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Low turnout at St Mary's public meetings

The Vice-chair of Council has said she welcomes suggestions on how to better engage the community of St Mary's after its recent public meeting attracted a low turnout compared to the off-islands.

The 5.30pm meeting on St Mary's last week had an audience of around 10 people, while St Martin's and Bryher each had around 13. This is despite St Mary's having a population of some 1723 compared to 136 on St Martin's and 84 on Bryher (according to the last census).

Likewise, the monthly Councillor surgeries, an opportunity to meet with Members and ask questions, are also generally poorly attended, although there have been exceptions.

Cllr Fran Grottick said: "The biannual public meetings started in the last administration were a very good initiative and we're happy to continue them. It's true that some meetings are less well attended than others but thank you to the people who did come out on St Mary's, particularly as it was a cold and miserable evening.

"All Councillors are happy to be contacted at any time but we would welcome ideas on how we can make the community meetings more effective. We've tried various different times, including late afternoon and early Saturday morning, as we're aware that different times suit different people."

Cllr Steve Sims said: "It would be great to get the same level of engagement on St Mary's as on the off-Islands. 13 on St Martin's is the equivalent of 150 on St Mary's and that would transform the whole process. With so few turning up and only one under 40, it's hard to gauge the feelings of the community about things. We don't know whether it's a lack of interest, contentment (probably not), or more likely a combination of lack of interest and resignation, i.e. my views don't count. Well they don't unless you make them known.

"There are a lot of things more exciting than local government but there are a number of important issues at the moment, not least water and housing. We know what the concerns are on Bryher and St Martin's now and can act on them."

Cllr Jonathan Smith, who represents St Martin's, said: "St Martin's has a diverse population with a range of age groups, and an engaged community. I find that people here are generally interested in Council business and want to know more. As most Council activity is St Mary's centric, community engagement with off islands is absolutely essential in my opinion, and people here do appreciate Council Members and officers coming up to speak with us."


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