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St Helena : St Helena EXCO Report for 29 September 2009
Submitted by Saint Helena Herald (Juanita Brock) 04.10.2009 (Article Archived on 18.10.2009)

We began this Executive Council by reviewing the undertakings given and resolutions made at the last Legislative Council meeting held on 24th August. Hon. Members were satisfied that action had been taken or was in progress on the two undertakings and five resolutions.

EXCO REPORT 36 – 29th September 2009


 


We began this Executive Council by reviewing the undertakings given and resolutions made at the last Legislative Council meeting held on 24th August. Hon. Members were satisfied that action had been taken or was in progress on the two undertakings and five resolutions.


 


The Overseas Territories Consultative Council meeting is due to take place in London from 8th to 10th December. Although this event is not long after our General Election, we are hoping to send a newly elected Councillor as our representative – the passage has been booked. This meeting of EXCO considered what issues we might like to see discussed at that Council. Three had already been submitted and were approved: The 1999 White Paper ten years’ on covering the Territory of St.Helena into the 21st century, Democracy and Good Governance. It was also felt that we should submit the matter of our delayed airport as well as the fact that it might be preferable for the UK Overseas Territories to relate to the whole of Her Majesty’s Government rather than just the FCO (and in a few cases DfID as well).


 


Under Any Other Business a number of items were raised. Of particular sadness and joy was the matter of the resignation of our Financial Secretary Ginny Grace. Sad because Ginny has served us well during the last 19 months and we will miss her very much, joyful because the personal reason for her resignation is a particularly happy one for her. She will of course be with us for at least the next three months, and there will be opportunity for us all to wish her the very best for the future.


 


Ginny herself raised the fact that Executive Council never actually study the government accounts. These are produced on a monthly basis and are reviewed by the Finance Committee, but it was felt that it would be appropriate for them to be discussed in the presence of the Governor in EXCO and so Ginny will present the August accounts at our next meeting. Apart from anything else, it will enable the Governor to include the financial position of your government in this report, which I am sure will prove to be both interesting and relevant.


 


The Attorney General brought us into the world of political correctness in that we recognise officially both the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, but as there are some places that are neither Christian or Islamic a new brand to be known as the Red Crystal has been launched. We agreed to recognise that name.


 


The issue of the passing on of news from the RMS was raised. Many people feel that it is appropriate to relay news of almost every incident on the ship wherever it may be and however trivial. That actually places quite a burden on both the RMS and some officials here. My feeling is that there is a happy medium, in that when there is something worthy of news then we should release such information as quickly as we can. However when there is no real news and merely speculation, there seems little point in generating reports that say virtually nothing.


 


I raised the matter of the withdrawn Terminal Handling Charge and presented Members with a spreadsheet comparing the impact of the strengthening of the South African Rand against the £ Sterling with that £200 charge. The fact is that the 15% fall in the £ is likely to be costing us up to £2,500 per average container – over 12 times more than the proposed Terminal Handling Charge. The likely impact in the retail shops may be around 7% increase, whereas the Terminal Charge would be less than half a percent. Nevertheless we do have some say over where the handling charge will fall but we have absolutely no say in the way the currency markets move.


 


There is rising speculation as to exactly how the ship might be operated after the statement about the airport is made before the end of this year. The recent anxiety over the apparent imposition of a Terminal Handling Charge here served to expose some weaknesses in the systems that exist. There is much praise for the actual crew and the operation of the ship, but Hon. Members continue to feel that the administration supporting the ship may be less than optimal. I indicated that although the recent report by Julian Morris did provide the answer to many questions, there were nevertheless areas that might benefit from a closer look, and I agreed to work through this issue with the new Council. Indeed it would seem wholly appropriate, should there be options with regard to significant changes in shipping, that we would instigate a thorough public consultation as we are all aware of many differing views within the community.


 


We also discussed various details of how we are preparing for the General Election and what will have to take place at the very first Legislative Council. That will now include the election of Chairmen of Committees, agreement on the committee structure, and the separate election of Executive Council that will serve for the first two years of the next government.


 


There was one particular issue that I feel we will need to consider before the next election, and it is the possibility of a move from Cash Accounting to Accrual Accounting within government. “Surely that can wait until the new Council takes office”, would seem a sensible comment; but Andrew Weeks is here at present helping us to address this issue, and he will be leaving the island before the Election. Thus we all agreed that Andrew should make a presentation not merely to EXCO Councillors, but also to any others, whether previous Legco Councillors, prospective candidates, or members of the public. I hope that presentation will be within the next two weeks and we will make sure that public announcements of time and place are prominent.


The meeting finished at about 12.40 pm.


 


Andrew Gurr


Governor


29th September 2009

 

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