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.

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