Election 2013: James Francis

Name: James Francis

Ward: St Mary’s

 

    • What, if any, changes would you like to see made to transport provision for the islands? What would you do to influence this if you were elected?

As suggested in my manifesto transport is one of my key concerns. I would like to do all that I can to provide an affordable, reliable, all year lifeline link for the islands that’s operating ability is secure well into the future. In the short term I would work diligently to ensure the installation of the EGNOS system and therefore improve the ability of our current aircraft to operate in adverse visibility. I would like to make every effort to support the essential work going on at the steamship co and our economic development department to guarantee the hardening of the runway at Lands End in time to make a difference next winter. Effort is also required to ensure that we are successful in attaining the capital funding required for improvements to our airport and runways and the quays at both Penzance and St Mary’s. I would also like to explore the possibility of having the ship available as backup to the aircraft through a considerable proportion of the winter. Whether this be on a reduced schedule basis or when necessity demands, it is important that, if we have a repeat of last winters’ weather, we are in a better position to provide the lifeline service that the Islands deserve. In the longer term I would like to make sure we have a viable replacement for the Scillonian to guarantee the integrity of our sea link from 2018 onwards and that we do our best to help our transport providers offer the same affordable fares that other island communities around are shores are able, with assistance, to offer. In short I want fairness for Scilly. Lastly I would not be against competition on our route, whether it be with a new Helicopter service or an additional fixed wing operation, it is simply healthier economically.

    • What are you views on how to tackle the waste issues on the islands? 

Firstly, I would like to see us dramatically improve the infrastructure for recycling. I believe that we are underserved when compared to most of the rest of the country in this area. Improving our ability to recycle would, no doubt, have significant positive effects economically, environmentally and in reducing waste build up. Obviously something has to be done about the Moorwell alp. Whether the solution is shipping in bulk to the mainland for disposal, locating a suitable landfill or finding a way to better destroy the waste, I would need to look carefully at the economic and environmental implications of all tabled proposals in order to make the right decision. Hopefully over this issue commonsense will lead the way.

    • Do you believe the Council needs to be more open with the local electorate? How will you personally influence this if you are elected? 

Vastly more open is the answer! Everyone living in the community knows how uneasy the relationship between council and the people has been for the last couple of years, over several different issues. For me so much of this has been due to lack of communication, lack of transparency and unfortunately, in some cases, a lack of honesty. Whilst there is blame in all quarters, I myself have struggled to try and improve communication over transport matters. I believe that had communication been better, there would have been far less fallouts and misunderstandings on this issue. Openness, communication and working together will create much better results when it comes to tacking the Islands key problems. If elected I would be happy to discuss any persons concerns over any issue important to them and I am a firm supporter of regular councillors surgeries.

    • The Council is facing a budget ‘black hole’ in the coming years. What are your top priorities for tackling this situation? 

I have alluded to the issue of tackling the Councils ‘budget black hole’ in my manifesto. Elected councillors will have to make a full appraisal of Council expenditures and where possible make the whole culture more streamlined and efficient. Nearly everyone I speak to can think of an example of Council expenditure that seems vastly excessive for what it delivers. If elected I would like to bring my experience of private sector business operations to the table and try and root out all expenditures that don’t make sense for Scilly. By seeking dispensations and challenging inapplicable operating procedures I’m sure we can go a long way towards, not only saving money, but redirecting it to areas that really matter for the Islands. I have real faith that this can be done without significantly affecting front line operations!

    • What do you feel is the biggest problem facing the islands? And what will you do, if elected, to try to tackle this issue? 

For me the greatest problem facing the Island is the recent decline in visitor numbers. Tourism is the foundation of our economy and its fate has such wide reaching implications on all other aspects of life in the community. Again, if elected, I would like to utilise experience in the industry to assist the Business partnership in dramatically improving our destination marketing. I would like to see the Council continue to support tourism financially, even though I’m aware that it is apparently not mandatory, and give as much logistical support and personnel time to the industry as is physically possible. Hopefully the Council can assist the community in meeting the challenges of today and ensure that we deliver a sustainable industry for future generations.

    • How involved should the Council be in funding tourism-related activities like the Tourist Information Centre? 

As stated in the my answer to the previous question, I believe the Council should play a role, partnering the private sector, in supporting tourism related activities especially the tourist information centre. It is important to note that a great deal of council revenue on Scilly (in the form of non-domestic ratings and Council tax), is generated by tourism related enterprise.

    • What do you feel makes you able to speak on behalf of the local electorate in Scilly as a Councillor? 

Again, my experience in our primary industry and my academic background in economics, I hope, will allow me to speak for the community on economic matters, most of us after all rely on it either directly or indirectly for our livelihoods. Socially I have been very involved with several of our Islands sports clubs and am actively involved in other local social institutions. This regularly exposes me to local opinions and concerns and I will be very prepared to listen to people and translate this at Council level. Having four generations of my family now living on Scilly I have a vested interest in the needs of all age groups not just the younger element, although it is perhaps most important to me.

    • If elected, how will you maintain contact with the local electorate? Will you hold regular surgeries or similar events? 

This subject has also been already mentioned. The answer is yes, I would attend regular Councillors surgeries and I would encourage more public consultations and forums. I am also very happy for people to contact me directly if they need to talk.

    • What has been your biggest achievement in life so far? 

My biggest achievement in life is without doubt our two children, (alright I had a little help from Ells), and I couldn’t be prouder of them. In business terms I would say that the development of the Star Castle is something that I take a lot of pride in. A good deal of credit must go to our long term staff, but I have enjoyed growing the business, achieving the 4 star rating and attaining some of our recent accolades. In sporting terms I have a few good memories but over recent years my greatest achievement is being one of only a handful of Cornish cricketers to be selected as a playing member of the M.C.C .

    • Do you believe the current composition of the Council, with thirteen elected St Mary’s representatives, and two for each of the off-islands, is correct? If not, what changes would you like to see? 

I believe that the off-islands certainly need representation but the mathematics of the situation would question whether they all need two. Based on population perhaps six representatives from the off-islands would suffice with fifteen being elected on St Mary’s. We would, however, have to achieve this without precluding anyone from standing if they so wished.

    • Do you believe Mundesley House should continue in its current form? If not, what changes would you like to see made? 

Honestly, I have to admit to not being fully aware of the situation surrounding Mundesley. I’m presuming that the question is aimed at whether or not it remains financially viable and whether it is still of valuable service to off-island children. I would have to be fully appraised of the facts in order to make an informed decision.