Councillors Approve New Economic Strategy For The Islands

hugh town housesCouncillors have approved the Ash Futures economic strategy for the islands, although they’ve called for more consultation with the public.

The report includes a long list of proposals, including upgrades to the islands’ water, sewerage and electrical infrastructure, new public transport options, better leisure facilities including a new pool and visitor centre and more use of electric vehicles.

The plan to build 120 new homes has also raised concern among some residents.

But at the Full Council meeting yesterday, senior managers stressed that accepting the report wouldn’t commit the authority to moving forward with any of the proposals at this stage.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough felt more time was needed to discuss the implications, including the sources of funding, before “rubberstamping” the strategy.

He’d counted a total of 102 actions involving the Council, with 39 needing money in the form of capital, 44 involving ongoing revenue costs and 19 where the funding was unknown.

But Council Chief Executive Theo Leisjer said it was “entirely wrong” to use the term “rubberstamp” because that wasn’t what was being done.

He said the strategy was a “framework” to allow the Council to “get hooks into future funding opportunities.”

And he said the majority of those actions wouldn’t be delivered by the local authority anyway, but by partners, stakeholders and businesses on the islands.

Cllr Ted Moulson, attending his first Council meeting since being elected last month, felt the strategy was just a guide to point Scilly in the right direction.

He added that if they didn’t accept a direction, then the islands would die. “We’ll get left behind on the scrap heap,” he said.

But Cllr Andy guy was keen for there to be more public consultation on the plans, admitting that even he wanted more information.

That feeling was echoed by Cllr Fran Grottick, who said she had an “awful feeling” that the people who voted for her in the community “don’t yet share the vision that’s on the table.”

She also pointed out some “glaring omissions” in the strategy, such as the cost of transport, which she described as the “elephant in the room” and absolutely essential to the tourist industry.

St Martin’s councillor Christine Savill felt the strategy was “very St Mary’s centred” and she didn’t want the off-islands to be forgotten. Christine said there was nothing on off-island housing and just one line on interisland boating.

Speaking bluntly, new Senior Manager for Finance Laura Roberts said there were enough elected members to be able to talk individually to everyone in the community – around 100 each. She said that should give a good view of what matters to everyone on the islands.

But Cllr Guy felt it wasn’t reasonable for the councillors to represent all the strong views out there.

And Cllr Grottick said the people she’d spoken to, “almost to a man and woman” were unhappy about the housing proposals.

Cllr Marian Bennett had concerns over the new Islands Futures group that’s being put in place to drive the strategy forward.

It will have representatives from the Duchy, Steamship Company, Islands’ Partnership, Wildlife Trust and Tresco Estate. They’ll also recruit two people from the islands’ business sector to join the group.

But Marian wanted to know how those people would be chosen and why the Islands’ Partnership couldn’t represent the views of businesses.

She also wanted to know why a new manager role would be created and why this couldn’t come from the “quite large” Economic Development team.

Senior Manager for Development Diana Mompoloki said it was a “group for the islands” and the IP doesn’t fulfil this role, because it has to cover everyone, and not just tourism-related businesses. She said choosing business representatives to sit on the group is “about flexibility, so we’re not seeing the usual subjects all the time.”

In the end, councillors voted to “receive” rather than “accept” the report, as had originally been proposed. They also approved plans to set up the new board and appointed the Chairman and Vice Chairman of Council, currently Cllrs Amanda Martin and Gaz O’Neill, to sit on it.

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Council Reshuffles Roles Follow Resignation

There have been some changes to Council appointments following the resignation of Cllr David Pearson.

He’s leaving the islands this month for a new life in Somerset.

Cllr Avril Mumford has been appointed to take on David’s old role as Lead Member for Children.

That’s the person in the Authority who’s responsible for ensuring that children’s welfare and safeguarding is highlighted.

Avril had been shadowing David for several months to ensure she understood what the role involved.

Cllr Fran Grottick, a former nurse and care worker, has been appointed as the new representative of the Council on the Cornwall NHS Foundation Trust.

Newly-elected councillor Ted Moulson will take up vacant seats on the Children and Young People and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committees, Children’s Trust Board and Planning and Development.

Cllr Christine Savill said David would “be leaving with his head held high” after creating a very good legacy at the Council, including excellent Ofsted inspections for Children’s Services.