St Helena : St Helena ExCo Report 59 – 1st February 2011
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Juanita Brock) 03.02.2011 (Article Archived on 17.02.2011)
At the start of today’s meeting, I welcomed Mrs Gillian Francis, whom I had earlier once more sworn in as an ex officio Councillor whilst Acting Chief Secretary.
St Helena ExCo Report 59 – 1st February 2011
At the start of today’s meeting, I welcomed Mrs Gillian Francis, whom I had earlier once more sworn in as an ex officio Councillor whilst Acting Chief Secretary. Before the usual open session, Members discussed a letter to the Governor from Malcolm Geere, Head of the Overseas Territories Department in DfID. The letter proposed a deferral of the Development Planning Aid Mission, or DAPM, originally scheduled for the end of this month. It pointed to the crucial work to be done over the next few months in fulfilling the conditions of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in order to achieve the major economic benefits that will flow from radical reform in a wide range of policy areas.
Bearing in mind the heavy demands now being placed both on Elected Councillors and officers in both London and St Helena, Councillors agreed that a deferral of the DAPM visit to allow resources to be concentrated on MOU related work was eminently sensible. This will allow more time for agreement to be reached on a delivery plan and timetable for the MOU, for needed technical support to be secured, and for a closer look at our budgetary priorities over the next three years.
The DAPM postponement will also mean that SHG will need to operate a “rollover” budget for the first few months of the new financial year, more or less equivalent to the budget for the same period this year.
The DfID letter referred also to a variety of rather technical fiscal and economic issues. I agreed with Members that it would be very useful to have a separate discussion of these points at a special “InfoLegCo” to be held this Thursday.
The one substantive item on the open agenda concerned another positive development in the raising of the Island’s tourism profile. After discussing a paper presented by the Deputy Chairman of the Civil Society, Tourism and Leisure Committee, Members agreed that Mike Dean, our Tourism Development Executive, pursue the possibility of an international exhibition of artefacts uncovered during the Rupert’s Valley excavations at the world-renowned Liverpool Slavery Museum. After a display lasting perhaps one year, the items will be returned to the Island for display either at the Museum or the planned Ossuary. I shared Members’ enthusiasm for highlighting St Helena’s role in the abolition of the slave trade. It is another string to our historic tourism bow, which of course also includes the East India Company, the Napoleonic legacy, the Boers, the Zulus, and more.
Turning to the closed agenda, Members confirmed the minutes of the previous meeting and dealt with the usual wide variety of matters arising. These included the proposal for a Business Plan for the local fishing industry, on which we all felt that progress needs to be faster; planning, housing and buildings policy, where we agreed that we needed to take full advantage of DfID’s offer of help in meeting our significant capacity shortages; the ongoing visit of Derek Muhl, our Hospital Consultant; progress with necessary changes to the Welfare of Children Ordinance; and various issues concerning the RMS, on which Sharon Wainwright, the Director of Access, will shortly be briefing both Members and the media.
The Acting Financial Secretary then introduced proposals to revise our recurrent Budget submission to DfID. Following extensive work by Elected Members and officials, we have been able to put together a package that makes more realistic assumptions about fuel prices, possible revenue streams and other factors. Several Members highlighted the importance of going forward with the proposed reforms of benefits and pensions, where a one-off outlay could lead to a significant reduction in our longer term recurrent liabilities. At the same time, Members reaffirmed their commitment to look closely at the option of further reprioritization of competing demands. In view of the delay of the DAPM visit, Members agreed that further work on the lines proposed should continue before any formal decisions were taken.
There were a number of items of “any other business”, and we all wished the Hon Mervyn Yon well in his forthcoming attendance at the EU Overseas Countries and Territories Forum in New Caledonia.
The meeting closed shortly after 1.00 pm.
Andrew R Wells
1 February 2011