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Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Nathan Prince) 02.11.2013 (Article Archived on 30.11.2013)

Good evening. My name is John Birmingham. I am standing for election because I am committed to and believe I have something to offer the Islands I came to nearly 40 years ago. I am married to Louise and have a son, Joe, who is away at University. I also have a daughter, Alex, who works within Education and I have a grandson, James.



Broadcast over FIRS on Wednesday, 23 October 2013)


Good evening.  My name is John Birmingham.  I am standing for election because I am
committed to and believe I have something to offer the Islands I came to nearly
40 years ago.  I am married to Louise and
have a son, Joe, who is away at University. 
I also have a daughter, Alex, who works within Education and I have a
grandson, James.


I have previous Council and
Assembly experience and I am active in the community from the Shack Youth Club
to Acorns and of course the Blue Bus.


People are the main asset of the
Falkland Islands and I believe it is the duty of elected members to look after
the vulnerable members of this society, whilst enabling the most able to
progress in their chosen field.  This
election is extra-important as the Islanders are not only having to make major
decisions for the future but the new assembly will have to change the practices
of 100 years.  By that, I mean the
electorate will be expecting more open debate, more public decision making and
more accountability.


I support all of these principles
and if elected would also support further moves towards a more modern system
including ministerial powers. 
Accountability without authority is no longer acceptable. 


Here are some of my views:


The Argentines are not going to
leave us alone and I support the continuation of an active quality but targeted
public relations programme.  Complacency
is not an option.


The Medical Department were tasked
by the last Assembly to charge people £300.00 when going overseas for
treatment.  It brings in £50,000.00 a
year.  Their budget is nearly £7 Million.  It has to go. 
And the medical Services Tax – The Islands have a healthy bank
balance.  And a way of putting money back
into people’s pockets and help businesses would be for that to go also.


The number of people over 70 is
past 300.  That figure will grow.  The hospital care wards were only a
short-term measure.  For those who need
care, we need a purpose built residential facility.  Stanley House Grounds is my preferred
site.  But to use the site, a new school
hostel needs to be built.  There are less
than 25 students in the present three buildings.  And access into buildings for those who have
mobility problems affects many people. 


I am going to break the cardinal
rule of politics by making the promise that there will be a lift at the Town
Hall and there will be no more “Yes Minister” put-offs. 


Over a year ago I asked at a
public meeting what progress there was on the new Infant/junior School, to be
told that work would start within 2 years. 
Well, as far as I can see, the site has been chosen and that’s it.  The school is starting to over-flow and it’s
only a matter of time before the community school is also in the same position
and if elected, I will be very pro-active in this extremely important and
over-due project. 


I would also like to see an
increase in apprentices and the under-used dairy at Beckside Farm is an ideal
place for an extension to the training Department, with scope for many
educational and training opportunities, not least to interest the next
generation in Agriculture.  FIDC don’t
know what to do with it so let’s make use of the asset.


The Housing list still has over 30
people on it.  Mobile homes are not the
solution.  If elected, I would propose
the selling off of selected older properties to sitting tenants and the
building of more single units.  The
partnership with Morrisons specifically stated that they would not become
involved in house building.  So why were
they awarded the contract of 20 houses? 


And what happened to the
publishing of tender prices? 


We are justly proud of our team
(sports) for representing the Islands overseas. 
And I would continue that support. 
But we only have one playing field with little money spent on it.  It is not fit for the purpose and I think it
is time to take a serious look at an artificial surface.


Tourism has suffered a drop in
numbers recently and a lot of money is being spent on promoting the Islands as
a destination but nowhere near as the money which is allocated on the actual
product.  I would like to see more
investment here on the ground.  The
visitors we get here mainly come for our natural surroundings and wildlife.  They expect the government to play its part
in looking after those surroundings.


That includes waste; and the
management of waste has been much discussed recently.  I repeat the quote on the report on the Mary
Hill oil spillage. “The community will no longer tolerate an ad-hoc approach to
waste disposal.  I support any initiative
to improve the disposal of all waste.


Oil development is underway with
opportunities for businesses and individuals. 
The government should be the facilitator and the regulator.  There is still some confusion about the way
forward; and if elected I would want a review of port development.


Fishing is still the backbone of
our economy but government needs to work more closely with the industry to
further the income to the islands.


I have always supported
agriculture in Camp but 6 years of funding the Rural Development Scheme has
produced very little.  Why? 


In the past I defended the
decision not to upgrade the MPA Road until the time was right.  That time has come.  The present tar production plant is
obsolete.  The amount of traffic is
increasing. we will always need that road. 
Upwards of £400,000.00 – that’s nearly £.5 Million is being spent on it
every year.  An investment in new
equipment and a commitment to a planned programme over a number of years would
have huge benefits with Stanley Roads also being upgraded.  It’s never going to get any cheaper.  The most important start to any journey is the
first step.


I was involved in the setting up
of the Holiday Credit Scheme.  It was a
way of spreading some of the fishing income to all.  So rather than a vague ‘yes it would be good
to have,’ I have an idea to fund it.  The
disposal of Government shares in Stanley Services has long been talked
about.  A company could be set up; those
shares could be gifted to that company whose sole purpose would be to
administer the credit scheme with the annual dividend, which is going to
grow.  It’s worth a discussion.


Earlier I said people are our main
asset.  Its 18 months since Irene Lucas
issued her report of the Falkland Islands Government regime.  Little has changed.  Recruitment and retention are still major
problems.  The pay and conditions of
government employees are outdated.  It’s
more than 15 years since Hay.  There
needs to be progress.  Government has a
healthy bank balance.  I believe we need
to spend some of that on long overdue infrastructure and improving conditions.


If elected I will be part of a
team.  Although independently minded, I
am a team player.  To achieve anything
others have to agree.  Enough like-minded
people can achieve a great deal.  I stand
for fairness, openness, service to the community and respect.


In this election you have a chance
to choose an Assembly with a broad range of experience, energy and new ideas to
take the Islands forward to a bright future.


You have just heard my views.  I would like to hear yours.  If you would like to discuss anything with me
then please ring me on 52834 or stop me on the street.


Thank you for listening.


SB:  If elected, what will be your main priority?


JB:  I think the new Assembly has to get to grips
with what the problems are within government. 
Why have we lost so many people recently?  How many of the Darwin 16 are left, for
instance?  In recruitment and retention
you need a properly functioning Civil Service.


SB:  Do you feel that the recent efforts to
promote the Islands’ message internationally should be increased or could this
lead to local issues receiving less attention from MLAs?


JB:  I think over the period of the 30th
anniversary a lot of work was done and we have to agree that it was a
success.  However, I think that funding
is going to become an issue shortly and I would like to see a more targeted
approach.  After all, the Committee of 24
decision was no different to previous years.


SB:  Which Capital project should have top


JB:  Without doubt the schools – I would like to
see within the first two or three months – certainly by the turn of the year –
a list of priority capital projects for the new Assembly.


SB:  If elected, what portfolio would you like to


JB:  I have always been content to take on the
less glamorous roles such as Housing but I am interested in fish.


SB:  Why should people vote for you?


JB:  I have the experience, I have the commitment,
I do have the drive and I have the time.


(100X Transcription Service)


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