Falklands : LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 28 May 2010 The Hon Mrs Sharon Halford
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 03.06.2010 (Article Archived on 17.06.2010)
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, although this budget round is the first for this Assembly. It is not the first that I have been involved in – it is the ninth. This time, however, differs from previous occasions.
The Hon Mrs Sharon Halford:
Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, although this budget round is the first for this Assembly. It is not the first that I have been involved in – it is the ninth. This time, however, differs from previous occasions. The whole process is now undertaken over a longer period of time and with far more consultation. I am sure that many people in the Treasury should be thanked for their efforts in the background during all these meetings. But I would like to give particular mention to Nicola Granger, who was the wiz on the computer, altering and re-altering figures until we were satisfied with one option or another. And thanks must also go to the Honourable Keith Padgett, who never showed that he was wearing thin with some of our repeated questions.
During this process we were not always faced with the easiest of choices, given the current economic climate. But I hope, at the end of the day, we have made decisions that will continue to take the Falklands forward.
I am aware that measures adopted in this budget will pinch most people but I firmly believe that this has been necessary, as in some areas and we need to gradually ease back from this. Throughout our deliberations I was not always in favour of the end result nor, I suspect, were others on the occasion. But that is democracy at work. You win some and you lose some. With the cuts and increases that have been made, I have to admit that I was not in favour of a pay award to the Civil Servants - sorry folks – as I considered it to be inappropriate when money is tight. I did, however, stand alone on this issue.
Now that MSL is to be reintroduced, I am pleased to see that the amount collected and will, in the future, be credited to the Medical Department budget and will not disappear into the big black hole of the Treasury.
Once we start contributing MSL it will not mean that we can place even more demands on the Department and the services it provides. It will simply mean that we are contributing towards something that we may need to use at some point in the future. But of course we prefer to enjoy good health rather than cashing in on it. Bear in mind that we shall all be contributing to our Medical Services but we should be looking at ways to protect that service ourselves – the permanent residents of the Falklands.
All too often recently we are seen as a soft touch and people appear out of the woodwork – non residents – that suddenly need treatment whilst here. When I travel abroad I have to take out medical insurance. And I think people visiting here should have to do the same. And that, to my mind, would also include Falkland Islanders who no longer live here nor contribute to the economy.
Whilst on the subject of the Medical Department, I must mention the Social Services Department, which is of great concern to me at present. Now why is this? I do not deny that we need this department but it needs to be run to suit the Falklands and not mirror the UK. All too often we seem to follow the UK and this is an area where it would be extremely good to do so on the one hand and not on the other.
The new UK Coalition Government have just announced that they need to review this area and I would suggest that it would be prudent for us to do the same here. However, I do not agree with us going down the same road as the UK and ending up with a society like theirs where far too many people are not interested in going out to work as they are better off on benefits. We need to jump off the slippery slopes sooner rather than later. In my view this does not lead to a healthy society as I believe people who work even part time are contributing to society and generally feel more fulfilled themselves.
Imagine my horror then, when it was brought to my attention recently that some people who were working both part and full time and needed some assistance were allegedly denied it whilst working and were, instead given much more when they stopped working. Do we want to see our youngsters leaving school thinking that if they played their cards right they would be housed and won’t have to work? I think not. This is not the way I wish to see the Falklands progressing and I will be looking into this area further.
As I mentioned on Wednesday, there is no such thing as a free lunch and I believe that in order to receive something that it is necessary to give something in return.
As I had several calls yesterday regarding the Family Allowance and the fact that it is, as from the 1st of January to be taxable, I thought it would be good to clear up one point. I was questioned as to how we could possibly consider taking money from children, as many parents pay this allowance directly into bank accounts for their children for their future needs. As I explained, we are not taxing children but instead, their parent who actually receives the allowance. And of course it is up to the parents to decide how best to use it. As lovely as they are, children are not the cheapest of additions to a family. And presumably many years ago this allowance was introduced to give people a little extra to spend on food, clothing or other essentials. Incidentally this allowance is to be reinstated as from the 1st of July this year which will mean that it will not actually be taxed for the first six months, or in other-words, the remainder of this year.
Some time ago I mentioned that the Mink Park Housing plots would be available in May and we are not just about out of that month. However, I am pleased to say and this is breaking news I suspect but I understand the tender documents have now been drawn up and hopefully will be available from the Secretariat as from Monday of next week.
Earlier this week the Honourable Glenn Ross mentioned that people should indicate if they wish to have a plot in the future, as if for whatever reason they were unable to apply at present. At the moment there is no house plot waiting list. The old one was abolished a couple of years ago. And it is something that we will be considering re-introducing again once the Mink Park plots have been allocated as this will give an indication of future needs for planning. There will be an announcement about this in the future.
I found it interesting yesterday to hear on the radio that people who live in villages in the UK tend to live longer than people who live in towns and cities. Now what a good bit of PR that is for the Rural Development Strategy here. Although I suspect that simply living in the Falklands would lead to a longer life anyway, with our fresh air and bracing winds.
I hope that with the RBS it will not be a case of re-inventing the wheel when trying to inject more life into some of the settlements. But if the rural population is to grow, then we need to start at what appears to be the most obvious places. Needless to say the detail of how this is to be achieved has yet to be worked out.
Many Camp residents are now enjoying some television viewing once again and for those I suspect they will also now have good radio reception. For the remainder of the destinations in Camp it will not be long before they, too, will be collected.
I was visiting a household in Stanley yesterday evening and they were very pleased that they, too, now have the digital TV and can clearly hear the radio once more. It seems that not all areas in Stanley had good radio reception either.
And lastly FIMCO. Whilst I have always said that I do support this project and hope to see it work, for me, like some other Honourable Members, it is not at any cost. We have agreed for phase 2 to proceed but have reduce the costing of what has been presented to us and have asked for more realistic pricing of what remains for this phase. This does not mean that we do not support the project but purely that we should achieve the best value for our money.
I believe the future phases also need to be reassessed and presented with more realistic and acceptable estimates for future years. With this commitment from Assembly Members, I now look forward to seeing the FIMCO suppliers working group getting out and about explaining to other farmers how they have successfully got to where they are today and how they hope to progress into the future. They should be able to show what possibilities are out there for those who wish to take the opportunity and go some way down this road. For the future of farming in the Falklands, I hope to see many other farmers ascribe to this venture also. I would suggest that the ball is now in their court.
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.