St Helena : St Helena ExCo Report 46 – 11th May 2010
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Juanita Brock) 13.05.2010 (Article Archived on 27.05.2010)
Today’s ExCo meeting was again quite lengthy, with a lot of useful discussion of practical issues. Councillor Brian Isaac continued to stand in for Councillor Tara Thomas.
ExCo Report 46 – 11th May 2010
Today’s ExCo meeting was again quite lengthy, with a lot of useful discussion of practical issues. Councillor Brian Isaac continued to stand in for Councillor Tara Thomas. Councillor Thomas is due to return to the Island on Saturday, and Members joined me in thanking Councillor Isaac for the valuable contributions he had made during her absence. We also welcomed back Councillor Mervyn Yon from a successful trip to Brussels, where he represented St Helena at the European Union Overseas Countries and Territories Forum; and we also welcomed Acting Chief Secretary Gillian Francis, whom I had sworn in before the meeting.
There were a large number of matters arising from previous discussions. These included the launching of public consultation on the Media Standards Bill and the future of Government subsidized media, which will be considered in more detail tomorrow by the Home and International Committee. A query was raised over alterations to the approved design of the new Passenger Terminal building, and I undertook to ask the Chief Development Officer to produce a note to clarify the latest position.
Some questions were also raised about the ongoing pay and grading exercise, with concern being expressed over the possible effect on the private sector and the Government’s budgetary position. The Financial Secretary and I assured Members that these concerns were being taken into account. Members noted that the Acting Chief Secretary would be issuing a personal letter to all colleagues in the public service later this week, explaining again the reasons for the changes being made, the next steps to be taken, as well as appeal procedures.
There was also discussion about the solution that has now been found to the maintenance of the Run in Jamestown. There was support for the idea that responsibility for looking after our Jamestown heritage, including the Run, would best sit in the longer term with the Civil Society, Leisure and Tourism Committee, which would have political oversight of the DfID funded Tourism Development Plan.
Members discussed the heavy workload of Council and the number of meetings needed per month. I briefly introduced a “Business of Government” chart, prepared by the Strategic Policy Unit, which set out the planned schedule of ExCo, (formal) LegCo, InfoLegCo, Council Committee and other important meetings, noted timelines for the planning, budgetary and legislative processes, as well as advisors’ visits and other key events. Such a planning tool will go far to avoid duplication, and to allow the work of Councillors and Officers to be prioritized and programmed more effectively.
The Attorney General then introduced a draft legislative programme for the year ahead. It was an excellent illustration of the amount of unglamorous but essential good work being done together by Councillors and Officers. Subjects being addressed ranged from tobacco control to drink-drive legislation, and from reform of financial and audit systems to the employment of a senior magistrate. Of particular importance are the long awaited and crucial Bills on Employment and Social Security.
As promised previously by the Administration, the Acting Chief Secretary then presented a report on undertakings given and resolutions made at the last formal meeting of the Legislative Council in March. There were 40 of these – probably a record number – but significant progress had already been made in many different areas. Members discussed and agreed a method for regular monitoring of the undertakings given.
There were as usual several items of Any Other Business. The Financial Secretary tabled a provisional report on SHG’s management accounts for the first month of the new financial year. These appeared to show a significant deficit of over £1.1 million, but it was explained that this was due to the funding from the recent DfID settlement not yet having been taken into account. Members nevertheless expressed some concern over a monthly overspend of about £30,000 in employee costs, and the Financial Secretary confirmed that this would be carefully watched.
I then briefed Members on the forthcoming visit of the DfID Infrastructure Advisor, Mr. John Cox, and Private Sector Advisor, Mr. Kato Kimbugwe. Mr. Cox and Mr. Kimbugwe will be on Island from 15th to 22nd May, and will hold intensive meetings on the infrastructure programme, tourism, outsourcing and the business environment.
Members noted the current state of political and economic uncertainty in the UK, and the likely impact on the Island. It could well be said that St Helena, despite real problems, had seen a lot of positive developments in comparison to other countries, with increases in tax allowances, public sector pay and pensions, as well as massive commitments to improve basic infrastructure, enhanced technical assistance and new opportunities for tourism. But there was general agreement that the Government needed to reach out more proactively to explain these realities to the public.
Members noted in this regard a paper prepared by the independent media on Island and agreed that it should be examined further by the Home and International Committee at its meeting tomorrow.
Finally, I conveyed to Honourable Members the good wishes of Governor Gurr, who had just concluded a series of positive meetings with senior officials and private sector contacts in London.
The meeting ended at 1.15 pm.