HIS EXCELLENCY THE GOVERNOR’S ANNUAL ADDRESS TO THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY FRIDAY 27 MAY 2021
Scene setting Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, honoured guests. In this 40th Anniversary year, it seems fitting that we consider just how much our democracy has matured. The global pandemic has caused us to think carefully about the fundamental principles of our Constitution when faced with the challenge of balancing the protection of our people with the sustainability and stability of our economy.
In confronting that challenge, this self-determined modern democracy has had the courage to chart its own course, guided by the willingness to listen to all points of view and a preparedness to weigh the evidence, rather than emotion. In so doing, the government has won the support of the community. Indeed, the community has shown its true colours during this difficult time.
We often use the words ‘resilience’ and ‘close-knit’ to describe the people of these islands, but what is very apparent, as we hopefully move past this dreadful disease, is our unity. There have been personal hardships; no one denies that, yet it is through this unity that we have been able to support one another, not just to endure, but also to move forward over the past twelve months.
The successes we have achieved are testament to the tenacity of Falkland Islanders. Happily, the evidence supports the proposition that this positive trajectory will continue. Fiscal context Despite global uncertainty, the Government enjoyed a Budget surplus over the past year.
Through this, we have maintained our strong financial position, ensuring that our COVID-19 stimulus and enhanced support packages could continue for a further 12 months. These welcome initiatives support the government’s wider programme of activity.
The Falkland Islands economy remains strong and is currently operating at close to full labour capacity. Of course, we are not immune to the challenges seen elsewhere in the world, the difficulties of land and sea-based international tourism and our constrained global connectivity continue to impact upon our capacity to deliver our ambitious agenda.
We are also very mindful of global inflationary pressures. Through careful financial decision-making, we have once again achieved excellent performance across our externally managed investment funds. This, together with positive revenues from fishing and taxation, has resulted in robust government finances, enabling further investment in our capital and service delivery plans.
The coming year will see an estimated operating budget of circa £90 million and, should plans proceed accordingly, a projected capital expenditure of over £75 million, compared to a revised delivery of just under £40 million in 2021/22. This includes investments in the new port facility, waste management, utilities, housing development, continuing refurbishment of 3 the hospital, improved transport infrastructure, and hopefully the procurement of a second new airframe for the Falkland Islands Government Air Service, known as FIGAS.
The treasury team has made excellent progress to improve further financial forecasting, supporting the government’s ability to plan, finance and deliver the key aspects of its ambitious capital programme. Our collective focus on fiscal prudence – a feature of this nation’s careful and effective approach to managing the public purse – has seen our A+ credit rating from S&P Global Ratings maintained.
This external benchmark of our economy supports a wider framework for longer-term investment and highlights our ability to manage future financial risks and opportunities as they emerge. Political context In November 2021, our voters took to the polls to elect the eight Members of the Legislative Assembly. This was the fourth election since the new Constitution came into force in 2009. Five incumbents were re-elected, with two former Members also gaining seats, and one elected to his first term in office. The Executive Council has recently approved the Islands Plan 2022 – 2026, which sets out a blueprint for this Assembly’s work over the coming years.
Recognising that actions today will have impacts well beyond the life of the current Assembly, the plan includes many explicit commitments to the protection and conservation of the Falkland Islands’ special and unique natural environment. While travel has remained limited for much of the past year, we have maintained a productive dialogue with partners and politicians around the world, with an increasing number of inperson meetings made possible as the pandemic recedes. This month, we ourselves have lifted restrictions on arrivals and removed quarantine requirements.
We are fortunate to have the Rt Hon Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Rt Hon Amanda Milling among our first official guests following the relaxing of our COVID-19 measures, and look forward to welcoming more visitors over the coming year. Speaking of our honourable guests, I would like again like to express my thanks for the support shown by the UK Government to the Falkland Islands throughout the pandemic. A hugely successful nationwide vaccination programme and strong local testing capability have made it possible to remove our restrictions while protecting our population and keeping people safe, and I know that we are all truly grateful for this.
Of course, as you all will know, 2022 is a significant year, representing the 40th Anniversary of the Liberation of the Falkland Islands. We have been marking the occasion with a year-long programme of commemoration and celebration, both reflecting on the brave sacrifices of those who restored our freedom, as well as showcasing the modern realities of our home – including our achievements since 1982 and our ambitions for the future.
One such achievement was only announced last week and I am delighted that Stanley has been awarded official city status by Her Majesty The Queen, as part of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It is the first time that British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies have been able to compete for the title – which makes it all the more special to be the first in a year that marks significant anniversaries for both ourselves and for Her Majesty. Update on capital investments and initiatives.
An outline 10-year capital programme of almost £400 million reflects our considerable ambition to deliver key priorities. However, as we move forward there will need to be further investigation and analysis of the options available to ensure we can meet our infrastructure development needs in both the short and medium term, alongside the longer-term generation of reserves that underpin fiscal stability. The largest, single development within the programme remains the new port facility, which remains a key priority in the Islands Plan, and will support the future expansion of key industries.
In March, Executive Council approved the port development planning application and decommissioning process for the current facility. Further work is now progressing to allow the detailed design to be finalised and there is ongoing stakeholder engagement as part of this process. I am also pleased to confirm the appointment of a new Senior Project Manager for the port project, who arrived in the Islands last week. Strengthening of the roads, infrastructure continues, with another 5km of asphalt completed on the MPA road.
The rural road network has also seen significant improvements, with works ongoing on the North Camp road on the East and the Shallow Harbour/Dunnose Head road on the West. Looking forward, we have awarded a new contract for the East roads network, and a tender process has started for the West roads network. Alongside investment in improving roads, the government recognises the need to strengthen other vital linkages within Camp.
A five-year programme of improving ramps and jetties is now in train and further improvements to Islands-wide 2G coverage are planned to take place during the second half of 2022. Housing infrastructure has been boosted by the release of plots within Pale Maiden Crescent in Stanley, which will shortly be followed by the release of West Yorkshire Crescent.
The new government housing contract is also progressing well, with the first six houses due to be delivered in July 2022, and the remaining 34 delivered steadily over the next three years. The Executive Council’s approval to proceed with the new waste management facility is also a significant step forward for the Falkland Islands and, together with the housing construction project, is an example of excellent collaboration between the government and British Forces South Atlantic Islands, on key infrastructure projects. Teams from both parties are also continuing to work closely together to identify other areas where there could be significant mutual benefits to be found in combining resources and effort.
Aviation services have had another busy twelve months and rose successfully to the challenge of a second TRIP scheme, with another record-breaking season that looks likely to surpassthe record set last year, when 10,351 passengers were successfully carried by the service. We are 5 very grateful to the team at FIGAS for supporting the scheme and enabling so many people to have special experiences throughout the Islands. The service is also eagerly awaiting a new aircraft that is currently in production following delays due to COVID-19 global disruptions; it is now expected to arrive early in 2023, which coincidentally is the year in which FIGAS celebrates 75 years anniversary – a fitting birthday present for such an integral part of Island life. In terms of expansion and improvement plans, a new local trainee pilot travelled to the UK earlier this year and is due to complete his training by 2024, further bolstering the service.
Finally, last month saw the completion of refurbishments at Stanley Airport, with improvements made to the airport entrance and waiting areas, in order to provide a better customer experience for residents and international tourists, as we welcome the latter back to the Islands over the next few months.
As Honourable Members will be aware, tourism is an increasing part of our Gross Domestic Product, and I know that local operators are looking forward to the next austral summer season, when they can once again showcase the best of Falkland Islands hospitality to visitors from all over the world. We have also continued to invest in projects that support the health and wellbeing of our people, including expansion of the hospital.
Recently there has been a flurry of activity on the development site for Tussac House, our new assisted living facility and community asset, as phase one construction has begun on the west wing. This purpose-built unit is the first of its kind for the Falkland Islands and we hope that residents will be able to move into the new accommodation in early 2024.
One of the key areas of the new Islands Plan is Social Equity and, as this project demonstrates, we believe strongly as a society, in ensuring that we look after everyone in our community.
Finally, before I move on from the capital programme, it’s important to acknowledge other efforts to support the local business community, such as the recent rollout of a new government e-procurement system, designed to streamline processes, increase efficiency and allow greater clarity for local businesses concerning the range of procurement opportunities on offer.
While such advancements may look small on the surface, the amount of work needed to put such a system in place should not be underestimated. This new development will not only help local businesses secure government contracts, but also delivers on our commitments for an open and transparent civil service.
Agriculture is critical to the identity and culture of the Falkland Islands; it is undoubtedly a cornerstone of our home. To this end, the government has continued in its efforts to engage with farmers in developing its strategic plan for agriculture. This work acknowledges a very clear mandate for longer-term consideration of both the conservation and environmental aspects of farming in the Falkland Islands. To this end, the Department of Agriculture, together with other government departments, has started work to build an understanding of the impacts of a visibly drying Camp, which is an important environmental consideration for farming, but also the Islands more broadly.
Turning to one of the staples of our agricultural economy – the wool coring service has been extremely busy this year as farmers increase their reliance on analysis of their wool, in order to maximise the returns when selling their product. Additionally, we now have Responsible Wool Standard certification in place, with 31 farms taking part over the past year. Farmers with this accreditation are seeing premiums of around 10% over uncertified wool, making this an important step to maximising the returns to our rural economy, as well as for the longer-term sustainability of the product.
The Islands Plan 2022-2026 includes a commitment to refresh the Islands-wide approach to protecting the environment from critical biosecurity risks and our biosecurity unit is working to strengthen the current system, in order to continue to provide protection against invasive pests and safeguard the environment from current and future risks.
The fisheries are the largest contributor to our Gross Domestic Product and remain a vital component of our economy. Over the past two years, the government has continued to work closely with fishing companies to ensure that vessels were able to operate safely and meet necessary public health requirements during the pandemic. Thanks to support from the UK Government, the entire trawler fleet, and a number of other merchant vessels serving the fishing industry, were eligible for our COVID-19 vaccination programme, which provided critical protection for both crewmembers and the Islands’ key industry. The fishing sector has welcomed the lifting of quarantine requirements as it will improve operations for industry in the year ahead.
Turning to past performance, 2021 was a good year for Illex, with the highest recorded catch within the last six years reaching 172,539. The total catch for 2022 was 55,000 tons as of midApril. A very good season so far. Following an equally strong second season in 2021 for Loligo, the final annual catch was a record 95,000 tons. Crucially, stocks are stable and at a high level. The total catch so far is at a record high for this time of the first season in the last 25 years, with more than 43,000 tons caught in 47 days. With the environment ever present in our thinking, work continues with the fishing sector to apply mitigation measures that successfully reduce undesired interaction with wildlife. Every vessel has a Marine Mammal Observer onboard to check compliance of fishing gear and practices, with the result that seabird and seal mortalities are at a very low level. Vessel safety, crew welfare and compliance, also remain top priorities for the government, and last year there were clear and significant improvements in the standards of vessel safety and crew welfare from the companies that applied for Illex licenses. Not only was this gratifying to see, but it demonstrated clear evidence that collaborative work between government and industry to raise these standards is gaining significant traction. Work has also been ongoing to improve the ITQ – or Individual Transferable Quota – scheme, with approval granted by Executive Council in August to begin the implementation of a revised scheme to licence fish catch entitlement from January 2023. The new scheme, known 7 as ITQB, will give fishing companies the confidence to consider future investment in the Falkland Islands, while further supporting the sustainable development of our economy.
Mr Speaker, after two years of relatively little progress on developing a hydrocarbons project in the Falklands, due primarily to the low oil prices brought about by COVID-19, things have now started to move again. During the past twelve months, Harbour Energy – the company formed from the takeover of Premier Oil – concluded that their strategic plans for the new company did not fit well with the Sea Lion project and announced their intention to withdraw in the second half of last year. In April 2022, the companies announced the signature of a deal for Harbour Energy to sell its Falkland Islands assets to Navitas Petroleum, and for Navitas to take on the project with the remaining partner Rockhopper. The new arrangement is currently going through the regulatory approval process, following which the refreshed project will resume its progress towards an investment decision. The current Brent crude price of well over $100 per barrel is helpful in creating new interest in this opportunity. I should observe that, as short to medium term energy security rises to the top of the international agenda, the government remains keen to promote this activity. At the same time, it is also vital we ensure that appropriately high regulatory, safety and environmental standards continue to be applied to all development projects of this type. This is non-negotiable.
Turning to onshore minerals, the government is in the final stages of putting regulations in place to allow licences to be issued to explore for gold and other valuable minerals. Those who have lived in the Islands for some time will recall similar work being undertaken around twenty years ago. Following this, the government will commence a short licensing round to receive applications from interested parties and expects several applicants. Subject to their proposals being acceptable, and licences being issued, work is likely to begin on the ground in the coming summer, although it is currently anticipated this will be low impact. It is important to note that the current licences do not allow extraction, so at this point it is only an exploration programme. Equally, this is a good opportunity to stress that the consent of private landowners will always be required. In the event that the exploration is successful, further work will be required to enact a full mining regime within the legislation, in order to progress to extraction.
Staying onshore, there is further consultation currently being undertaken under the Mining Ordinance, to allow the licensed extraction of common minerals such as stone, sand and calcified seaweed. This will fill a hole – if you’ll excuse the pun – in the regulatory regime, which currently prohibits such activity if the material is for sale or use anywhere other than on the landowner’s property. Landowners using material from their own land, and for their 8 own use, continue to be unaffected. The consultation closes on 10 June, and I would encourage those with an interest to participate. Economic development and environment.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has seen most international tourism cease, last year we saw a cautious re-opening of cruise visits, with the aim of welcoming visitors back within a framework of health protections. The initial impact of the Omicron variant meant the season was more limited than we had hoped, but the visits made to both Stanley and Camp went very well, with positive feedback from cruise operators and visitors alike. Most importantly, we had no recorded cases of COVID-19 transmission as a result, which demonstrates just how carefully and conscientiously the situation was managed. As I stand before you today, the Falkland Islands are starting preparations for a full cruise vessel season in 2022-23, as well as the return of land-based visitors.
To support this, and mindful of the fact that we are now moving to an endemic state of COVID-19, the government will put clear guidance in place well ahead of the new season. We will also continue to work with the industry, including IAATO, to promote the Falklands Islands as a premium visitor destination of choice and as one of the Gateways to the Antarctic.
In March 2022, we also saw a major milestone achieved towards improving the connectivity of the Falkland Islands. New LiDAR equipment has now been installed at Mount Pleasant Airport, funded by the government. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging, and the new capability should significantly improve prediction and real-time detection of rotor events. The impact will not be immediate, as the research programme now needs to run for at least twelve months in order to gather sufficient data to improve the predictive model.
However, it will hopefully result, over time, in fewer flight cancellations and support our airlinks with both the UK and South America. Local tourism remained a benefit for the sector over the past year. The TRIP scheme and BFSAI TRIP scheme, which were designed to help stimulate domestic tourism, have again proved extremely successful during their second year of operation. While the final figures will not be available until next month, I can initially report that over 90% of the eligible population registered for TRIP2, with £1.3 million committed in allocated vouchers. The BFSAI TRIP scheme also had strong uptake with almost 2,300 registrants.
The government will soon launch a survey seeking feedback on the TRIP Scheme, in order to understand the impact it had on tourism businesses, and I encourage everyone to take part.
The Policy and Economic Development Unit has released several key reports in recent months, including the quarterly Retail Price Index and the National Accounts for 2010-2020. These reports help to inform thinking about the Islands’ economy and provide an evidence 9 base that feeds into decision-making, by enabling the government to combine critical thinking with the best available information to develop future policies for the people of the Falkland Islands.
The National Accounts report shows that, unlike many other countries in the world, we saw positive growth in our non-resource Gross Domestic Product in 2020. This clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of policy measures introduced by government to prevent a decline in economic activity, particularly in sectors most affected by the pandemic, protecting the economy from the worst effects felt elsewhere. We have also seen some valuable work on income inequality in the Islands that will help us develop plans to ensure an acceptable standard of living for our whole community.
One of those projects is the development of a model of Retirement Living Standards for the Falkland Islands. This is a significant piece of work, which aims to establish how much income people need to maintain different standards of living in retirement. The findings will inform both service delivery and policy in terms of how we support our community, particularly the most vulnerable, and we expect outputs to be available in the coming year.
As I previously mentioned, environmental priorities are a key focus of the new Islands Plan. Last September, following two rounds of public consultation, Executive Council approved the Environment Strategy 2021-2040. This strategy sets out a vision for the future of our natural environment that is biodiverse, healthy, sustainable, adapted, connected and for everyone. It recognises the central and universal role that the environment plays in the sustainable development of our health and wellbeing, our economy and the Falkland Islands as a whole. The strategy also establishes the Falkland Islands as a responsible partner in helping tackle a range of both domestic and worldwide environmental concerns and details a range of objectives and actions to work towards this vision. One example of this is our unique marine environment, the importance of which in supporting our biodiversity and the economy cannot be underestimated. To this end, we have recently completed a consultation that will inform policy development for Marine Managed Areas (MMAs) for the Falkland Islands.
The proposed MMAs set aside areas for special protection and aim to balance conservation with the sustainable economic and social development needs of the Falkland Islands. These sites collectively represent 15% of our marine waters and have been proposed on the basis of several years of research and technical findings carried out by the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute, working together with the government. This is a significant and considered step toward achieving the commitments made in the environment strategy in terms of protecting the marine environment. The Environment Department has also embarked on work to assess the specific risks of climate change to the Falkland Islands, and will look at how we can adapt and mitigate these.
Experts from across our community and beyond have been feeding into this project, which will help identify what the government and the community can do in order to tackle the challenges posed by climate change, and to prepare for the future in a positive and proactive way.
The three-year minefield fencing removal project, which began in 2021, is also advancing well and is already a year ahead of schedule. Following reopening of former minefields in November 2020, we embarked on a programme to remove minefield fences in order to make these areas, once again, sites that the public can easily visit to enjoy the natural environment. To date, more than 2km of disused fences on East Falkland have already been removed, and removal works are well underway on West Falkland.
Mindful of environmental considerations, removal work is being coordinated to ensure that it does not interfere with wildlife breeding grounds until after the season. By the time the project ends, it is estimated that approximately 77km of redundant minefield fencing will have been removed in total, providing the public with peace of mind and helping to remove part of the painful legacy of 1982. Outside of government, our Environmental Studies grants have supported important community research projects in the past year.
Highlights from last year include:
the recording of 5,375 sea lion pups,
the discovery of two new fur seal breeding colonies,
the continuation of work by Sammy the rodent detector dog in sniffing out invasive rats and mice,
new trials for protecting rockhopper penguin colonies,
the creation of a fenced 45-hectare wildlife area, and more than 8,000 square metres of invasive plant species brought under control.
As previously outlined, we have been unable to receive international tourists since the pandemic began and, as such, have focused our efforts on supporting our people to enjoy domestic tourism pursuits. Equally, the restrictions placed on global travel has severely limited the ability of our athletes to compete on the international stage.
Given the challenges, I am delighted to congratulate the team that travelled to the World Indoor Bowls Championship in Bristol last month, who very much punched above their weight. I want also to send my best wishes to the Falklands athletes who are travelling to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July – I am sure they will do us proud. Closer to home, it is impressive that the impact of the pandemic has not stalled our plans for improving sporting opportunities across the Falkland Islands. Great progress has been made with plans to build new sporting facilities in Stanley, which will greatly benefit Islanders and allow both improved community facilities and better training opportunities for those participating in elite sports on the international stage.
Following the signing of a development agreement between the government and the National Sports Council in April 2021, plans for a new all-weather football pitch and multi-sports centre were approved by the Planning & Building Committee earlier this month. It is hoped that the all-weather pitch – which has already arrived on the boat! – will be open before the end of this year, with the multi-sports centre opening in 2023.
Health and wellbeing:
I would now like to turn to health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on the investments made within this Budget, as well as a progress update on some important initiatives during the past year. As Honourable Members will know, this nation recognises the fundamental importance of health and wellbeing for absolutely everyone, which includes visitors to our home and also the British military at Mount Pleasant Complex. While the pandemic has been, naturally, an issue of huge concern for us, our strong focus on the healthcare needs of our population is ever-present; we have a single hospital and are many miles away from the provision of very complex care, which is why health and wellbeing remain paramount for the Falkland Islands Government.
Which is why, this year, we were very pleased to be able to announce the arrival of both a new Director of Health and Social Services and our new Hospital Manager, who together will work with the wider team to deliver the best possible results for the community over the next four years and beyond. We also continue to invest in the infrastructure of King Edward VII Memorial Hospital. Most recently, we have been able to commission our new CT scanner, which is now providing enhanced diagnostic capabilities for our patients and reducing the need for them to travel outside of the Islands. We are also now able to offer excellent Mammography screening capabilities and, since the launch of the new service, have already seen over 74% of eligible women, and have a plan in place for the remainder to be seen within the coming months – a significant achievement by all involved. Other success will be realised in the very near future, with our Orthodontic service due to come online imminently, which will offer another layer to our already well-established dental health team. And, while there has been some disruption across KEMH due to our ever-evolving building site, staff have been steadfast in their dedication to delivering excellent, patient-centred care.
The main capital project for our Health and Social Services Directorate is, as previously mentioned, Tussac House. While we plan to welcome our first residents in early 2024, in the interim we have extended our nursing care into the community and will improve this further over the coming year. We have also opened Hillside House, a small, temporary facility for the most vulnerable members in our community, which is already making a huge difference both to residents and their families. New social service initiatives, such as Income Support, the Early Help scheme, and investment in our Attendance Allowance, are already delivering tangible outputs, and helping those in our community to get immediate help, by way of early intervention, before they require greater levels of support.
As we look to the future, it is with enormous pride that I can confirm that, due to the dedication of our Pathology staff, the hospital laboratory has received approval to provide pre-registration training. This means that appropriately qualified individuals can undertake a practical training period in the laboratory, and, upon successful assessment, they can join the Healthcare Professions Council register of Biomedical Scientists. This is only one of many examples of the steps we are taking to invest in young and aspiring talent and supporting people in their development towards professional careers.
12 Finally, in February 2022, the first ever Walking Festival was held in the Islands. This event was a collaborative project between the government’s Public Health Unit and the Falkland Islands Tourism Board, together with 14 other contributors, including private sector companies and individuals. There were 21 official events and 21 complementary events scheduled over 9 days and, in total, 1,100 people took part in the festival – over a third of our entire population! Education Another key priority for the Falkland Islands Government is, of course, our young people – which is why education is another area of critical focus.
This year, I’m pleased to say, our commitment to improve early years provision has made strong progress. In March, Stanley Kids Zone was awarded the silver standard of the Falkland Islands National Minimum Standards, as a result of their annual inspection. This is the first time that the silver standard has been awarded in the Falkland Islands and was supported by the views of parents and staff, captured via a survey sent to parents in November last year. Earlier this month, Steppingstones opened their new building using capital development money from the government and a loan from the Falkland Islands Development Corporation. While resisting the urge to make a pun about taking the next step in building their business… this is an excellent example of both the importance that is put on childcare provision in the Islands as well as a true reflection of the entrepreneurial spirit of the sector.
Turning to lifelong learning in the Islands – over the past year the government has continued to build upon the Community Development Scheme, to ensure that it can adequately address skills needs across the population, by supporting people to develop their experience and qualifications. Currently, 69 Falkland Islanders are accessing the scheme across a range of disciplines, from marine science to physiotherapy – and everything else in between. The depth and breadth of courses offered at Falkland College also continues to expand. Online courses are increasingly popular, including accredited trade courses to help participants pursue vocational career choices.
The new library, which is co-located with the college, is also going from strength to strength, and becoming a genuine hub of learning and information for our community. It would be remiss of me not to also reflect on the success of the Shield programme – which is currently over-subscribed – with participants reporting their particular enthusiasm for the gardening and craft work opportunities that it provides. I’m sure there will be plenty of oneof-a-kind Shield wooden painted ornaments on Christmas trees across the Falkland Islands this year.
Turning briefly to matters of policy and regulation, the Executive Council has recently approved the updated Education Ordinance, which will serve to strengthen governance across our schools. This is part of ongoing work to embed greater accountability across the whole of education in the Islands, and also to ensure that our model reflects international best practice.
Both schools and Stanley House are included within the 10-year capital plan for improvement, which I referenced earlier, specifically in terms of internal improvements. 13 Additionally, there is a longer-term vision to extend Falkland Islands Community School and the team is currently consulting with Public Works to develop a specification for this work. Finalising this plan is a priority for this year, in order to ensure we can meet future demand. The directorate is also continuing to work with partners to improve traffic safety around schools.
A review of Camp Education has also been undertaken this year, which both highlights the fact that there is much to celebrate in Camp Education, and is scoping the next steps to ensure that children in Camp receive the best possible learning experience. Camp Education is a unique model of education – which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2021. It is vital for the rural parts of our community and is a service that the Education Directorate holds dear.
Finally, in August, we were thrilled with the news that the percentage of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs, including English and Maths, at grade A* to C or 9 to 4, rose significantly from 48% to 71%. This was despite many complexities posed by the pandemic, which were overcome by staff and students displaying both the resilience and determination to secure strong examination outcomes.
I am confident that this year will be no different.
Safety and Security:
I would now like to address the topic of public safety and island security. Beginning with the Royal Falkland Islands Police Force, who have continued to drive forward with plans to improve community engagement and satisfaction, following a challenging period. Camp visits have commenced, along with surgeries at Mount Pleasant Complex, demonstrating the police’s commitment to serve all parts of the Falkland Island community. The new overseas territories crime and intelligence single record database is also now well established and increasingly used as a sole records management system to help protect our community and increase service efficiency.
The force also continues to do a great deal of work to recruit and retain representatives from within the local community. New career pathways now enable local training of staff to UK standards for the Criminal Investigation Department. The development of an externally verified promotion exam ensures future local sergeants have the appropriate knowledge to support them in their role.
We have appointed two local probationary officers in recent months and welcomed the arrival of a new Chief of Police.
Turning now to the Falkland Islands Defence Force – or FIDF:
The past year has seen significant joint exercising with British Forces South Atlantic Islands, which has not only assisted in terms of providing valuable training opportunities, but this interoperability also demonstrates the progress that has continued to be made by the FIDF leadership. New vehicles have recently arrived in the Islands, which will equip the defence force for many years to come and demonstrates the continued commitment of the Falkland Islands Government and Elected Members to contribute to our own defence of the Islands. The Fire and Rescue service has achieved stability in its staffing and in keeping with its commitment to maintain the highest possible standards, a significant amount of overseas 14 training has been undertaken by new members of the team. Also, with the increased numbers of flights undertaken by FIGAS this year, it’s important to recognise that each departure and arrival into Stanley Airport is also supported by the service, ensuring that safety remains paramount for passengers.
I would also like to take the time to recognise the commitment demonstrated by our volunteer workforce, particularly in RFIP, FIDF and the Fire and Rescue Service. These men and women give up their time to provide vital services to our community and it is right that we be proud of them. It is encouraging to see this dedication recognised through Executive Council’s approval of higher level of bounty payments for these tireless volunteers. It is also fitting that those who have met the eligibility criteria will also receive the Platinum Jubilee Medal. This has been a demanding year for the Prison Service. Indeed, recently there have been local press reports of videos and images circulating on social media, in connection with HMP Stanley. Let me address this directly. Put simply, the inmates concerned presented challenges never before experienced in the Falkland Islands. The issues identified have since been thoroughly investigated and corrective action has been implemented. To provide reassurance around our standards and provide the community with confidence, the Service will later this year participate in an independent inspection.
On a more positive note, our polytunnel initiative is proving an increasing success, ensuring meaningful activities for the prison population, while also providing vegetables for the community.
A significant amount of resettlement work is also ongoing to support prisoners to transition successful back in the community on release. While the pandemic has put pressure across all of government, it has continued to present specific challenges for Customs and Immigration, who were required to take on a significant additional workload due to our COVID-19 restrictions.
However, they rose valiantly to the challenge and, while their work may be behind the scenes, it is the fabric that keeps our borders safe and secure. I give them my thanks and assurance that their efforts do not go unnoticed. Speaking of immigration, last September saw the introduction of the new Immigration Amendment Ordinance and the Permanent Residence Permits Regulations, the culmination of many years of work. This has seen the introduction of a “one permit” approach to work in the Falklands, thereby reducing bureaucracy. The points system overhaul for permanent residents has also enabled a wider cohort of people to make the Falkland Islands their longlisting home, supporting our ambition to have a more settled population.
The Falkland Islands Maritime Authority is also now fully established within the Directorate of Emergency Services and Island Security. This has seen proactive management of harbour safety through operational control of shipping movements, as well as the continued development of legislation to discharge our international obligations. In the past year, the Authority has conducted a number of fishing vessel inspections and Port State Control inspections, and it is apparent that the working arrangements with industry are effective and efficient – and it is this joint effort that will continue to make our waters safer.
Our ability to understand and mitigate for major incidents has also seen recent developments with the drafting of the first National Security Strategy and a new Major Incident Plan. A new Service Level Agreement for joint major incident exercising with the British Forces South Atlantic Islands is also now in place, which formalises arrangements and enhances our resilience and interoperability for civil emergencies. Civil service Over the past twelve months, a number of significant recruitments have taken place, including for the Hospital Manager and Director of Health and Social Services roles as mentioned, as well as a new Director of Policy and Economic Development, Director of Emergency Services and Island Security, and a Senior Magistrate. In the months ahead we will welcome two further directors for education and development and commercial services.
The majority of these new appointments are 4-year contracts, in line with our wish to have a less transient workforce and more overall stability within government leadership. The induction process for joining the Falkland Islands Government has also been refreshed and we continue to make progress on promoting the Falkland Islands as an attractive and special place to work and live, using new online and media platforms, which are proving successful to date.
Work is also ongoing to identify how we can develop our use of automation within our recruitment process, in order to make the experience for potential job seekers better. Our new Wellbeing Working Group is now firmly established, comprising representatives from across the civil service. The group aims to develop an approach to overall wellbeing for those working with and for the Falkland Islands Government. A presentation of the group’s work to date has been provided to Corporate Management Team, which identifies key themes and actions, and includes milestones for the short, medium and long term.
Strategic leadership for outcomes and implementation will be provided by heads of service and directors, and a number of initial actions are already in train. Our Management Trainee Programme continues and our inaugural trainees are now undertaking their last rotations for the final year. The programme will then reopen for recruitment later this year, in anticipation of two new trainees joining government in November 2022.
Additionally, we have expanded our mentor scheme outwards, from the management trainee programme, across all the whole of government, and currently have 10 trained mentors available. We also continue to place significant emphasis on attracting local talent to join the government workforce, including generating interest via the annual school careers day and work placement opportunities for young people.
This brings me to the end of what is my fifth and final address to the House in respect of the annual Budget. It has truly been a privilege to serve the people of the Falkland Islands as their Governor. I can say will all candour that these remarkable islands will forever hold a special place in the hearts of both Emma and myself. I wish you every success going forward.