During the period 6-28 November 2013 nine Constituency Meetings were held in various areas on St Helena. A total of 70 members of the public were in attendance, representing an average of eight per meeting. This attendance is disappointing and we will look to improve numbers in 2014.
Each meeting was led by three Councillors, with the same three agenda items: The Lucy Faithful Foundation Report, the Sainsbury Report and Improving Communications with Constituents. Following summaries of each item from Elected Members, the floor was opened for questions and discussion.
The Lucy Faithful Report
During discussion of the Lucy Faithful Report, which researched sexual offences against children and young people on St Helena, comments received from the public included:
- “It should be the parents’ responsibility to ensure children are not wandering the streets.”
- “As no statistics were given, the report could be making more of an issue than it really is.”
- “There needs to be more education of parents and children on the dangers of grooming of young girls by older men.”
- “There should be a telephone helpline for reporting sexual offences” (there is – 22888)
- “People may be more willing to come forward now, rather than there being an increase in offences.”
- “Abuse of boys also needs to be highlighted.”
The Sainsbury Report
The Sainsbury Report is concerned with the benefits system. Progress on the implementation of recommendations in the report was summarised at each meeting. Questions raised by the public and answers given by Councillors included:
Q. Do the Minimum Income Standards (MIS) actually reflect the true cost of living?
A. To the best of Councillors’ knowledge – Yes.
Q. Will the MIS be reviewed?
A. Yes, the MIS will be reviewed annually to take account of any price changes.
Q. Where did the money come from for the increase in BIP and IRB?”
A. The money came from efficiencies and increased SHG revenue.
Q. When the BIP increases for one household member, the IRB decreases for another, so some people do not see any improvement – why is this?
A. These people are ‘transitionally protected’ – their current level of benefit is higher than if they were applying for benefits now.
Other comments included:
- “The Household definition for benefit payments is unfair and is forcing some members of the home to leave.”
- “Some people on benefits cannot afford prescriptions.” (Actually, those on IRB don’t pay and those on BIP pay only for certain medical treatments and not for prescriptions)
- “Was the report necessary and has it complicated the system?”
- “There should be a national pension scheme for everyone over the age of 65.”
- “Benefits for disabled people need to improve.”
- “People on unemployment benefits should do some form of community work.”
A lack of communication between Councillors and the public was raised during the Election campaign and was put on the agenda to allow the public to give feedback and make suggestions on how to improve communications with the new Council.
Comments received during the meeting included:
- “Communication has improved, but there is more that still can be done.”
- “Local TV is not being used enough.”(this is being addressed)
- “The ExCo report by Councillors is well received.”
- “Are media services providing value for money?”
- “During the Election Campaign a lot was said about Freedom of Information, but we do not see much happening.”
- “All Elected Members should attend each Constituency meeting.”
A film will be broadcast shortly where members of Legislative Council will discuss November’s Constituency Meetings.
Other Matters Arising
Common issues raised by members of the public over the course of the nine meetings included:
- The cost of electricity
- The performance of the wind turbines
- The relationship between Connect Saint Helena Ltd and SHG
- The condition of the roads
- The purchase of a fishing vessel for St Helena
- The need to improve parking in Jamestown
- The need to have a better public transport service
- The work required to improve Hospital infrastructure
- Enterprise St Helena and accountability
- Problems obtaining affordable and reliable water for agriculture
- Solar street lights inoperable
- The state of public toilets.
Councillors agreed to provide answers on these and other issues above, along with answering specific questions raised by constituents.
Councillors found the meetings extremely useful in gauging public opinion and would like to thank all who attended. A further round of Constituency meetings will be announced in due course.
11 February 2014