Plans For Radical Restructure Of Scilly’s Council Rejected

Old Wesleyan Chapel

Councillors have rejected a plan to restructure Scilly’s Council, which would have seen most of the existing committees being abolished and replaced by monthly Full Council meetings.

They’ve asked for more detailed plans to be brought back for review following the election of new members in May.

The proposals put forward by the Council’s Democratic Review Panel recommended dissolving all committees not required by law to sit separately and instead take decisions at Full Council, under a single elected Chairman.

Committees under threat included the Children’s Committee, Community Services, Health Overview and Scrutiny, Planning, the Transport, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee and the Finance, Audit and Scrutiny Committee.

Monitoring Officer Richard Williams told members that removing these, with consequent savings on payments to their Chairmen and Vice Chairmen, would save the authority up to £43,000 a year.

That figure also included a reduction in the number of councillors from the current 21 to 16, which has been imposed by the Boundaries Commission.

But at last week’s full Council meeting, several members felt the restructuring was being rushed through before election of a new Council in May.

Cllr Fran Grottick called the proposal, “a work in progress” and said it needed, “a lot more fleshing out.”

Fran said it was also, “presumptuous to set in stone the working arrangements for a new council.”

She proposed allowing the newly elected members to decide on their preferred structure once they’re in place after the May elections.

Cllr Gaz O’Neill seconded the proposal, saying that he was, “not remotely comfortable, at the eleventh hour, rushing through a monumental decision that will have a huge impact on the new authority.”

He also said the reasons presented for the restructuring didn’t “stack up” and that while councillors were being told there would be financial savings, it wasn’t clear what those would actually be.

And Gaz questioned the argument that restructuring was required, due to the reduced numbers of councillors after the May elections, when the authority had “been functioning with reduced numbers for years.”

But Vice Chairman Steve Sims, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of the Chairman Amanda Martin, said if the decision was left to the new council, “it will be three years before anything happens” and “we are, in the whole world, the experts on the best way of running the Council.”

Cllr Christine Savill expressed a similar view, saying the new council will have, “much more important things to do.”

Christine felt the proposals would ensure the Off-Islands wouldn’t be disenfranchised when their representation is reduced to a single councillor on each after May.

She said these members couldn’t be expected to sit on every committee. “What is wrong with all members of council taking all decisions?” asked Christine.

But not all Off-Island councillors agreed with that view. Cllr Lady Berkeley, representing Bryher, felt many of the big successes achieved on the Off-Islands, such as new social housing, had come about because individual committees and their chairmen had worked hard toward them.

“How will that be achieved in future?” asked Marian. “Will it all be down to the Chairman of Council? It won’t happen.”

And St Martin’s councillor, Colin Daly, said it was “arrogant” for the retiring council to impose a new structure on the incoming one.

Colin said the plans weren’t clear with no standing orders being presented for the new enlarged Full Council.

In the end, councillors voted by nine votes to eight to delay a decision on the proposals until more information is made available, most likely following the elections in May.

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