Falklands Executive Council Reports on Latest Meeting
Submitted by J Brock (FINN)
Executive Council met on Wednesday 25th August to consider twenty two papers. MLAs Bragger, Hansen and Roberts were in attendance.
The first paper on the agenda was the latest updated mental health action plan and new five year emotional well-being strategy. This has been a key piece of work for the health service as it will ensure that mental health services in the Falkland Islands continue to improve and that mental health is viewed as being as important as physical well-being. The paper highlighted the significant progress made on delivering the recommendations in the mental health action plan, with all actions in the plan now addressed other than two items relating to ongoing training. The new strategy outlines how the Emotional Wellbeing Service will develop from now until 2026. Members were pleased to note the updated action plan and to approve the strategy. The strategy will be monitored by a multi-disciplinary working group with an update on its work to be provided to Executive Council in six months time.
Members approved the renewal on existing terms for the contracts for civil aviation and maritime security services to Falkland Security Services Ltd and for terminal access and terminal base security for commercial flight days to the Falkland Islands Company Ltd. It was felt to be vital that good governance and management of the security services continue.
Changes were approved to the Customs and Immigration advertising policy in relation to vacancies, to improve the effectiveness and the suitability of the requirement. The current policy on the advertising required to be undertaken by employers states that vacancies must be advertised once in the Penguin News and three times on Falklands Radio. Feedback has been received from employers that the requirement to advertise on Falklands Radio does not help them in their efforts to publicise their vacancies. Employers were also said to now be relying more on their online presence either with their own websites or social media channels. It was agreed that the advertising policy be changed to require all vacancies to be advertised in a national newspaper and through at least one other platform/medium.
An appeal against the decision to refuse a work permit was upheld.
Members approved the further development of an effective pilotage service for the Falklands, in particular for Stanley Harbour. This will be supported by changes to the existing Harbour and Ports Ordinance 2017, in order to provide the necessary framework for this service to be delivered. The implementation of the service is vital to deliver improved vessel safety, particularly within the confines of Stanley Harbour and its approaches. It was also agreed that the government should seek a private operator to run the service on a contractual basis, which would be regulated to ensure fair pricing to customers. A new Harbour Revision Order will be drafted to designate an expanded port area, this will ensure that all high-traffic areas are included and give the Falkland Islands Maritime Authority provision to manage the risk of incidents in these areas. This does not mandate compulsory pilotage throughout the entire harbour area.
A revised interim structure for the Customs and Immigration service was approved. An extension to the post of Customs and Immigration Programme Director was agreed. The short term increase in capacity allows for embedding of significant work, will support service development to increase efficiency and improve customer service. The structure will be reviewed again in 2022.
A very minor amendment to the Immigration Ordinance 1999 was approved in order to correct a drafting error and ensure that the legislative intent is unambiguous. The amendment was passed by the Legislative Assembly at its meeting on the 26th August.
Members approved the referral of the Fisheries (Conservations and Management) (Amendment) Bill 2021 to the September meeting of the Legislative Assembly. The bill will enable the implementation of a revised ITQ (Individual Transferable Quota) scheme (known as ITQ B), with licences to fish catch entitlement due to come into force from January 2023. This has been a hugely important collaborative piece of work with the fishing industry that will help ensure the continued sustainable development of our most valuable industry; providing long-term security for companies and enabling continued economic benefits for our community.
The latest report from the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) was considered. The IRP was previously appointed to consider the remuneration of the next Assembly and to put forward recommendations to help more people stand for election. The IRP’s first report on the remuneration of Members was brought to ExCo earlier this year and their latest report outlined recommendations to encourage more people to stand for election. Members felt that the IRP’s report did not work as a cohesive set of recommendations and it was therefore not supported. Points were put forward by the IRP related to MLA training and using better electronic communications and these improvements are already in train. The IRP were thanked for their work in putting the two reports together.
The Falkland Islands Government has a long-term partnership with Peter Symonds College (PSC). Falkland student places at PSC have been funded via consecutive loan agreements and the current agreement ends this year. PSC have signalled that they do not wish to continue with the current funding arrangement. Members approved moving from a loan agreement with PSC to an arrangement where FIG pays per place for each of our students. PSC have confirmed that changing the funding model will not affect the ability for Falklands students to secure places at the College, provided they meet the entry requirements.
The financial statements and annual report for 2020 for the Falkland Islands Tourist Board were noted. These will now be tabled at the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
The provisions of Schedule 6 Taxes Ordinance 1997 were first brought into legislation in 1996 and were not fully tested until the 2015 oil exploration activity. It became apparent that the provisions placed a high administrative burden on both the FIG Tax Office and the licensee as well creating significant financial uncertainty on the licensee as they are ultimately responsible for any unpaid tax of their contractors. Executive Council had previously agreed that a statutory withholding tax be introduced deducting 3% of the invoice value to be held on account of the contractors FI tax liability. Consultation has taken place with the private sector. Members approved draft legislation and this will now go forward to the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
The draft Taxes (Amendment) Bill 2021 was approved. The Bill provides for amendments to several pieces of tax-related legislation in order to provide clarity to tax-payers, to provide greater consistency and to bring the legislation in line with current office practice. It amends the Taxes Ordinance 1997, the Medical Services Tax Ordinance 2010, Payment on Account of Tax (Employees’ Deductions) Regulations 1997, Income Tax (Apportionment of Deductions) Rules 1997 and the Taxes (Benefit in Kind) Rules 2003.
The timetable for the dissolution of the current Legislative Assembly and for the next General Election was confirmed. The current Legislative Assembly will be dissolved by Proclamation on 24th September 2021. The date for the General Election was set for the 4th November 2021. The arrangements for voting in Camp and Stanley were also confirmed.
An amendment to the Media Trust Ordinance 1989 was approved that will broaden the category of person who may be appointed as a trustee. The Trust has had increasing difficulty recruiting trustees which is aggravated by the current criteria where potential trustees must qualify to be on the Register of Electors. The criteria will be amended to allow any person to become a trustee who has been resident in the Falkland Islands for a period of twelve months prior to their appointment. The amendment will be referred to a future meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
Executive Council agreed last month the date, the proposed approach and the questions to be asked in the 2021 Census. A further paper was considered this month to reflect the feedback provided by Members at the previous meeting. Approval was given to the Draft Order and schedule of questions to be made.
Approval was given to the continuation for four years of the posts of Head of Procurement and Deputy Director of Development and Commercial Services. It was felt that there would be continued value in maintaining the roles in order to continue the delivery of key projects and the development of procurement processes. Financing of the posts were later approved by the Standing Finance Committee.
A request for a contract extension of beyond five years on overseas terms for a year was approved.
It has been proposed that the Falkland Islands enter into a Sister City relationship with Portsmouth. Portsmouth has a long-standing relationship with the Falklands, primarily through the UK Armed Forces with a particular focus on the 1982 War but also through the modern day defence of the Islands. The proposal for a Sister City relationship was made by the Leader of Portsmouth City Council and several meetings have been held at a political and official level between Portsmouth City Council and FIG. It is envisaged that it will be a mutually beneficial relationship based on shared objectives that would bring a range of benefits to the Falklands as a whole. Approval was given to entering into the Sister City relationship and the Chief Executive will agree a programme of activities with the Chief Executive of Portsmouth Unitary Council.
The annual report on the Community Development Scheme (CDS) was noted. The new CDS criteria are now in place and the Scheme is well-used. A range of courses are currently being funded. Succession planning is an emerging and welcome theme in applications.
Next to be considered was a response to the Public Accounts Committee: Internal Audit follow-up report on resilience of Stanley’s water supply. The response provides details on what actions are being undertaken within the Public Works Water Section to address the matter. Recent events have highlighted the importance of this work. Progress on a number of the recommendations within the audit has been slow; however there has been significant progress with some. The need for an up-to-date water management strategy has been identified and works have now started to produce the document. It will cover the three main water management areas of supply, treatment and delivery. The document will provide details of the current operational capacity of each area, the expected future growth and the areas that will need attention to meet the growing requirements. Members approved the submission of the response to the next meeting of the Legislative Assembly.
Finally, it was approved that an offer of an extension of contract be made to a senior FIG official.
MLA Stacy Bragger
Gilbert House, Stanley