Councillors Voice Concerns Over Restructuring

town hall 4Scilly’s Council has never been so officer-led.

That’s the view of Cllr Marian Bennett. The Bryher member, who has served on the authority since 1983, says she’s never known elected members to have so little say about Council decisions.

Marian, along with other councillors, has voiced concern about the ongoing restructuring process.

This week it has been revealed that there have been more changes within the top table of senior officers.

Back in April, councillors approved the creation of five new Senior Manager positions.

Diana Mompoloki was appointed as Senior Manager for Strategic Development, a role that included responsibility for planning. Former Chief Planning Officer Craig Dryden was moved to the position of Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Assets.

This gave Craig oversight of the islands’ water and waste, highways, airport and fire service.

But in another apparent U-turn by the Council, Craig has now picked up responsibility for planning again. His title has changed to the Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Planning.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough says he can’t recall members being consulted over this latest change to one of the authority’s most senior roles.

The new job title has been discussed in informal private meetings, but Gordon can’t recall any decision being made in those closed sessions. That would be illegal.

Marian says she’s concerned that there are now too many informal meetings between staff and members, out of the public’s view.

And Cllr Bennett says the new senior role could present “too much to take on.”

She says “water and sewerage needs technical expertise at the top” and sharing the planning officer and infrastructure responsibilities in one post is a stretch for anyone.

Gordon also feels that this wide remit represents a “big role for any officer.”

Former Council Chairman Christine Savill feels that it “makes sense” putting the experienced, former Chief Planning officer back into that position.

Christine was concerned that the Council structure put in place by Theo Leisjer in April had the head of Economic Development overseeing planning.

Chris felt that could bring conflict of interest issues.

It is unclear whether Mrs Mompoloki’s position will change having relinquished some of her former responsibilities. The Council wouldn’t tell us.

It’s also unclear why this has taken place so soon after being introduced.

The Council did not answer our questions, sent last week, about the changes.

Instead, they said they were still going through a reshaping process and were “using the staff consultation period to refine that process.”

Cllr Savill feels the Chief Executive has the power to make changes as part of his role. She’s urging members to voice any of their concerns at next Monday’s Full Council meeting, where the restructuring will be discussed.

But Gordon says there are other members who are unhappy about what’s happening.

He wants Monday’s agenda item on restructuring to be held in public because there’s so much interest in it. Most of that part of the meeting, however, will be held behind closed doors.

Radio Scilly formally requested a copy of the current council staff structure. The government says this should be published on the website and that ratepayers have a right to see it.

But instead, the Council press officer said that our enquiry would be dealt with as a Freedom of Information request, even though we hadn’t asked for the list of positions and responsibilities using that Act.

That means there could be a delay in getting the information, because the Council have up to 20 working days to answer an FOI request.

15 Responses to Councillors Voice Concerns Over Restructuring

  1. Ray Wornes July 24, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Mike Knight you seem to have enjoyed misunderstanding the case I have made and inventing arguments that aren’t relevant so just what is your real beef? I view your criticisms as uninformed. Don’t be silly, of course I know the breadth of the Chief Technical Officer’s job but there are many able helpers which is why they are slimming down the workforce. Not at my request by the way. Your also wrong because I know what those qualifications would cost the Council because I have most of them in my own family. Your wrong again accommodation is not a problem in a location with loads of lets. And by the way your also wrong I have never criticised Diana as she has always tried to be helpful and pleasant to me. You don’t understand transport either which after spending tens of millions will probably not provide any better or different services like those I have been asking for for around 2 years or cost much less even with a subsidy. You obviously don’t know much do you? Please go back to Facebook because for the first time ever this Scilly Today site has given everyone in this isolated community “free speech” and at least some chance of a say in what goes on in the Council so don’t ruin it with unfair criticisms for all those who have never before had a say in this private business and Council Officer dominated community. Wrong again this is the voice of ordinary people speaking and not Scilly Today as you imply. Why do you think I’m so concerned and asking for these changes now? It’s because it’s vital to ask now when all the changes are taking place. I gave up long ago trusting in this Council to deliver without telling them what is needed. This is how democracy is supposed to work!!! You don’t have to read our comments, it’s a free country. Or are you Mike Knight just trying to shut us all up for a reason? Please tell us.

    • Madley Blower July 24, 2014 at 3:45 pm

      If I may chime in Ray.

      You say, “Please go back to Facebook because for the first time ever this Scilly Today site has given everyone in this isolated community “free speech” and at least some chance of a say in what goes on in the Council so don’t ruin it with unfair criticisms for all those who have never before had a say in this private business and Council Officer dominated community”

      Unfortunately you are wrong here. Scilly Today are not some sort of ground breaking, social networking entrepreneurs, they are just journalists with the added benefit of allowing comments to be made on articles. It can be moderated to suit their legal side of the argument and/or to suit them personally, so the freedom of speech point you made doesn’t really come into it (cue edit………………………………nope, we’re good).

      Facebook, on the other hand (and other social forums) allow you to say pretty much whatever you like and with a lot more ears listening and eyes watching because of it’s popularity in the world. In fact, I notice that you are not on Facebook (yeah, I searched) so maybe YOU’RE missing out on an important part of modern society to communicate with the masses on issues that affect us all.

      Let’s face it, the council will not respond to anyone’s issues here anyway, so most of the comments made here are pretty pointless in the sense of them making any real difference to the community.

  2. Mike Knight July 23, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    So you want a specifically trained or experienced chief officer to sort out waste recycling, even though his or herr experience of doing so for a mainland authority would probably be no use to him in the context of doing the same job, with a fraction of the resources, on an island!

    Say for example you did find such a person, do you think a wage of £58k a year would entice him to the islands, bearing in mind we have very limited and highly expensive properties and living costs? Do you think that if they read this forum that any such professional would agree to come to the islands at the moment? Uproot their family, take a hit in their pocket, and live in constant fear of Members and the media making their life hell on the internet?

    You really have no idea of the vast scope of the formerly Chief Technical Officr position. As ever, you simply fail to understand the position. I think the level of paranoia in some of you is scary, why do you think this Council is cause for so much concern? The roads are being done, the airports are being done, talks are happening in Westminster over subsidies, healthcare arrangements are improving, the waste situation is being solved, and fibre optic broadband is being installed as we speak, this is all happening within the first 8 months of him being in charge. 8 months to undo 20 odd years of damage.

    Aside from make your dinner at night, feed you, and tuck you in, what else can this council do for you? It’s a real shame some of you became computer-literate and it’ll be ironic that you’ll continue to hammer Diana using the improved internet link she negotiated with BT.

    Where are the stories that really make the community tick? I’m on Facebook and I seldom hear the public complain about the Council now. Why don’t Scilly Today pick a fight with the Coop or the Steamship Company and actually try to do something useful for this community?

  3. Ray Wornes July 23, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Considering the experience of the past 30 years and after volunteering to sit on the waste forum I expected a fresh start with a highly qualified Technical Officer. That person’s experience would be in very high percentage recycling and with technical qualifications in toxicology, environmental protection and a willingness to track down and deal with fly tipping in this previously poorly protected and managed environment of Scilly. All that has happened is that the Officers appear to be playing musical chairs and appointing people, some of whom I would consider are inappropriate to run the Council’s new waste operation. If it has been decided to shunt waste off into the private sector then we can kiss a really high performance recycling system goodbye. Are we to continue to be embarrassed in front of visitors with a low level waste operation we can only feel ashamed of? Of course water and sewerage also needs that same level of expertise too. This whole process fills me with dread of what may be the final outcome which is looking more and more like another Officer led environmental disaster. Councillors may have to consider calling time on the new CEO’s staff reorganisation if we do not seem to be making constructive progress based upon appointing people with much higher and more relevant qualifications. If the business sector with Ash plans and LEP and LAG funding is let loose to range free in this whole process then there will be no future for Scilly eco tourism. Clean up the toxic mess.

  4. Jenny. July 23, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Interesting view point Councillor Sims. Do we now pay doctor, teachers, firemen and policemen by how much money they have saved the public purse. Pay a policeman a percentage of the cost of a drug bust and a fire man a percentage of how much property they saved from going up in flames.

    • Steve Sims July 24, 2014 at 12:00 am

      I clearly wasn’t suggesting what you are implying. What I am saying is that Diana is an extremely capable professional who has brought an enormous amount of money into the Islands and people should give this some comtext.

  5. Johnboy July 23, 2014 at 10:47 am

    With all the goings on at the moment it beggars the question ,just who is running The Council of the isles of Scilly.
    We have a chief exetutive, who I believe has never worked directely for a local authority, who seems to find it difficult to grasp the demorcratic concept of rule by committee, and a group of councillors who are content to let it go on unhindered.
    Isn’t it about time that the councillors stand up and do what they are elected to do, that is to serve the best interests of the whole of the residents of these islands.
    My worry is we brought in Barry Keel to do a job t then brought in someone else who deems it is in the best interest to change it all. If in say five years time this chief executive decides it’s time to move on then do we bring in someone else who may want to alter everthing again.
    We need to make sure that any change is not for changes sake but to make things better, at the moment I am not convinced.

    • Mark Prebble July 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      So the questions that perhaps underlies this are:
      Does the Chair of the Council have confidence in the executive to deliver savings and a service that the communty expects and does The Chair have the support of our democratically elected members?

  6. Steve Sims July 23, 2014 at 12:47 am

    Perhaps Mrs Mompoloki should have worked on a 5% commission then she could have retired on the £1,500,000 she would have quite reasonably earned.

    • Adam Morton July 23, 2014 at 9:28 am

      And that is supposed to mean what exactly, Steve? That officers have the right to skim off 5% of taxpayers investment and that we should be grateful that they accept a generous salary instead?

      • Steve Sims July 23, 2014 at 11:40 am

        Hardly Adam. its simpler than that.People should be appreciated for the the contribution that they make. Most if not all of the big capital projects of the last 6 years would not have happened at all or would have been much diminished without Diana’s input.

        • Adam Morton July 24, 2014 at 10:53 am

          Steve, You suggested that her input could be worth as much as £1.5m so therefor whatever salary was taken, was good value for which we should be grateful!As far as appreciation goes it depends where you interests are . These projects are predominantly on St.Marys and will mainly benefit its residents if any. I do not think it unreasonable to request something beneficial to the off islands and the pages of Scilly Today are the only channels we have! At the transport meeting it was made clear that capital for these projects was instead of subsidy.Who decided this? This was supported by the CEOs request at the London meeting for capital for these projects against subsidy!
          Naturally this is in the LAs interest to get investment in its areas of responsibility but this does not mean that these areas are the most pressing or offering the best value for money. To which end I do not appreciate actions that are counter productive to my interests!I don’t expect anyone to take any notice but I object to being told than £30m is being spent on my behalf!
          If there was no money to be had then fair enough but there is no reason that off islands should not be entitled to proportional benefits of taxpayers money to which they contribute on an equal basis.
          Just who exactly is it that decides that a new library and TIC center is more pressing than the drains that are constantly used as the excuse for turning down planning applications from certain businesses?
          Who decides that upgraded quay & airport terminals for a decreasing number of people are more important than new vessels? We constantly hear how there is no funding in place for these things yet at the drop of a hat the Council asks for double the money for road resurfacing!

          • scillyfan July 24, 2014 at 11:49 am

            Adam Morton – are you seriously suggesting that the quay, airport, library and TIC are not of benefit to off islanders? Confused … Yes they are on St. Mary’s (because if would be ridiculous if they weren’t) but they benefit every single off islander just as much as any St Mary’s resident.

          • Steve Sims July 24, 2014 at 12:11 pm

            Some good points Adam. The situation is pretty well as you pointed out, the council has almost no assets on the Off Islands and therefore can’t source funding to improve the nonexistent assets, roads being a case in point. I think that this is an area which should be rigorously addressed, but it would have to be in partnership with the Duchy, the Off Island communities and the LA. Usefully the current round of LEP funding is vectored to this type of thing.

            I think you have a strong argument that the focus has been too orientated to St Mary’s, but in saying all of the St Mary’s infrastructure projects were vital and had (and still have to) be done.

            Send me a wish list.

  7. yet another islander July 22, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    Oh dear, seems like we have made no progress at all, truth is I reckon we’re going backwards. All these changes, costing a small fortune, for what? Officers making the decisions in informal meetings with who? Which councillors are going along with the officers and not respecting democracy? Officers jobs changing at a whim and those we’ve given our vote being kept in the dark. Will Mrs Mompoloki have a pay cut to go with her reduced work load, seems only fair considering that all the other staff are at threat.
    What the heck happened to Honesty, ethics, accountability, respect and transparency? Come on Chairman tell us what’s going on, things aren’t seeming too transparent anymore.