Council Backs TIC Handover In Secret Debate

tourist information centre flagThe Council will hand over the TIC to a third-party contractor, ending the authority’s tourism role.

The decision was made behind closed doors at last night’s Planning and Development Committee meeting.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough was a lone voice in his call for the principles behind the outsourcing of TIC activities to be discussed in the open meeting, without revealing confidential material.

But viewers of the council website didn’t see Gordon’s request for a public debate. Unusually, the webcast cut off abruptly before the meeting ended. Radio Scilly was later told that was an accident by the operator and the unbroadcast footage will be added back on the website later.

Gordon felt holding a public debate was the right thing to do “in view of the disquiet that many islanders have expressed over the possibility of losing the TIC.”

He said the TIC does a good job and people are apprehensive about the future. He also called for public consultation on the proposals.

But Chairman Amanda Martin pointed out that any discussion on Council items that are exempt from the public was “a total breach of the members’ code of conduct.”

And she told Gordon that as the Chairman of the Standards Committee he “should well know it’s not a matter for discussion.”

The Council’s Legal Manager Richard Burraston, told members that the item would need to be taken in private because it could reveal the identity of employees, deals with industrial relations with staff and contained financial information. He said there was also legal advice that could jeopardise any future procurement.

Chairman of Planning, Gaz O’Neill stopped Gordon from speaking further, saying he’d been given an opportunity to comment.

Gordon argued that the members of the community had voiced their wish for public discussion on the TIC. But Gaz said members had been democratically elected to make the decision on behalf of the public.

He added that the authority had recently been reprimanded for data protection and said he was “personally unwilling to knowingly go down that route again.”

No other councillors supported Gordon’s proposal and the public were excluded from the meeting.

During the closed-door session, members agreed to hand over the TIC to a third party. If they can’t find an operator who meets their tender process requirements, the Council will keep it on and the service will be retendered.

The Planning Committee will need to ratify any appointment. Part of the contract agreement would be that the TIC will remain open to all businesses.

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