26 March 2019
Executive Council met today with a fairly lengthy Open Agenda.
The first item discussed related to the Armorial Ensigns of St Helena and in particular the St Helena Coat of Arms. The current design of the Coat of Arms was published in the St Helena Government Gazette of January 1984. Whilst the Coat of Arms can only be used by SHG and its wholly owned entities, the shield can be used more widely and has been used extensively in the production of local souvenirs.
Over time, the design on the shield has become distorted and as a result of concerns raised by members of the public over the years, particularly in relation to the depiction of the St Helena Wirebird, the College of Arms in London was asked to produce a new painting of the St Helena Coat of Arms at a cost of just under £1000 to address these concerns. The new painting which can be digitally produced, also depicts the true colours agreed in the 1984 Gazette. The National Trust has been consulted regarding the new painting and commented that aside from the bill of the Wirebird being too thick, the image is entirely acceptable. Members were happy to approve the revised version subject to the College of Arms amending the shape of the bird’s bill.
For the next item, Members were asked to advise whether a list of land parcels totalling 2,117.292 acres, currently designated as National Forest, should be excised from the SHG Forest Estate. This is as a result of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Division carrying out an exercise to rationalise the SHG forest estate with a view to having an estate that will be both productive and environmentally suitable for long-term forestry purposes. In their deliberations, Members noted that the excision could lead to additional land resource being available for development. Members were happy to approve the excision to be gazetted and requested that additional work be done to assess each parcel to identify how the land could be used if it were made publicly available.
Members then went on to consider two papers presented by the Financial Secretary as part of the routine end of Financial Year good practice. The first paper related to the First Withdrawal Warrant and the second was the Establishment, Amalgamation and Closure of Special Funds. The Withdrawal Warrant related to the withdrawal of funds from a number of Directorates where there had been underspends, for allocation to areas in Government where there had been requests for additional spend, and Members were content to approve this. Under the second paper, Members discussed and agreed the establishment of a new Special Fund for the management of funding from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, they also agreed the amalgamation of two Funds – the DFID Infrastructure Fund and the DFID Projects Fund – and the closure of three funds – two in relation to Technical Cooperation and one in relation to unallocated stores.
Under the next agenda item, Members were asked to consider and agree increases on a number of Fees & Charges relating to Companies Regulations, Charities Regulations, Gaming Machines Regulations, Liquor Regulations and Trade Marks Registration Rules all for 2019. In approving the increases, Members noted that they were inflationary increases.
Members were then asked to consider whether an Exemption Order should be issued to exempt from customs duty diesel fuel imported or sold:
- For the purpose of generating electricity by Connect Saint Helena Ltd
- For the purpose of commercial fishing
- For the purpose of running the fish processing plant by the St Helena Fisheries Corporation
In their deliberations, Members noted that based on current consumption it is estimated that the exemption will cost £865,000 in terms of loss of revenue for electricity generation and £30,000 for commercial fishing/ processing plant. This would be on top of the proposed annual subsidy for 2019/20 of £681,000 to Connect Saint Helena Ltd, and £350,000 to the St Helena Fisheries Corporation to support the local Fishing Industry. Members approved the request but for one year only in all three instances.
Finally, Members were asked to approve an increase in the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) in line with the current policy that will increase the payments for Basic Island Pension (BIP) and Income Related Benefits (IRB). The proposals made will see an increase to £70.00 (1.45%) for IRB and £72.40 (1.54%) for BIP per week, an increase of 61.7% and 60.9% respectively over the last eight years. This is a greater uplift than general price inflation. Members were happy to recommend to the Governor that the increase should be approved, noting that this would go some way to protecting the most vulnerable in our society. The increase would come into effect from April 2019. A separate press release will issue on this shortly.