Election 2013: Louise Graham

Name: Louise Graham

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?

This is a really key issue for the Islands now and I believe public discussion is needed to explore all the possibilities and requirements of Islanders and our visitors. My own views, however, are as follows:

Ideally the Islands require an all year round faster boat service with two sailings a day during the season. One early sailing for day visitors and a second at around midday or the early afternoon for longer-term visitors. This would give day trippers more value for money and enable them to explore further afield than Hugh Town. It would provide longer term visitors travelling from further away a more convenient time of sailing to and from the Islands. Potentially the most sustainable solution. In addition to the current Skybus service I also believe that a year round helicopter service is needed both as a life-line for local people, especially the elderly and for more elderly visitors or those who are adverse to small fixed wing aircraft or sailing. The last winter has shown just how vulnerable we all are without the helicopter service. A tarmac runway at Lands End would improve matters to a certain extent, but fog and high winds still present problems for fixed wing aircraft.

I am a member of FRIST but believe with the current absence of public funding we need to develop strategies for developing and implementing an innovative sustainable transport system as a community. This strategy would, hopefully, offer Islanders and visitors value for money, choice and all year round options and might even include public ownership option?

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

Waste – Another key issue and one which requires much longer discussion and debate within the community. An area which I have had some practical experience in as Waste Awareness Officer for 2 years in Norfolk. I would propose and assist in the setting up of a Community Waste Action Group. This would incorporate all sectors of the community as stakeholders including relevant officers and members of the council. The group would draw on the advice of waste professionals such as SLR, independent waste information providers such as Waste Watch, national government bodies and the experience and successes of other communities to develop a waste strategy which is both economically and environmentally sustainable and acceptable to the majority. The AONB public consultation which took place in 2004/5 showed that over 90% of the community expressed a wish to recycle more and wanted the council to facilitate this. As of 2013 the SLR report shows that the Islands recycling record is far below that of the national average and that required to conform with EU legislation.

There seems to have been an arrogant, deliberate and blatant disregard on behalf of the council for any form of public consultation on the development of the Waste Management Strategy/Plan presented by SLR. This is totally unacceptable and has led to the problems now faced in implementing the plan including opposition from local people and the threat of losing funding from central government.

A co-ordinated strategy would include waste awareness initiatives and a plan to implement a waste hierarchy for the Islands. This might involve:
• a strategy for disposing of the existing ‘Moorwell Alp in a safe and professional manner without merely redistributing it around the Island.
• action for reducing, re-using, up-cycling, recycling and buying recycled products.
• making full and efficient use of the recycling equipment already bought through AONB and RDA funding, especially the ‘in-vessel composter’
• setting up ‘kerb-side’ collection for house-holders
• looking at ‘on-farm’ composting initiatives
• setting up ‘re-made’ work-shop/business
• providing comprehensive, up-to-date and appropriate training for operatives at Moorwell as required.
• Creating an ‘Environmental Officer’ post to implement, manage and monitor the effectiveness of the waste management plan and other environmental issues..
We have the potential on these Islands to become a beacon community for waste management. We are small enough to be able to involve the whole community in developing an innovative, sustainable, socially and environmentally acceptable system for managing our waste which can provide employment, is economical, self-sufficient and healthier for the people and the environment.

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

Yes, I definitely believe the Council needs to be more open with the local electorate. Accountability and transparency is at the heart of green politics. Again, I would ask the community what they would like to see happen and will do my best to facilitate change.

• Personally, if elected I would set up fortnightly surgeries for discussion/dialogue with the electorate.
• Organise more open forum (like the HEART meetings) for discussion on specific topics with councillors and officers.
• Enable Meaningful public consultation to INFORM strategy development.
• Hold public referendum on major issues.
• Encourage more public attendance at council meetings
• Scrutinise the legitimacy of holding ‘closed or secret’ meetings.
• Ensure the Freedom of Information Act is implemented efficiently, fairly and honestly.
• Improve general communication between council and community i.e monthly newsletter etc.
• Encourage and support the setting up of community groups to provide a forum for discussion and action on issues such as waste, water, sewage, transport, tourism and care for the elderly.

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

This again is a huge issue and requires considerable consultation and discussion with input from the whole community including council workers and is not something that can be answered with a two minute sound-bite. My preferred solution is to cut council expenditure without cutting services to the public by improving the efficiency of service delivery, improving revenue from existing council assets, and adopting ‘greener’ environmental policies. I feel that some examination of the accounts would show there are some quite basic and common sense ‘house-keeping’ issues which could enable significant savings to be made whilst actually increasing the efficiency of service provision.

A simple solution as suggested by Steve Sims at the meeting is to cull the expensive salaries of the Executive officers. From my experience it is the foot soldiers of the council work force who actually do the work anyway. These are the people who need to be engaged in the process of identifying where savings can and need to be made. A number of highly paid ‘new’ posts seem have been created within the council over the past few years, with it would appear little input or consultation with council members. I would also like to see a more accountable recruitment and appointment policy developed by the council and monitored by members.

This is an area where council workers, department managers and council members need to work together in order to ensure they are serving the interests of the whole community. Members also need to take a more proactive interest in financial decision making by scrutinising budgets, examining council expenditure and identifying in public consultation the priorities for spending in the future. The Finance Department needs to be rationalised and made more accountable to members and the public with easily accessed information provided in a simple and easily understood format.

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

Biggest Issue? Its not that simple – everything is inter-connected. Whether we farm, fish or are involved in the tourism business we are, I believe facing one of the most challenging times in the Islands history.Our economy and infrastructure are failing and grant funding is drying/has dried up. There are a number of problems facing the Islands and some of these have already been discussed above.
We need as a community to come up with sustainable, long-term solutions to ensure the Islands future. The Islands people and its unique environment are key to a thriving, healthy and happy future and we all need to work together for the common good.
• Sustainable transport
• Sustainable management, development and diversification of the economy
• Sustainable management of our resources and environment, water waste and sewage
• We need to provide appropriate and individualised care and support for the elderly and their carers.
• Affordable housing for local people especially single people
• Provision of and access to appropriate health care
• An improvement in participation and cooperative working between all sections of the community to achieve the above.
• Improved access to training and education for all
• Strong, informed and forward looking council
• Professional and experienced public servants (with proven track records) in key positions

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

This question requires public debate and discussion of the issues which are too complex to discuss in any meaningful way in this forum. In the past the council have done a pretty good job of managing the TIC given the rapid changing economic environment and changes in peoples expectations, the current situation is not ideal. As the entire Island economy is based on tourism however, I feel the council has to be involved at some level. It also remains to be seen how effective the new Island Partnership will be in engaging the community and delivering a service which is truly representative of all stakeholders.

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

I have lived here for long enough as a member of the community to have an understanding of the issues facing us all and considerable relevant experience through my education, working and personal life. As a founding member of HEART I am aware of the particular issues regarding the council structure and modus operandi that concern local people and feel motivated to speak on their behalf if elected as a councillor. I am a good listener and am prepared to stand up and speak out against injustice and in defence of those who feel they do not have a voice of their own. I have had experience of working in partnership with county and local councils both here and on the mainland and understand the importance of adhering to protocols and procedures. I believe in the principles of honesty, ethics, accountability, respect and transparency and try hard to be the change I want to see in the world. I have an analytical and questioning mind with a healthy suspicion of anyone who tells me to do something just because ‘it’s a legal requirement’! I believe in the concept of public service, the principles of democracy and people power.

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

Answered above in Q3

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

There are two main achievements in my life so far. My daughter, Nathalie and managing to care for my Mum at home for so long.

    • 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? 

Personally no, I am more in favour of proportional representation. But this issue requires considerable public discussion, debate and a referendum to decide on what changes should be made.

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

Again this issue requires the community and main stakeholders to hold informed discussion and debate before changes are made to the existing arrangement.