like to see more younger locals stand.

She pointed out she was the second-youngest member and was, herself, a grandmother.

Some campaigners have suggested that a paid mayor could work full-time and devote more time to Council issues. Gordon Bilsborough passionately rejected that idea and suggested that it could lead to a powerful, Nazi-style dictator, telling the meeting that, “they tried it in Germany in 1933.”

Meeting Chairman Adrian Davis quickly rejected that suggestion, adding that he had undertaken research on elected mayors. Dudley Mumford said there was a cabinet system in Cornwall and if such a change was adopted here, there would have to be more scrutiny work by members.

Any potential changes would be for the next Council to pursue, Amanda said and Cllr Dudley Mumford agreed that the Council management and discussions over a chief executive role would need to be resolved first.

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