Election 2013: Marian Bennett

Name: Marian Bennett

Ward: Bryher

 

    • 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?

For future transport provision, I fully support the objectives of FRIST (Friends of Isles of Scilly Transport) which promotes the findings of the Council’s report ‘Isles of Scilly Transport: A Comparative Study of the Isles of Scilly and the Scottish Islands’ by campaigning for affordable, reliable, all year lifeline transport between Scilly and the mainland. I believe that transport is the key issue facing the islands, the community and the economy. The readiness of the Council to accept the Department for Transport’s edict that subsidy cannot be provided until there is ‘market failure’ is disheartening to those, like me, who are willing to stand and fight the corner for Scilly. (‘Market failure’ is defined by the Council as the transport operator ceasing business. I would contend that other island enterprises are likely to cease business before that happens and that affordability of transport is key to the general viability of the islands. Higher fares means fewer passengers and fewer passengers means higher fares and so on.

We are the only group of small islands in England (under 5000 population definition) and therefore a subsidy from the UK government would not set a precedent. Most small islands in the EU, if not all, are assisted with subsidised transport. Mainland areas in England, including remote rural communities, enjoy subsidised bus and train transport.

Locally, to date, there has been no serious work undertaken to cost a revenue subsidy – the transport provider naturally considers the information to be commercially sensitive in case of a future tendering process. For the government a revenue subsidy appears to be a policy of principle, although not a policy applied elsewhere.

In the short term I support

  • a trial winter subsidy 2013/14 for passenger sea service
  • necessary infrastructural proposals at both harbours;
  • hard surfacing runways at St. Mary’s and Land’s End airports;
  • discussions between the Steamship Group and DfT on the replacement vessel
  • ‘next steps’ surveys identified in the ‘Scottish report’

If Scilly is going to thrive we need a sound economy and for that we need a good affordable transport system. Clarity of purpose and strength to speak with a unified voice to government is essential. I would like to continue as a member of the Council’s Transport Committee and for any opportunity to speak up for Transport in the political arena. It appears that transport is an area where officers are determining policy. While I have to declare my interest in FRIST whenever speaking on transport issues, I believe this not to be as prejudicial an issue as having a financial interest in the Steamship Group like several existing Councillors. For more information of my involvement and interest in transport please visit the FRIST website on www.frist.org.uk and read the latest newsletter.

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

No response.

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

No response.

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

No response.

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

The biggest problem facing the islands is the decline in visitor numbers. It’s a fact of life that the islands are heavily based on tourism and most livelihoods are either directly or indirectly dependent on the health of the tourism economy. There are very few economic activities which stand alone – all the service trades, manufacturing, horticulture, fishing, etc are strongly related to tourism and, the community, without a strong enough economic base will be unable to afford not only direct investment into businesses and facilities, but will not continue on a scale which can justify adequate public services like health, education, etc. Places elsewhere with a sound economic base are recognisable by their high quality public realm, environment and public places (parks, toilets, shop fronts, etc). Without good employment prospects and sound Council tax base the appearance and attractiveness of Scilly could quickly deteriorate and look uncared for.

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

No response.

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

No response.

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

No response.

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

Normally I’m best when part of a team and I was the Bryher part of Colin Daly’s team which secured off-island electricity. But an achievement (apart from my two children and a long and happy marriage!) which I can claim as mine is the low-water jetty at Bar on Bryher which was the result of a long endeavour following a failed project with the army, and finally achieved through the Challenge Anneka television programme, and then realised with hard labour from Bryher people and financial input from the Duchy and many large mainland companies. It’s made a big difference to daily life on Bryher.

    • 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? 

The Council is possibly too large although there seems to be enough work for 21 Councillors. I should need to give the matter more thought but I think candidates should be answerable to the whole community and therefore elected by the total electorate. If off-islands were to have just one representative, it would be a huge amount of work if the system of having one island representative on each major committee was to continue. I tend to believe that all councillors should be responsible to all the islands.

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

I believe Mundesley is a valuable asset in educational and welfare terms for off-island youngsters, but the benefits (like activities and supervised homework) should also be accessible to St. Mary’s students. The closure of Mundesley would not save money – boating daily is costly and emergency accommodation would have to be provided on a fairly frequent basis. Plus there would be a need for extra transport for out-of-hours activities beyond the regular school boat service.