Falklands : JOHN BIRMINGHAM’S MANIFESTO SPEECH
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 11.06.2011 (Article Archived on 25.06.2011)
I am married to Louise; I have 2 children and one grandchild. I first came to the Falkland Islands in 1974 to work in the Camp but have lived in Stanley for the last 22 years.
JOHN BIRMINGHAM’S MANIFESTO SPEECH
“My name is John Birmingham. I am married to Louise; I have 2 children and one grandchild. I first came to the Falkland Islands in 1974 to work in the Camp but have lived in Stanley for the last 22 years. I like to be involved in local affairs and so I am standing in this Stanley by-election to the Assembly because I believe I have something to offer.
Whoever is voted in on the 23rd of June will be joining a Council that has already made the major policy decisions for this term. There are, however, issues that I am interested in that I believe make me suitable to represent you, the electorate.
Every candidate has had his or her view on our hostile neighbour. I believe the current Legislative Assembly are doing a good job both in spreading the Falkland Islands’ story overseas and, at the same time, not over-reacting to every petty provocation by the current Argentine Government.
If elected, I will support the continuation of the policy of robustly defending the Falklands whenever and wherever possible.
Although I am interested in and have had experience representing the Islands abroad, I believe this election is about current, local issues.
We have just had the government’s second budget. There has been some back-slapping because of the agreement to a balanced budget but the fact is that this is due to a continuation of previously planned policy to move to a balanced budget; very much aided by the windfall coming from oil exploration. However, this cannot be relied upon in the future. The next 12 months will show whether there is any possibility of oil development in or around the Islands.
The tax rises over the last two years have hurt the lower-paid far more than those in the higher income brackets. The lowering of the tax threshold, the taxing of family allowances and the new medical tax – not a penny of which goes into increasing the medical Department’s budget – have in no way been made up by a cost of living award of 3% made to Falkland Islands’ Government Employees – and to some other employees. How can it be right that electricity, which we all need, goes up by 2p per unit and yet alcohol gets no duty rise at all? People on fixed incomes and not only pensioners, are feeling the pinch.
The economy needs to grow and if elected I would support the continued existence of a development organisation but one that, if using tax payer’s money, is then accountable for that money spent to Government. I am pleased there is a review currently being carried out of the Development Corporation.
More work is needed to persuade fishing companies to bring economic activity onshore. I assume that’s the reason for the Rolls Royce container park close to FIPASS. An important aspect of development in the Falklands has surely got to be a new port. On whose desk is this project sitting at the moment? I’ve heard there’s work being done on import substitution and it’s hard to disagree with the idea. But would it not also be a good idea to have an open debate involving all parties very much including those existing producers who are currently supplying fresh produce to enable those with experience of local conditions to increase production? The cost of producing anything here is high.
I have always supported privatisation where it’s in the public interest but would not support privatisation of key strategic assets such as electrical supply and water treatment and supply.
The Medical Department, despite being staffed by hard-working professionals is, as usual, stretched. I find it quite disconcerting that over £150,000.00 has been spent on recruitment of a Senior Medical Officer. The costs of and recruitment of Staff has to be seriously looked at.
Some years ago I put forward the idea that the Falkland Islands Government could support the running of a small to medium sized guest house situated appropriately for convenient access to various hospital trusts dealt with by the Falkland Islands Government. At present we spend an enormous amount of money on accommodating people waiting for appointments and recuperating in the UK. I think it’s time to reconsider this idea. And any spare capacity could be filled by any other traveller.
Twenty months ago there was a design and the money was allocated not only for electric doors but also a safer entrance to the hospital. What happened? If elected, I would make sure that this project is revisited.
Although no longer having children in the schools here I am still interested in education and am puzzled by the decision to combine the assistant director’s post with that of the head of the Falkland Islands Community School; in effect creating a part-time Head Teacher, despite the almost total opposition from the entire teaching profession. What gain is there? By the time this person is found and in post and at what cost, the architect of this idea is likely to have departed. The school needs a period of stability. I believe it’s not too late to change and to recruit a full-time Head Master.
If elected one of the areas I would try to sort out in the Education Department is the apparent unfairness whereby some staff can have time out but not others. This can’t be allowed to continue.
I have always been interested in housing and having been involved as far back as the East Stanley Project, I was very active in the setting up of Mink Park. If elected I will seek to revisit the possible selling off of older Government properties including the single units to genuine first-time buyers and would use the monies raised to build more. Young people are still finding it difficult to get on to the housing ladder.
Everyone has an opinion on roads and their maintenance. I am no different. I chaired the TAC two years ago and asked for a paper to be brought to the Transport Advisory Committee. It was entitled “Roads to Non-agricultural Destinations.” That was to be the basis of a discussion about areas that at present fell outside the funding remit. If accepted it would have been possible to assist not only the outer islands, which after all have not benefited from any road construction at all, but also the possible assistance to tourist destinations, not least Gypsy Cove – a road that has over 20,000 travellers in a season. That paper appears to have been shelved.
If elected I would strive to have this reconsidered.
Some years ago it was possible to have an energy audit on your place of work. I believe that within the Falkland Islands Government, who after all are the big users of electricity and fuel, there is scope for some large savings. Anyone who thinks not should visit the Attorney General’s offices, which had the area of a three-bedroomed house. They have 10KW heaters burning away and no double glazing. That particular refurbishment would not have passed the planning committee if it had been a private project. But for savings to be realised, there have to be incentives.
Within the next year, the post of Chief Executive will come up. And if elected, I would do my best to ensure that the next one has a proven track record of management; and also has a history of long-term commitment to their previous posts. What the Falkland Islands need, is less of a blue sky strategist and more of an administrator.
Its also time to sell Sullivan House, which not only costs an enormous amount to maintain but also gives the wrong impression.
My interests are many and varied. If anyone has a question for me then please feel free to give me a call on 21443 or 52834.
Clearly, I think I am the right choice for your vote on the 23rd of June. Although independently minded, I am nobody’s crony but I am a team player and that’s important.
Whatever you do on the 23rd of June please take time to vote.
(100X Transcription Service)