Councillors Back Chairman Of Scilly’s Finance Committee

Cllr Steve Sims

Cllr Steve Sims

Councillors have backed Steve Sims as Chairman of the Finance, Audit and Scrutiny Committee during a meeting called to discuss whether he should resign that position.

Six members called for a debate over him continuing in the role.

Their reason had not been made public until yesterday’s session, but during that meeting, both Cllr Sims and Cllr Adrian Davies revealed the issue surrounds Cllr Sims’ recent driving ban.

In August, Steve pleaded guilty to several counts of failing to maintain the community bus in a road worthy condition.

The committee that Cllr Sims chairs also deals with standards or councillor conduct issues and some members thought it inappropriate that he should continue in that role following his court appearance.

Cllr Gordon Bilsborough, who had been one of the six letter signatories calling for the meeting, said that he had since changed his mind.

On reflection, he said he didn’t believe that the Council’s code of conduct could be applied to events in a councillor’s private life.

Cllr Richard McCarthy added that, if Steve had been chair of the Transport committee, then that would have created a conflict.

It was Cllr Christine Savill who voiced the strongest support for Cllr Sims, stating her belief that he was “well able to continue” and pointing out that the Chairman and Chief Executive had received no complaint letters following the court case.

But Cllr Adrian Davis, who signed the letter calling for the meeting, couldn’t accept that.

He claimed there had been significant community concern and that the Council had signed up to Lord Nolan’s seven principles for conduct in public life, separate to the Council’s code of conduct.

Adrian said that Scilly’s Council has added three additional guidelines for members, which included “upholding the law” and “acting in accordance with the trust placed in them.”

He said he felt it was his “duty” to start the debate and it was not a personal attack on Steve Sims but “a matter of principle.”

Cllr Davis felt the community had a right to know how members felt on the matter as he alleged that Cllr Sims’ action “had put the community in danger.”

But Christine Savill wasn’t having that. She said she’d not seen such a “negative and unfruitful” agenda item in all her time as a member.

Christine said it was wasting officers’ time and wouldn’t benefit the community or the Council.

She suggested that the special meeting had created division between members and could “tarnish” the Council’s reputation.

Cllr Fran Grottick, another of the six councillors to sign the letter, challenged that. Fran said not tackling the issue would do more damage to the Council.

Some members weren’t impressed that two of the six councillors who had requested the special meeting were absent.

Cllr Savill said they had “negated their responsibilities” while Cllr Gaz O’Neill felt it was “wholly inappropriate” to have the discussion without them claiming, “all bets are off.”

In a statement Steve Sims apologised and said he wanted to continue as the Finance Committee Chairman but would hand over any standards issues to another member to deal with.

Fran Grottick said that was positive but she was uncertain how the role could work, as standards was part of the committee chairman’s remit.

In the end Cllr Sims won the support of members after Cllr Savill proposed a vote to endorse him. That was passed with six votes. Three members who had signed the letter abstained.