Council Delays Decision On Reducing Number Of Members

town hall 11

Councillors have deferred making a decision on reducing the number of elected members on each island after there was confusion about whether they actually need to make any changes.

The proposal to have just a single councillor on each off-island and 11 on St Mary’s, reducing the total from 22 to 15, was put forward at last week’s Full Council meeting.

Senior Officer Richard Burraston said it was likely that the Boundary Commission, the government body which looks into how people are represented, would review Scilly’s situation between now and 2021.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough, who supported the plans, said it would even up the number of electors per councillor and provide the possibility of increasing the annual allowance from the current £3,412 a year

That, he felt, would make the role more attractive for a wider cross section of the community, particularly those already in work.

Cllr Avril Mumford didn’t agree. She wanted to keep the two councillors for each off-island.

But Avril wanted to reduce the number on St Mary’s, saying they already had a problem getting members from that island to attend the chamber.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin agreed. She said off-island members attended better than St Mary’s members, although the Council’s own published figures from May to September this year show this isn’t actually the case.

Off-island councillors turned up on average for 75% of the meetings they were scheduled to attend, while that figure was almost identical for St Mary’s councillors, at 73%.

Cllr Mike Nelhams looked at the problem from a different view. He felt that with just 15 councillors, they’d have problems filling all of the committees.

But Cllr Chris Savill wanted more information about why the recommendation was being made and how the Boundary Commission would undertake any review.

Richard Burraston said the agency would come to the islands and consult with members and the public before making any decisions.

And he confirmed that if councillors didn’t make a recommendation, “it will be done to us” anyway.

That raised concerns for Cllr Marian Bennett, who felt any outside body wouldn’t understand the unique situation of the islands’ Council with it’s wide remit covering everything from water and the airport to social care.

And she was worried that raising councillor allowances would encourage someone on a low income to become a “professional politician.”

Cllr Richard McCarthy didn’t want to accept the report at all. He felt it was “divisive” and would “set island against island.”

He said the Boundary Commission was “a quango” and “why should they tell us how to represent our five very different communities?”

Richard felt the proposals were “a sledgehammer to crack a non-existent nut” although Cllr Gaz O’Neill disagreed, saying, “it’s not up to us – they are holding their sledgehammer over our nut.”

On further pressing, Richard Burraston said he hadn’t received any official notification from the Commission that they were planning to review electoral arrangements in Scilly, but that he had instigated a phone call with them to discuss the matter.

And Council Chairman Amanda Martin said Mr Burraston had done that on her request, “in light of what’s happening in Cornwall.”

Cllr Colin Daly warned against this. He said they should “let sleeping dogs lie” adding that the 80% turnout at the last election shows that people were “very engaged with the Council.”

But councillors agreed that they needed to consult with the community before any decisions or recommendations could be made.

They decided to defer any further discussions until the December Full Council meeting.



7 Responses to Council Delays Decision On Reducing Number Of Members

  1. John Wilkes October 7, 2015 at 11:21 am

    How long has Bryher been without a second councillor? I assume it’s because no-one is willing to take on the role; surely better to have one officially than two with one ‘permanently’ missing.

  2. Jenny G September 30, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I rarely laugh out loud. But really, fear of people on low incomes becoming professional politicians.
    I can’t believe this was said. Has this been reported correctly? From one of the poor people, who dares, just occasionally to put their head above the parapet.

  3. Nimis Non Est Satis September 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    I know it’s only statistics and someone will tell me that population size and the like makes this indeterminate but isn’t 75 bigger than 73? Also “almost identical”? is that the same as “similar” or “not the same”

    • Gordon Bilsborough September 30, 2015 at 5:17 pm

      Before anyone jumps on my back, I would like to correct a minor error in the above debate report that I advocated that part of the savings resulting from reducing the number of Members could be used to increase their basic allowances. That suggestion was in para. 3.5 of the Officer’s report to the Council on Member Representation. It was not my idea.

      I agree with the Council’s almost unanimous decision that the matter be deferred until its December meeting to allow adequate public consultation.

      • Chargepayer October 1, 2015 at 12:11 am

        The notion of deferring until later in the year is all well and good unless of course your chairman makes another of her unanimous decisions in the
        meantime!

  4. Chargepayer September 30, 2015 at 8:36 am

    Who authorised the chairman to instigate an approach to the commission? Where was the mandate from her peers? Officers follow instructions that have the sanction of council why did he not establish that he had proper authority to make the approach? The chairman is not omnipotent.

  5. D. Despot September 30, 2015 at 7:39 am

    Did no one else know Queen Bee was directing operations from the centre of her hive? Openness and transparency? Pah!