Scilly Council Candidates Face The Electorate

election 2013 hustingsAround 120 locals packed into the Church Hall last night to hear the views of 12 of the 18 candidates for the St Mary’s seats in the 2nd May Council elections.

Each candidate gave a speech and were timed against a 3 minute egg timer. Then they answered questions put from the floor.

John Purkiss wanted to know what qualities candidates would seek from a chairman and who they would support.

Amanda Martin said integrity and the willingness to listen was important, while Steve Sims claimed the chairman needed a suspicious mind and had to assume everybody has an agenda.

His suggestion that Amanda Martin would get his vote for chairman received the largest applause of the night. Dudley Mumford claimed good communication skills and a good relationship with Chief Officers was vital.

Chris Earley asked about the structure of the Authority and who was in charge. Both Gaz O’Neill and Gordon Bilsborough agreed that Council staff are professionals who should gather the information for members, so those elected councillors make informed decisions. But councillors should make the policies, taking into account the views of their electors.

Amanda Martin added that staff are the experts and they should point out if councillors are about to make an illegal decision. But she said members haven’t felt confident with some staff advice recently. She wanted to get away from a, “them and us approach” in the future.

One of the most contentious issues was the Council financial situation. A number of candidates touched on this in their opening addresses. Local man Adam Blackwell wanted to know how the Council had overspent and how it could face a shortfall of £1.4 million over the next year.

David Pearson said the financial state was sprung upon members and that information came late in the day. Amanda Martin said the information was there but members had to know how to find it.

One attendee shouted out a suggestion that councillors had been misled. Amanda wouldn’t confirm that view, but added that a lot of information had come to light this year and tracks were, “too well covered.”

Adam didn’t feel that the replies addressed his point effectively and said he couldn’t believe that they only found out about the mess in February.

Waste management also occupied discussion time. Dudley Mumford claimed we don’t do “half enough” recycling. He said the incinerator had too much downtime and the composter is not working. Dudley felt we, “we need to go back to square one.”

Gaz O’Neill said waste from the Moorwell Alp shouldn’t be moved around the island. Green candidate Mark Prebble said the dump material will need taking somewhere off the island and dealing with as landfill.

And referring to the recent waste presentations, Fran Grottick said there has to be meaningful public consultation on waste.

After the meeting, local Mike Brown said would have liked some stronger views to have been expressed on the waste issue.

Prospective members we are also asked for their views on whether all islanders should vote for all candidates and whether the system of ring-fenced seats for each island parish needed reforming.

Dudley Mumford said a debate on the composition of the Council was well overdue.

There was also discussion over the merits of political party representation versus independent candidates.

Sam Guy wanted to know how new councillors would find the time and each respondent said they were aware of the workload that was expected.

Every member of the public we spoke with said they found the session useful although some said the responses didn’t necessarily change their opinion on who they would vote for on 2nd May.

Helen Glenn said it was a good chance to put names to faces and to find out why they wanted to stand. She said it helps with the general openness and transparency that’s needed on the islands.

18 islanders are standing for the 13 positions on St Mary’s.

Councillors seeking re-election are Ralph Banfield, Gordon Bilsborough, Roy Duncan, Amanda Martin, Dudley Mumford, Gaz O’Neill, David Pearson, Chris Thomas, Sheila Thomas and Fred Ticehurst.

New candidates Adrian Davis, James Francis, Louise Graham, Fran Grottick, Andy Guy, Avril Mumford, Mark Prebble and Steve Sims will join them on the ballot.

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