Communication And Traffic Feature In First Chief Exec Meeting

Theo Leijser

Theo Leijser

The way the Council communicates with the public and the level of traffic in Hugh Town were two of the topics to feature in the first public meeting held by the new Chief Executive, Theo Leijser, together with the islands’ councillors last Wednesday.

Around 30 residents attended the session, which was described as ‘well attended’ by the Town Hall.

It’s the first of several meetings scheduled by the Chief Executive and Council Chairman across each of the islands.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Theo was keen to strike a new note in the Council, saying the local community should understand what the legal duty of the Authority was, and what they couldn’t do.

“The Council is not responsible for everything on the islands,” he said.

But in a surprise move, following complaints about the level of traffic on St Mary’s, Theo said he would “absolutely love” to ban cars from Scilly, allowing only some electric vehicles, as well as taxis, buses and emergency vehicles.

He said that had happened in the Friesian Islands, off the north coast of the Netherlands, with people cycling and sharing electric charging points.

Oriel Hicks asked how that could be achieved legally, while Cllr Gordon Bilsborough suggested the problem was actually far less than on the mainland, and people with mobility problems needed their vehicles.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin said in some Swiss towns, people have to pay to park their cars outside town and the money is used to provide regular, scheduled bus services.

She said that could hugely reduce the number of cars on our roads.

The way the Council communicates with the community came under scrutiny.

Amanda admitted that a key pledge before the last election, to hold more regular surgeries and meetings between councillors and the public, hadn’t actually happened.

Amanda felt in her own case, she was “quite accessible” and could easily be contacted by mail or phone.

But Cllr Fran Grottick said she felt “guilty” because it was on her election manifesto, but she’d never managed to arrange a meeting. Fran said she would try to do better.

Theo admitted that the Council was not good at communicating.

He was reviewing how they get their message over and it would get better over the next few weeks.

Amanda felt it was people’s civic responsibility to keep themselves informed.

She said there were notice boards, newsletters and a website for information and people couldn’t be “spoon-fed,” adding it’s “a two way thing.”

Cllr Bilsborough felt it was disappointing that only around 28 residents had attended this meeting, less than 2% of the adult total population on St Mary’s.

Councillors said they would try to hold similar meetings at least twice a year, probably in March and September.

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