Falklands : August Public Meeting Report
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 25.08.2005 (Article Archived on 08.09.2005)
A lively public meeting was held on 23 August.
PUBLIC MEETING: TUESDAY, 23 AUGUST 2005
By J. Brock (FINN)
A public meeting was held in the Court and Council Chamber of the Town Hall on Tuesday, 23 August 2005 at 1700. Councillors Summers, Hansen, Cockwell, Cheek, Edwards, R, Edwards, N and Birmingham were present. Cllr. Mike Summers chaired the meeting. Approximately 40 members of the public listened to a presentation on the budget and economy by Chief Executive, Chris Simpkins and Deputy Financial Secretary, Keith Padgett. Another presentation on the telephone system was postponed until the entire focus of a public meeting could be dedicated to it.
Mr. Simpkins explained that in May 2004 predictions were made regarding how much the 2005 deficit would be. This year a comparison was made between what was predicted and the actual deficit that occurred. He explained that the increase in revenue was due to an unexpected increase in corporation taxes and better investment income.
He explained that income from fisheries netted £16Million, down from a high of £26 Million but the goal is to achieve a balanced budget on less money. This year the deficit was £4400,00.00 and it had to do with better revenue raising measures such as User Pays, Avoiding Panic and managing the loss of revenue. He said that even without Illex income that FIG would function on a sustainable basis.
Education and Medical Services are the areas where expenditure would be least cut and without any income at all, FIG could operate for 2.5 years at the present level of spending.
Mr. Padgett said that every 6 months saw the re-vamp of the budget in the operating budget, transfer payments and money paid to agencies: FIDC, Falklands Conservation, the Museum, etc. That payment amounted to £4Million. Departments were also responsible for bringing in money, for example, Fisheries brought in 18.2 Million, Taxation, £6.5 Million and PWD, £4.3 Million. He went on to say that PWD was the largest department and it cost £8.1 Million to run it.
He finished off by saying that departments not only had to make savings but were also entitled to put in for more money where needed.
There was a lively question and answer session which began with a query about the increased amount of OAP payments by Tim Blake, who wanted to know why, if the fund looked healthy, was there a raise in the payments to £21.50 a week. Deputy Financial Secretary Keith Padgett said that it was because people were living longer and there was a contingency for the future. He explained that the current rate of £21.50 a week was reflective of a 5% increase but that pensions given out had been increased by £3% and that the health of the fund also depends on the performance of long-term investments.
A question about the cheaper rate for education for long-term residents of the UK as opposed to British Overseas Territories Citizens who paid twice the amount was raised, with Jan Cheek responding that Councillors were aware of the problem and that Governors have made representations up to Ministerial level with no result. She added that EU students paid twice the amount of what UK students paid. Cllr. Summers added that over the past eight years the matter has been brought up in the UK and that Falklands students pay what a foreign student would pay for a UK education.
Legal costs of the Gordon Forbes Case were brought up by Mr. Roger Spink and were the subject of an article in last night’s transmission.
Sewerage outfalls and the very untidy look of the landfill around the Jetty Centre were brought up by Brian Summers, who asked whether a causeway across the harbour was necessary. Cllr Roger Edwards explained that the project was being done in stages so that faced off areas wouldn’t have to be dug up again to complete stage 2 of the project. Cllr. Summers said the matter was raised in the PWD Committee meeting and that it was more cost effective to build the causeway than it would be to dig up the existing sea wall. The exposed sewerage pipe would be buried at a point near Mr. Brian Summers’ home. Former Cllr. Lewis Clifton asked when the sea wall would be put right and Cllr Summers answered that the project wasn’t finished yet and that it looked no worse than it did for quite some time now. Lewis Clifton answered that he looked forward to the project’s completion. Phil Middleton then asked about covering the Jetty Centre car park and Cllr. Norma Edwards mentioned that work on it could be done when the weather got better. Cllr Birmingham said it would be at least another year and Cllr. Roger Edwards stressed it was part of stage 2 of the project and there was no sense in covering the car park and having to dig it all up again to complete phase 2 of the project.
There was a light hearted discussion about cleaning up the road that leads to the tip and it was suggested that a gate be put at the tip as well as refuse receptacles evenly spaced along the road leading to it.
Brian Summers brought up health and safety and, as an example, mentioned that on the front road the Morrison’s Construction employees seemed to be wearing Hard hats, while PWD lads were not. Cllr. Roger Edwards, answering a query about the issuing of safety equipment and subsequent injury to an unprotected person, said that he believed PWD workers did wear hard hats and mentioned that he spoke to someone from PWD that was wearing one only that morning. He said that safety equipment needed to be used when required. Councillor Summers added that any injury would be the responsibility of the Head of Department. He’s on holiday was the response.
What’s happened to the Island Plan? Was another question from the audience. Cllr Summers said it was looked at and modified in EXCO. There was a copy in the Library. Keith Padgett said that draft estimates were available from the treasury at £20.00 each.
Giving a reception for returning College and University students received a positive response from Councillors.