Executive Council met today with four items on the Open Agenda.
In addressing the meeting, the Governor said that she would, on behalf of Executive Council, send a message of support to colleagues in the Caribbean Overseas Territories who were affected by the recent hurricanes.
For the first item, Executive Council sat as the Planning Authority to consider an application for full Development Permission to carry out refurbishment works at the Swimming Pool complex. The Chief Planning Officer was in attendance and explained that these works are being undertaken in three phases. Phase 1 covers the replacement of underground pipework and filters, Phase 2 covers the remedial works that are needed such as replacement of concrete paving slabs and upgrading slipper drains and Phase 3 relates to general improvement works such as reconstruction of a retaining wall and erecting fencing. It was noted that phases 1 and 2 had been dealt with under the Land Planning & Development Control General Development Order which provide for underground works. Development Permission was however required for Phase 3. Following discussion, Council approved the application with conditions as recommended by the Land Development Control Authority. Council noted that Phase 3 works were not critical to the reopening of the Swimming Pool which is now scheduled for end November/early December 2017.
The second item concerned the Digital Strategy which Council was pleased to approve. The Strategy has been subject to consultation and aims to improve connectivity to and from the Island and deliver socio-economic benefits for the community. It was noted that the Strategy is heavily reliant on improved connectivity and to this end SHG is actively pursuing the landing of a fibre cable in 2020.
The next item, which complemented discussions that were held at the two previous ExCo meetings, considered ways and means of improving openness and transparency within SHG. Council noted that whilst SHG is already doing a lot in terms of communicating with the public through press releases, public meetings, radio discussions and publishing certain documents like the Rolling Procurement Plan and Contracts Register, there is still a lot more that can be done. Council therefore agreed that in going forward SHG should pursue different means of continuing and improving the ‘open government and transparency’ agenda, to include publishing papers and minutes for open session meetings of ExCo and Council Committees, changing meeting times and venues, making better use of social media and, allowing members of the public to suggest a topic for discussion in formal LegCo meetings in line with practice in the UK. These suggestions will be taken forward in the forthcoming months.
The final item on the Open Agenda concerned the Aerodrome Charges Regulations. Council confirmed the approval that was given last week for these Regulations to be published and brought into force. It was noted that these Regulations made provision for an ‘essential infrastructure charge’ to be levied on each arriving and departing passenger at St Helena Airport. This charge has already been included in the cost of tickets. In confirming the approval, Council noted that IATA had approved this charge and that confirmation had been received this morning from Airlink that the ticketing system will be updated over the next day or two and following required testing, ticket sales will be imminent.
In the Closed Agenda, attention was drawn to a letter that was published in last week’s issue of the Independent newspaper concerning discussions that were held in the recent Public Health Committee meeting regarding fees and charges for medical services. The letter also referred to an incident whereby a patient had experienced difficulty in paying for a test carried out by the Laboratory.
Currently medical services are paid for at point of use on the Island. While these fees and charges are heavily subsidised, there have been reports from individuals and households where fees and charges at point of use create a financial barrier to accessing healthcare. There is work ongoing to explore a prepayment system as part of a national health contribution/insurance scheme which would ensure that people make prepayments before becoming unwell and can therefore access healthcare when needed. There is work to be done to ensure that the prepayment contributions or premium are set at fair levels and generate revenues. An extensive public engagement programme will be undertaken to ensure that everyone is able to participate and be involved in the final decisions regarding this option for paying for healthcare on St Helena.
Council also noted that shortly after its appointment, the Social & Community Development Committee became aware of issues that could not await the full review of the Social Benefits Ordinance. A small working group was immediately established comprising Elected Members and officials and working with local charities and frontline services such as Health, the Benefits Office and Safeguarding, the working group has produced draft Regulations which are intended to provide additional exemptions to overcome some of the hardships that are faced by some members of our community. These draft Regulations were endorsed by the Social & Community Development Committee last week and will be presented to ExCo in October.
The meeting closed at 1.50pm.
19 September 2017