Falklands : Falklands Summary of Executive Council Meeting Held on 30 June 2011
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 30.06.2011 (Article Archived on 24.07.2011)
We started with a look at the task status report, which basically is a tracking mechanism for proposed legislation and also work that needs to be done or is in hand that will conclude with a report to Executive Council and possible legislation depending on their nature.
Summary of Executive Council Meeting Held on 30 June 2011
Present were myself, the Hon Jan Cheek and the Hon Sharon Halford. The meeting was chaired by the acting governor Mr Ric Nye. In attendance were the usual officials plus also we welcomed the Commander British Forces Brigadier Aldridge to what I believe is his first Executive Council session.
We commenced at 9am and the agenda wasn’t that long this time. Of the 18 or so items on the agenda I can report on those that did not contain items of a personal or commercially confidential nature etc.
We started with a look at the task status report, which basically is a tracking mechanism for proposed legislation and also work that needs to be done or is in hand that will conclude with a report to Executive Council and possible legislation depending on their nature. It was noted that there was quite a number of items where the target date had been reached or passed. There are good reasons why some of the dates could not be met but we felt that all items on the status report should be chased monthly, prior to Executive Council and delivery dates adjusted and reasons given as to why the slippage was occurring. It was also agreed that it would make things easier to follow if the matters that were awaiting legal drafting could be separated from all the rest on the report.
A paper was presented by the PWD outlining the proposed breakdown in spend on the camp roads on East and West in the forthcoming financial year. This had previously been through the budget select committee. The total funding for both east and West roads for this financial year is £850,000
We were presented with an information paper that basically outlined just what could be achieved with current levels of expenditure on the camp road system and the consequences. It also went on to outline some options such as an accelerated programme of capping and the approximate costs involved. We currently have 944 kilometres of unsealed roads on the Falklands of varying types and specs. It is suggested that the roads should be recapped at intervals of between 6 to 8 years which would equate to about 157 kilometres a year however at present levels of expenditure and effort we are only achieving about 26 kilometres a year so the end result is inevitable. At the present time we are only fire fighting. We are basically paying the price of building a lot of the road network fast and light in order to get roads to all people as quick as we could. It should also be remembered that the roads are now being used in a way and for weights that some of them were never designed for, which is due to the change in the way the camp economy has gone over the years with, for example, greater amounts of livestock being trucked into the abattoir and if all goes as planned these loads will steadily increase over the years putting even greater pressure on the road system. In view of the importance of the situation it was agreed that we MLAs plus relevant officials would hold one of our away days where we will lock ourselves in and have a session on roads and transport to see what can be achieved. In view of the importance of this subject to our country it was agreed that the away day should be held when all members are present, most probably in August with a report going back to Executive Council by December at the latest in order that any policy change in relation to roads and transport can be fed into the system in time to form part of the next years budget calculations.
Another PWD generated paper was seeking agreement in principal to progress the first stage of the Sapper Hill housing project. It is proposed that this first stage would be spread over both this and the next financial year. The works in this phase would provide 34 housing plots and the offsite services to support a total of 120 housing units. Basically this means that approval was being sought for the works which would comprise a feeder road from the Sapper Hill road up to the second estate road junction together with the off site offsite services (for example sewerage) to support the housing development at Sapper Hill together with the first phase of plots. The overall layout is largely the result of working with as opposed to against the topography and existing features of the ground, this being more cost effective. I am afraid to say that the proposed layout will mean wriggly roads as opposed to the old Stanley grid system as to adopt the grid system would have pushed the price up to a level where the scheme would not have been affordable. The scheme is designed so that the main access will come in from the Sapper Hill road and will push Westwards thus reducing the amount of main road that is needed to be built to get the first housing plots into use although that said the main road will still be a significant part of the cost of the first phase. It is envisaged that the plot sizes will typically be about 800m2 but they do range from about 680 to 1600m2 which should cater for a variety of differing needs. As the provision of serviced plots and the opportunity for our people to be able to build and own their own homes is something that this council firmly supports we were only too happy to give our blessings to this paper.
We also had a paper on the review of the issuing of licences to shoot raptors i.e. the turkey vulture and the Southern striated caracara. To give a little background, in 2005 the environmental planning officer was delegated the powers by executive council to determine applications to shoot turkey vultures. To help the EPO in this decision it was decided to establish an advisory group to consider applications from farmers experiencing damage to livestock from this species. The group had representatives from a wide spectrum of people and organisations from conservation to the RBA. The remit of the group was expanded to also consider the shooting of the Southern crested caracara in 2010. In 2010 licences were issued for the destruction of 100 turkey vultures which is in line with the total allowable licences over the last 5 years. In addition licences were also issued for the shooting of 17 caracaras. Two further studies were also undertaken and have been noted, that of Brandon Breen into the human/wildlife conflict which covered turkey vultures and the other was by Falklands Conservation into farmer/raptor interactions. The upshot was that when all these works were pulled together the EPO recommended that Executive Council accept that the policy be altered slightly to make the allocation of licences more flexible to reflect the concerns of farmers. It was proposed that: the total numbers of these birds that are allowed to be destroyed remain as they are at present, the policy is changed so that licences can be issued for the destruction of these two birds prior to them causing damage to animals where ongoing problems have been proven and lastly to agree that licences may be issued following a verbal request in circumstances where an ongoing problem has been demonstrated and a formal application had been approved previously. The paper was agreed.
Next on the menu was the census that is due to be held this year. It was agreed that it will take place sometime between October and December this year and also we agreed that the actual questions that would be asked would remain unchanged from the last census that was undertaken in 2006. The greatest change this time, which is actually quite groovy, will be the ability to do your census on line although those who cannot or do not wish to participate in the on line variety can still have the paper version to fill out.
The next paper was a most interesting one that was seeking approval to bring forward a bill that would greatly enlarge the pool of people who could be called for jury service and also define the mechanism for which order trials are heard if two or more people were charged with the same offence or interlinking offences and one elected for trial by judge and jury and the other by judge alone. Perhaps if I could deal with the second point first. The proposal is that in the event of there being a situation where two people, charged with the same offence or interlinking offences elect for different types of trial, which is their right, one by judge and jury and the other by judge that the trial judge be allowed to make the decision as to which is the appropriate order for the trials to be heard.
The problems involved with getting enough people to serve on a jury were highlighted in a couple of recent trials. The Falklands is a small place and to some extent most of us know or know of each other, not to mention being related, which a great many of us are, thus making the finding of enough persons deemed to be far enough removed from the accused to make a fair trial possible a quite daunting undertaking. As things stand at the moment to be eligible for jury service you must be a registered voter, be not less than 18 but not over 65 and ordinarily resident in the Falklands for any period of five tears since obtaining the age of 13. If you look at the electoral register there are about 1573 persons on it which seems a fair few but once you start stripping away the over 65s, those who may not be able to serve due to ill health, religious beliefs, or are close to the defendant etc the number left drops rather dramatically.
The proposed Bill would seek to make the following eligible for jury service: those who are registered to vote (i.e. those with Falkland status), those who hold residence permits under section 16 of the Immigration Ordinance (about 100 persons) those who hold work permits under section 17 of the Immigration Ordinance and those who hold PRP under section 18 or 18AA of the Ordinance.
The effect would be to suddenly have a quite considerable amount of extra people to call on; including civilian contractors based at MPA, thus making the chances of obtaining what could be seen as an untainted jury much simpler. A concern was expressed about the levels of fluency in English that some work permit holders would have but we were satisfied with the explanation of the attorney general that these would be rejected at the selection stage by either the defence or prosecution lawyers. We agreed that the bill could be gazetted and go forward to the sitting of Legislative Assembly scheduled for August.
A paper on the referendum for the single constituency was presented which sought approval for the publication of a rather splendidly named “referendum (single constituency Bill) Bill, its presentation to the August sitting of Legislative Assembly and also the approval of a budget for the referendum. Whilst we were content to allow the Bill to go forward to Legislative Assembly we instructed that the funding for the referendum should be found from within the departments existing budget. The Bill itself, is quite a wordy thing to my untrained eyes but basically lays out the mechanism for the referendum, covering such things as the question to be asked, voting arrangements, counting and counting staff etc. As I said the Bill will be gazetted so those who fancy a read can avail yourselves of it.
We were then presented with a paper that sought approval for a method of setting priorities and the mechanism for initiating training or studying for qualifications that would move people along the road towards being able to apply for posts presently held by contracted staff, for persons both within and outside the FIG.
As people will know, this council made as one of its priorities the localisation of posts within the FIG wherever we could. Last year we voted quite a considerable sum of money to start the process off. The paper that we were presented with contained a list of disciplines that the FIG consider the most needed within the FIG in the medium to long term and which will be given priority when it comes to allocating training funds in financial year, such as teachers, nurses, engineers (civil, mechanical and electrical in particular) vets & agricultural specialists, lawyers, accountants, fisheries scientists/researchers, social workers and aviation engineering specialists to name only some. It also contained a set of recommendations about how the funds for training should be spent.
The list of posts that have been identified is quite extensive and it must be recognised that the training/studying is going to cost a fair bit and also that we probably wont get people interested in all the positions listed in one go so it was agreed that if there isn’t a complete uptake of people wishing to train in the most critical areas then positions that are deemed to be the next critical such as project and quality managers, tourism specialists, CAD specialists etc will get preference when it comes to the funding of training and so on thus establishing a pecking order. So if the area that you are interested in doesn’t appear on the list, don’t be put off, I would urge you to make enquiries and see just how the land lies.
It was also recommended that preference is given to people not already eligible for the existing higher education funding programme i.e. those over 25 years of age and those who do not already have a substantial qualification which would make them currently eligible for a post within FIG.
It was recognised that to make this scheme fair a mechanism had to be put in place to allow persons outside of the FIG to participate in studying to gain the qualifications that would put them in a good position one day to apply to take over a post currently filled by a person on contract. It was agreed that matched funding be sought from persons applying from outside of the FIG to ensure that there is a firm commitment on their part to completing their studies and gaining the qualification, plus if someone didn’t finish their course it would mean that FIG would not have lost as much money as it would have if we had given 100% funding. Whilst the amount of money that remains in the fund to finance training etc is not inconsiderable it is not a bottomless pit and we must make it go as far and benefit as many people as we can. It should be noted though that before being sent on courses people will need to get the entry requirements for the course(s) or, depending on the nature of the training, be able to demonstrate skills and commitment.
There is a genuine desire by us to eventually see all post in the hands of Islanders or those that have chosen to make this country their home, it is only right and proper that this be the case and I would urge people to get themselves a copy of this Executive Council paper or go and see the HR/education departments to see just what is needed and how you can best avail yourself of funding to help you study to one day be in a position to make a better contribution Falklands.
The last paper that I can report on was one that I was very happy to see reach Executive Council was the amendment of the immigration policy and subsequent revisions to the immigration PRP points system. To give a little background. In the very early days of this Assembly it was identified that the points system that had been introduced was proving to be almost impossible for most “ordinary” people to achieve. An immigration Review Group was established to look at the PRP points system and other matters pertaining to immigration. It has felt like we were going around in circles when it came to trying to change the points system and as those of you who listen to Legislative Assembly will know both the Hon Mr Sawle and I were becoming extremely frustrated with the lack of progress in what we considered to be something that was very easy to change. A paper did come to Executive Council a month or two back that basically had little in common with what the IRG had recommended and this was not approved by Executive Council. It was at that meeting of Executive Council that the AG promised to enter the fray and put his weight behind making the recommendations of the IRG come to fruition and both Dick and I are very grateful to the Attorney General for his help in breaking the impasse.
Basically the paper makes a small change to the immigration policy that will from now on in allow us and subsequent Assemblies the freedom to more easily alter the thresholds in any of the categories within the list of items covered by the PRP application form thus making it much more flexible to any future circumstances that we find ourselves within. I am happy to report that the paper and the recommendations were accepted by Executive Council and will now go to the August Legislative Assembly.
The last matter that popped up came in the AOB section of the meeting. The acting Governor reported that before leaving the Islands the Governor, Mr Hayward, had appointed the Attorney general Mark Lewis, Ronnie MacLennan Baird, the Legislative Drafter and Alison Inglis as Commissioners of Oaths.
There being no further business we concluded Executive Council at about quarter to 11