Key Worker Policy ‘Fundamentally Flawed’ Admit Councillors

town hall 4Councillors have admitted that the authority’s key worker policy isn’t fit for purpose, but it’s the best they have.

The Council has a panel that decides who is awarded that status and it allows those people to occupy properties specifically restricted for those workers.

The Council’s position was made clear following a question at last night’s public meeting in the Wesleyan Chapel, attended by around 50 locals.

Restaurant owner Juliet May wanted to know who was defined as a key worker and why contributors to the local economy, such as catering staff, weren’t included.

Cllr Gaz O’Neill, also a café owner, said he’d had several “fights” with senior manager Craig Dryden over this.

Craig accepted that the issue was emotive.

He said he had worked with the policy for 11 years but suggested that if a business needs staff, they should be responsible for housing them.

Craig said the criteria do get reassessed regularly because it is a “moveable feast.”

“We’ve had a need for plumbers one year, and a glut of them the next,” he explained.

But Gaz O’Neill felt that a policy based on demand could prove tricky.

“If you need a plasterer, he’s a key worker,” he said.

And Gaz said when you assess which jobs are important, the list can get longer and longer and “all of a sudden the whole island population is on it.”

He described the system as “fundamentally flawed” and said there was a “total lack of consistency at best” in awarding key worker status.

“What we have at present is not suitable,” he added.

Council Chairman Amanda Martin felt it was also dependent on the type of accommodation on offer at any time.

Those on higher wages could only afford some larger properties that are restricted to key workers.

And she questioned why the Council had to take responsibility when other organisations like the NHS had sold off their nurses’ accommodation on the islands, which Amanda said housed three staff.

“It makes you wonder where the moral responsibility is,” she said.

Amanda also wanted people to let the Council know when their key worker status was no longer relevant, so they could give up their accommodation for other people.

She claimed that people were, “not very good at coming forward and telling us when it no longer applies” and, “if everybody played by the rules we’d be fine.”

St Mary’s resident and former councillor Mary Cleveland felt that well paid Council staff moving to the area should only get six months as a key worker before having to buy their own property, even if that meant selling a mainland residence to fund it.

That’s what happened when she worked in local government in Dorset.

But Cllr Steve Sims argued against that because he said it could dissuade job applicants and he feels it is hard enough to get people to move here for work.

Chief Executive Theo Leisjer confirmed that no Council staff get free housing from the authority.

They pay the market rent and the properties offered to them are a separate pool from the Council housing stock.