Falklands : LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY MEETING, THURSDAY, 14 JULY 2011 (Part 1)
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 19.07.2011 (Article Archived on 02.08.2011)
A meeting of Legislative Assembly took place at 0830hrs on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at the Court and Assembly Chamber of the Town Hall.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY MEETING, THURSDAY, 14 JULY 2011
Compiled by J. Brock (FINN)
A meeting of Legislative Assembly took place at 0830hrs on Thursday, 14 July 2011 at the Court and Assembly Chamber of the Town Hall. Present were the Speaker, the Hon Mr Keith Biles, the Clerk of Council, Ms Claudette Anderson Prior, MBE the Financial Secretary, Mr Keith Padgett, the Chief Executive, Mr Tim Thorogood, The Hon Emma Edwards, MLA, the Hon Mr Roger Edwards, MLA, the Hon Mr Gavin Short, MLA, the Hon Mike Summers, OBE MLA, the Hon Mrs Jan Cheek, MLA, the Hon Mrs Sharon Halford, MLA, CBFSAI, Brigadier William Aldridge, CBE and the Attorney General Mr Mark Lewis. Prayers were said by the Rev Dr Richard Hines of Christ Church Cathedral.
Oaths of Office were administered to Mr Summers and Brigadier Aldridge. Brigadier Aldridge was presented a Legislative Assembly Tie. After a warning about mobile phones the Hon Mr Gavin Short MLA was elected to Executive Council. Confirmation of the Record of the Meeting of Legislative Assembly held on 25 and 27 May 2011 was then held. The speaker signed it as a correct record of the meeting.
Copies of Subsidiary Legislation published in the Falkland Islands Gazette since the last sitting of the Legislative Assembly and Laid on the Table pursuant to section 34(1) of the Interpretation and General Clauses Ordinance 1977.
The Capital Equalisation Fund Order 2011 in accordance with the Public Accounts Committee Ordinance 2009 Clause 11(b) the report of Public Accounts Committee on the accounts for the Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust for the year ended June 2010: and in accordance with the Public Accounts Committee Ordinance 2009 Clause 11 the reports of the Public Accounts Committee in respect of the Falkland Islands Government Internal Audit Reports on:
Infant and Junior School and Camp Education Follow up Report
Main Accounting system
Cash and Bank
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL REPLY
Q-5 2011 by the Hon Miss Emma Edwards (EE):
Mr Speaker, could the Honourable Gavin Short (GS) please advise this House if there is a procedure for Members of the Public to report street lights that are not working? Is there a customer service charter that ensures street lighting is repaired within a certain time?
GS: I am indebted to the PWD for their answer; and I will go at this in two parts. If we can take the question about procedures to for members of the public to report street lights that are not working, the initial procedure is to call the power station section on 27149. As this line is not permanently staffed, in the event that the call cannot be taken, a call can be made to 27193 where a message can be taken and passed on. Alternatively an e-mail can be sent to PGilbert.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The second part of the question; is there a customer service charter that will ensure street lighting is repaired within a certain period of time? There is not a customer service charter that states a specific time period for repairs to be effected. This is because of the need to balance the various demands against available funds and resources; but the aim is to have most of the street lights working most of the time, with a higher priority being placed on this element of work when daylight hours are shorter.
The Power and Electrical section are currently short of two electricians and a technician. One electrician post has been vacant for over a year and remains unfilled despite repeated attempts to recruit and another post holder has recently resigned. Even aside from this the overall demands on the section has increased whilst theoretical staffing resources have not. And the highest priority has to be given to power generation and the main distribution systems, than other works.
Street lighting is seen as important but it is very often not just a matter of changing the lamp. It may be the lamp, fitting, switch controlling and supplying a group of lamps or that the conductor within the column has failed; each of which requires a different amount of time to find and then remedy.
Even where it is the lamp, this may fail again very quickly; perhaps in days or weeks as wind induced vibration has been found to cause a variety of faults, some of which are consistent across a number of fittings, which may result in some of those on one area regularly being out, although replacement of individual lamps may have been effected several times.
As an example, there had been on-going problems in the East Stanley area due to wind and due to vibration and it became necessary for the power and electrical staff to design a modification to the fittings which have been progressively completed and is resulting in longer bulb life.
EE: Mr Speaker, Thank you very much; and to the Honourable Gavin Short for your reply and also to everybody in the power station for the reply. I do sympathise with the fact that there are staff shortages down there but now that the people of Stanley are paying over £400.00 a year in service charges; I do believe that street lighting is absolutely essential, certainly in some of the busier parts of Stanley and sometimes I see these street lights can be out for several weeks at any one time. I would very much appreciate if we could create some form of customer charter so that people can at least be reassured that their street lighting could be back on within a certain amount of time. Thank you very much.
GS: I thank the Honourable Lady for her observations. I will certainly take those on-board. It is something that I will be returning to in the Motion for Adjournment.
Q-6 2011 by the Hon Mr Gavin Short (GS):
Would the Honourable Roger Edwards please advise this House 1- what is FIG policy in respect of employing people with criminal records, 2 – in what circumstances would a criminal record bar a person from being employed and 3 – please would you provide examples of jobs and the types of criminal conviction that would bar a person from holding those posts?
RE: Mr Speaker, in answer to the Honourable Member’s question, here is the relevant answer from FIG’s policy on employing people with a criminal record approved by Executive Council in July 2010:
1. The Falkland Islands Government is committed to equality of opportunity for all job applicants and aims to select people for employment on the basis of their individual skills, abilities, experience, knowledge and, where appropriate, qualifications and training.
2. The employment and management of people with Criminal records has to be approached in a responsible and balanced way and so the purpose of this policy is to facilitate the Government’s capacity to operate in line with recognised best practice in its recruitment of staff with a criminal record.
3. Aims to ensure that through effective application of the policy the Government maintains its duty of care to service users and employees whilst not unfairly and unreasonably discriminating against people with a criminal record.
4. In accordance with this premise the Government will consider ex-offenders for employment on their individual merits. However, it will, as a matter of course, take into consideration:
a. The job being applied for should or should not be exempt from disclosure.
b. Sensitive being implied in this case as posts that the Government considers to involve particularly sensitive areas of risk and which would therefore be exempt from any waiver regarding background checks, i.e.:
1) The post that involved working with or having unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults in the community
2) Or the provision of education, health and care services and so applicants will be required to make full disclosure with regard to any criminal records including both spent and unspent convictions.
c. Other Government posts that require a high level of trust and integrity may also fall into this category. Such posts will be determined by the relevant director and may only be nominated as such where a thorough risk assessment for the post has indicated that this decision is both proportionate and relevant.
Hopefully this text highlights the fact that having a criminal record will not necessarily bar anyone from working with the Falkland Islands Government. It will very much depend on the nature of the post and the circumstances and background of the offences.
We do, however, conduct a greater level of checks on staff who work with certain groups, such as children and vulnerable adults and other posts which require a significant level of trust and integrity. We will, however, consider a range of factors before making our decision to appoint:
1. The nature of the offence
2. The age at which it was committed
3. Its relevance to the post in question
4. Whether the applicant has a pattern of offending behaviour
5. Whether the applicant’s circumstances have change since the offending behaviour
6. Circumstances surrounding the offence
7. And the explanation offered by the convicted individual.
We do this because it is our responsibility to protect the welfare, health and safety of the community we serve. In doing this we balance the need to prevent unsuitable people from working in sensitive posts against the possibility of discrimination against rehabilitated ex-offenders.
The type of posts which fall into the “Sensitive” category and which would therefore require an assessment would be as follows:
1. All posts in the Department of Health and Education including Social Services
2. All staff at the leisure Centre
3. All staff in the Royal Falkland Islands Police
4. All subcontractors working in the above areas
5. And any other posts within any directorate where the responsible strategic director deems it appropriate.
I have a very long list of examples of types of roles present which I can give to the Honourable Member later if he should so wish.
In summary, we assess any employment or any work which is concerned with the provisions of Health, Education, Policing and Caring Services and which is of such a kind to enable the holder of that employment or the person engaged in that work to have access to persons in receipt of such services in the course of their normal duties. Posts involving high levels of integrity and public trust may also require full disclosure.
As can be seen from the above a criminal record could bar a person from being employed where the nature, frequency, timing, etc. of the convictions reported would suggest a significant risk to safe delivery of FIG’s operational services and the wider community.
For example, a conviction for child abuse could bar someone from working in the Social Services Department. Likewise, someone who had a record and convictions for fraud could be barred from working in certain posts such as Audit or the Police. A person with numerous convictions for theft or breaking and entering could be barred from working in a position which would require them to access people’s property.
Each case would always be reviewed on its own merit.
GS: Mr Speaker, I would like to thank the Honourable Roger Edwards for that very thorough reply. I do look forward to receiving the examples he has. I would like to ask just one supplementary question. You say the policy came into force in July 2010. Was this applied retrospectively to existing employees or just started with employees who were taken on after the date of the scheme?
RE: Mr Speaker, I cannot answer that question but I will find out and let him know in due course.
GS: Thanks very much.
Q-7 2011 by the Hon Mr Gavin Short (GS):
Would the Honourable Roger Edwards tell the House why some vacancies within FIG remain unfilled? I refer particularly to the Power and Electrical Department and the KEMH kitchen in particular. Have any factors been identified as reasons for posts remaining vacant? Could the Honourable Gentleman provide a list of FIG posts to which recruitment is proving difficult?
RE: Mr Speaker thank-you. I can give a very short answer or I can give a very long answer as provided. The short answer is the opportunities for jobs, especially skilled jobs is growing within the Islands, which is a good thing to see. And we do not have sufficient apprentices and the like to fill those posts. Also, we have seen an enormous rise in wages being offered by people in the private sector and people are leaving Government to work in the private sector.
However, the long answer as given and the breakdown of the posts as requested are:
1. Power and Electrical –
a. Electrician vacancies have been difficult to fill. A recent resignation was prompted by the need to earn more money outside FIG. Candidates are not coming forward with the skills required for appointment to this role. Recently the Head of Section of the Power and Electrical Section reviewed requirements of this role and is now looking for a wider skill-set so the individuals can be recruited into an electro-mechanical role.
b. A junior technician is also being considered for recruitment in order to train and develop someone in this skill-set in future.
2. KEMH Kitchen
a. There have been difficulties since December 2010 filling Cook’s posts in the Hospital. This has eased recently and it is anticipated that they will be up to full establishment later this month.
b. It is presumed that difficulties have occurred because the posts were being advertised on a temporary basis pending a review considering the privatisation of the Kitchen. Recently it has been decided by management to fill posts on a permanent basis and this has generated suitable interest to allow appointments to be made.
c. A Kitchen Assistant Post is currently being advertised and it is anticipated that a suitable candidate will be selected later this week.
3. Computer Technician
a. Locally it remains difficult to attract candidates to the Computer Technician Post as the salary offered is not competitive. This is being addressed and if, following a further advertisement for this post a vacancy remains, It has been agreed to advertise the post higher up the scale on a competitive rate. If this action does not attract a suitable candidate, consideration will be given to other possible solutions, which may include recruiting from overseas. There appears to be a significant skill shortage in this specialisation within the local community.
4. Mechanic Plant and Vehicle Section
a. This post has been advertised three times and there have been no suitable applicants. Competition for these posts is strong locally and FIG expects a broader skill set than perhaps candidates from the local community can offer.
5. Learning Support Assistants
a. The salary of these posts has been reduced to reflect the fact that LSAs are required to work Term Time only. They have not proved to be so attractive to suitable candidates.
b. Adverts for these posts, particularly at the Falkland Islands Community School, do not immediately generate enquiries from candidates with the qualifications required to be successful in role.
6. Social Worker
a. This post has been advertised both locally and overseas three times. Only one applicant was short-listed as the other 5 applicants did not meet the specifications. The successful applicant was offered at Top of Grade with a 45% gratuity but declined as she did not consider the remuneration attractive.
Following recent recruitment difficulties it is hoped that the following posts will shortly be filled:
1. Pharmacist – is under offer
2. Senior Dental Officer – 5 candidates were interviewed on 11 July and I understand that an appointment is to be offered this week.
3. Community Psychiatric Nurse – under offer
4. Chief Medical Officer – Under active recruitment for a second time with recruitment agency, closing the 1st of August with interviews anticipated on 1st of September. Interim arrangements have been put in place to cover the vacancy
A common difficulty with the majority of these posts comes down to the remuneration package not meeting the level on offer in the wider marketplace. And so it is difficult to encourage suitable applicants to give up these more attractive salary packages to come to work for FIG rates.
Thank you Mr Speaker.
GS: Mr Speaker, I thank the Honourable Roger Edwards for his very thorough reply.
Motion for Adjournment Speeches will be forthcoming.
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