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Councillors explain committee changes decision

Nine councillors have taken to social media to explain the reasons they voted against changing the Council's committee system.

It was proposed at Tuesday's Full Council meeting that six major committees be dissolved and that all Members would meet as Full Council "frequently and regularly", for example once a month. ​ The proposals were a response to the recommendation by the Local Government Boundary Commission that the number of Councillors be reduced from 21 to 16. The recommendation became law earlier today. Cllrs Fran Grottick, Gaz O'Neill, Andy Guy, Fraser Hicks, Colin Daly, Ted Moulson, Gordon Bilsborough, James Francis and Marion Berkeley voted to defer the recommendations, leading to speculation that there was an attempt by some to retain their Special Responsibility Allowances for chairing committees. They wrote on Facebook: "Although it was agreed that there were good suggestions in the report presented, including the possibility of more frequent Council meetings, the majority of Councillors present felt that the report was a work in progress, and that more detail was needed regarding not least the cost, but also how the new structure might work in practice in order to be sure that it was robust and fit for purpose for the future. "We needed to know how Lead Members would be supported in any extended role and the lack of financial detail in these challenging times was concerning to say the least. Quite simply, to approve something without knowing the true cost seemed to us to be wholly irresponsible. "We are saddened by the suggestion that this was in any way an attempt to line our own pockets and it should be noted that several of the nine councillors who were in favour of the decision are not in receipt of special allowances. "Last but by no means least, it was the majority view of members that being so close to the elections in May, the new Council should be in a position to have input into, and have the right to decide their own working arrangements. "We sincerely hope this addresses your concerns but as always, please do not hesitate to contact us directly to discuss this or any other matter. Our contact details are on the Council website." Cllr Christine Savill, who was one of eight councillors who voted in favour of the changes, said today that she is "extremely concerned" that not accepting the changes will have a negative effect on representation of the off-islands. She said: "Under the current system there must be about 30 to 40 meetings per year which makes it impossible for one member per Off-Island to attend. Therefore I believe/request that an impact assessment of Tuesday's decision should be done with the results being brought to a Special Council for review prior to the May elections. "The assessment should include the legality of 14 to 15 Members holding Chair/Vice Chair positions (no backbenchers) or some Members holding more than one Chairmanship as currently which is not ideal. "There are also the positions on outside bodies. The impact on the budget must also be considered plus the impact on fewer Officers having to continue servicing the current committee system." ​ Steve Sims, Vice Chair of Council, told This Is Scilly: "I am somewhat confused by some of my colleagues' comments. There was imprecise data on savings not on cost, though irrespective savings would have been greater than under the current system. Support for Lead Members is part of the process, which rightfully the new council could adjudicate on." He added: "The new system would have hugely enhanced the democratic process with all councillors having input on all decisions, with 20+ less meetings. The fine detail is for the new council to refine over time."

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