Executive Council met on Tuesday, 12 February 2019, the first meeting for this year, with a fairly lengthy Open Agenda.
The first item was a proposal to excise four parcels of land in Blueman’s Field from the Green Heartland Zone for re-zoning as land in the Intermediate Zone.
The land in question had previously been in the Intermediate Zone and was put into the Green Heartland Zone following the 2012 review of the Land Development Control Plan. In agreeing the rezoning, Executive Council at the time directed the Crown Estates Manager to negotiate with the owners of the affected land parcels to agree a land swap from Green Heartland to another area in the Intermediate Zone. Over the years, since 2012, significant attempts were made by Crown Estates to identify land that will meet the unique quality of these four land parcels – taking cognisance of its pristine location, sea views, lush greenery, and access to infrastructure. However, these attempts have been to no avail and the land owners in the meantime continue to feel aggrieved.
Members felt that this issue needed to be redressed and approved the proposal whilst noting that a requirement for appropriate design briefs, to mitigate visual impacts of any proposed developments on these plots, could be a condition of planning.
Council was next asked to consider and advise whether the St Helena National Trust (Amendment) Bill, 2019, should be printed, published and presented as Government Business at a forthcoming formal meeting of Legislative Council. The amendments were essentially to further regulate the powers and procedures of the Trust and the composition and procedures of the Trust Council. The amendment Ordinance makes provision for the appointment of a Director of the National Trust who will be responsible for the day-to-day functioning of the Trust. It also provides for the accounts of the Trust to be audited either by the Chief Auditor or an auditor approved by the Chief Auditor. Members were content to give their approval.
Under the next agenda item, Executive Council was asked to consider and advise whether the Medical Practitioners (Qualifications) (Amendment) Regulations, 2019, should be enacted. The Medical Practitioners Ordinance, 1910, allows for a medical practitioner to practice medicine on St Helena if he or she is qualified to practice medicine (a) anywhere in the United Kingdom; or (b) in a place specified in regulations.
Members were informed that SHG has recently recruited a doctor qualified in Russia, who is scheduled to take up employment in the Health Directorate during the latter part of February 2019. In view of this, regulations need to be enacted to allow for Medical Practitioners qualified in Russia to practice medicine on St Helena. Members were given an overview of the recruitment process and the criteria used to determine how Medical Practitioners are appointed. Members also noted that the Medical Practitioners Ordinance of 1910 is currently being amended and that, if approved, there would no longer be the need to amend the Regulations on an ad hoc basis. Members gave approval for the amended Regulations to be enacted.
The next item on the agenda was the Telecommunications (Amendment) Regulations, 2019, and Members were asked to consider and approve the amended regulations. The amended regulations set out a number of changes to the tariffs applied by SURE in respect of their services; the main ones being a 4% increase from 1 April 2019 on the cost of international calls, service fees, broadband and some mobile charges. Members noted that the increase in broadband charges will be complemented by a reduction in the overage charge per mega bit, reducing from 7p to 5p and, in addition SURE has agreed to increase the data allowance on each of the packages by a minimum of 5% both of which will benefit consumers from 1 April 2019. Members approved the amended regulations.
The last item on the Open Agenda was a request to consider a raft of tax measures to be brought into force from the beginning of the next Financial Year – 1 April 2019. These include:
- Changes to Self-Employed and Corporation Income Tax to incentivise export and import substitution activities and incentivise charitable giving
- Introduction of an Approved Investment Scheme to provide customs duty reductions or payment deferrals to any investment on St Helena which particularly contributes to the Island’s economic, environmental and social welfare
- Introduction of Gift Aid for donations over £1000 to incentivise charitable giving
- Introduction of a Charge on Commercial Properties which are empty over nine months of the year to increase supply of commercial property available for rent
- Changes to Stamp Duties to exempt first time buyers, to bring in stepped duties for higher value properties and to include a rate of stamp duty on second residential properties. This will assist first time buyers and help increase the supply of residential property available for rent
Members agreed that the proposed measures should be taken out to public consultation and also asked that the public is given adequate time to provide their comments on the proposals. A separate press release will issue on this shortly.
13 February 2019