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EXCO report: 19 March 2013


Papers presented by the Financial Secretary dominated EXCO today. All Directorates are required to conduct an annual review of fees and charges. Following such a review, our first paper sought approval for fees and charges for a variety of services provided through the Post Office and Customer Service Centre. Noting that the proposed new fee rates were agreed at a meeting of the Economy and Finance Committee on 10 January, EXCO accepted the recommendations.

Details of the new and increased fees will be published in the coming week. They include fees for items such as postal services, marriage certificates and for the registration of births. Councillors were pleased to note that thanks to efficiency savings, the local postage fee would remain at 15 pence for 2013/14 financial year.


The next paper today proposed a revision of fees for services provided under the Public Health Ordinance for matters relating to Food Hygiene. For example the fee to register a food business would be £26.40 and for a licence to carry on a food business from a stall would £2.10 per day. Full details will be published shortly. Proposals to increase fees for meat inspections at a slaughterhouse were deferred for further consideration.


The Financial Secretary presented the next paper which sought Council’s approval to present the Appropriation Bill 2013 as Government Business at the next appropriate meeting of Legislative Council, following receipt of DfID’s approval. The Bill contains the recurrent and capital expenditure budgets for each SHG Directorate for the 2013/14 financial year.

 Councillors approved the request. Another paper from the Financial Secretary followed which requested approval for an increase in the allocation to cover the cost of electricity charges at Plantation House. Councillors agreed to the request noting that the additional usage was linked to the heavy official programme of the past year at Plantation House, the long, cool and very damp winter and the maintenance works in the last quarter of 2012.


The final paper from the Financial Secretary sought Council’s agreement for a number of items of furniture from Longwood House to be exported on loan to France for professional restoration and to then be exhibited in France in 2016/17 before being returned to St Helena in 2017. Councillors approved the export request subject to assurances that the furniture would be given the appropriate level of security, carefully logged and identified and then returned to St Helena. Having begun at 09.30 our meeting today ended just before 1pm.
 

Mark Capes


Governor


SHG


19 March 2013





CONSTITUTIONAL POLL – REMINDER
 

In order to establish if the office of Chief Councilor should be implemented in the current St Helena Constitution, a Constitutional Poll will be held on Saturday, 23 March from 12 noon to 6pm at the various Community Centres/venues that are normally used for elections.
 

The venues at Half Tree Hollow Community Centre and Levelwood Community Centre have changed, to the clinics in the area, due to unavailability of the community centres. Blue Hill, Sandy Bay, Kingshurst, Jamestown, and Harford Community Centres and Judges Lodge remain the same. The Constitution consultation document, ‘Improving Democracy and Accountability’ (which can be viewed on the SHG website on the homepage www.sainthelena.gov.sh), explains that experience of operating the current Council system has encountered practical problems. The problems described in the document can be partially resolved by restoring the direct lines of accountability between Committee Chairmen and Executive Council, reverting to the situation which existed before 2009 and possibly be introducing the role of the Chief Councillor.
 

Chief Councillor


The idea of appointing a Chief Councillor is not new. It was first proposed by the St Helena Constitutional Commission which was established in 1999 to review the 1988 Constitution. That Commission recommended that:- “A Chief Councillor should be elected by the elected members of the Legislative Council and on appointment should be required to nominate the required number of further elected members to serve with him/her as Chairpersons/Executive Councillors”.


Have your say - persons on the Register of Electors published on 18 September 2012 and those who have since applied and whose names have been Gazetted as of now, will be eligible to vote on Saturday 23 March.


SHG
 

22 March 2013




INTRODUCTION TO MANAGEMENT IN SHG


Over a period of three weeks, employees of St Helena Government who have been identified as potential new managers through the staff appraisal process, have been undergoing an Introduction to Management course.
 

The programme covers: supporting the legislative process, an introduction to public sector audit, value for money and efficiency reviews, public finance principles and practice, supporting the policy process and SHG budget and financial management. Members of staff could also attend specific modules to support their continuing professional development in various fields.
 

Susan O’Bey (Director of Strategic Policy and Planning) and a trainer in the sessions commented: “SHG is reforming and restructuring to become a leaner, more efficient organisation. Staff development is a key element in ensuring that these changes happen successfully and can be sustained into the future. The Introduction to Management training is designed to support this, by equipping our future directors and senior managers with the right skills and experiences to help them to become successful in their roles.”
 

The results of the training sessions, which involved staff members practically working together as teams, will see additional skills, collaborative working and effective management. Introduction to Management in SHG began last year, and is hoped to continue into 2013/14, allowing new managers to be developed in their abilities and skills.
 

SHG


22 March 2013




BUDGET SPEECH, March 2013
 

Financial Secretary Colin Owen today delivered his first Budget Speech to Legislative Council, including Estimates of Recurrent Revenue, Expenditure and Capital Expenditure. He said that: ‘In terms of financial results, SHG has performed well in 2012/13, with expenditure coming in as expected and revenue streams exceeding expectations. Further, we have overachieved on our capital programme.
 

From an economic perspective, the population is increasing with more Saints of workable age returning to the Island, new businesses starting up and virtually no unemployment. ‘The settlement is an excellent result for St Helena against an extremely difficult economic climate in the UK and the rest of the world, with the UK predicting just 0.6% growth in 2013, and further budget cuts.’ He continued: ‘February’s DAPM settlement confirms grant in aid to cover recurrent expenditure of £13.4m, an RMS shipping subsidy of £5m (with half a million set aside for capital expenditure, including improvements to life boats), and a further £5 million to fund the capital programme. Further I can announce today that DFID have agreed to provide £1.2m to cover Short Term Technical Co-operation. This is great news for St Helena. But we cannot and must not be complacent. We must strive, not just as a Government but as a nation, to further invest in the Island and its people in order to reap the benefits that the future will bring.’
 

Key Budget messages included: • Budget has been led by Members who have taken ownership of process • Positive news in how SHG has used its resources, including improvements in services, efficiency savings and capital expenditure • St Helena has virtually no unemployment – 1.5 % of the population are unemployed • Over 250 Saints are now working on the Airport project • The predicted increased in revenue streams from Customs Duties has been achieved for this financial year • Population growth continues and at the end of February 2013, the St Helena population stood at 4,274, which is the highest population since 2008 • £50,000 set aside for Community Development Fund for 2013/14 • Higher private sector activity, with PAYE receipts up by 35% in 2012/13 • Expenditure broadly in line with budgeted figures, whilst income collection is above expectation. We will achieve a near balanced budget for 2012/13 • For the first time in many years, SHG has spent its allocated Capital budget. On the back of this, DFID has reaffirmed a £5m allocation for 2013/14 • SHG has implemented a new Programme Board and Project Management Unit to oversee capital expenditure and this will be operational from the 1 April. SHG will appoint an experienced Programme Manager and two Project Managers to drive the Capital Programme • DAPM settlement has been confirmed - grant in aid of £13.4m to cover recurrent expenditure, an RMS shipping subsidy of £5m, £5 million to fund the capital programme and £1.2m to cover Short Term Technical Corporation • SHG plans to spend nearly £29 million and plans to raise £7 million in local taxation and customs, plus £1.1 million in fees and charges in 2013/14 • Minimum Wage set at £2.30 for over 18s and £1.45 for ages 16 and 17, from 1 June 2013 • New financial incentive package for major investors to be implemented • Specific duties on alcohol and tobacco will increase from today by 6.8% • Duty on diesel will rise more slowly than predicted, by 5p to 22p per litre and duty on petrol will be unchanged at 39p per litre • Excise duty to be introduced.
 

SHG
 

22 March 2013




CONSTITUTIONAL POLL - RESULTS
 

On Saturday 23 March 2013, a Poll was held on St Helena, on the question of a Chief Councillor, raised in the recent discussion paper ‘Improving Democracy and Accountability’ To the Question: Should St Helena have a Chief Councillor who can select the Executive Council? The results were as follows: • YES – 42 votes • NO – 168 votes The results were announced yesterday evening by Acting Deputy Chief Secretary, Derek Henry, immediately after the votes had been counted in the Council Chambers at the Castle. A total of 210 votes were cast, from the total number of those eligible to vote of 2177, representing a turnout of approximately 10% of the Electorate.
 

SHG
 

25 March 2013




 

A NATIONAL AGRICULTURE POLICY FOR ST HELENA
 

St Helena’s Sustainable Economic Development Plan highlights that whilst tourism will be the largest activity driving development of our economy, it will not be the only activity. Agricultural enterprise, including smallholdings, will continue to be important private sector activities in developing the economy and providing food products for residents and visitors to St Helena.
 

As a result, and after a period of detailed consultations and a workshop with stakeholders of the agriculture sector, private sector producers, merchants, St Helena National Trust, St Helena Government and Enterprise St Helena - ‘Growing Forward’ a draft Policy and Implementation Strategy has been established to guide development of the sector over the medium term. This document is being made available for further consultation today for a period of 6 weeks until Friday 3 May 2013.
 

An electronic copy of the document is available on the homepage of the SHG website (www.sainthelena.gov.sh) and paper copies will be available from ANRD by contacting the ANRD Receptionist at Scotland on telephone 4724. The document will form the basis for national planning for agricultural development on the Island and will be co-ordinated by SHG through the new Environment and Natural Resources Directorate’s - Agriculture and Natural Resources Division (ANRD).
 

Targeted meetings will be arranged with interest groups within this 6 week period and the ANRD policy team will be available for a public discussion on the draft document mid-way through this period. An advertisement will be made nearer the time with details of venue and time.
 

Comments and suggestions are welcome and can be made to the Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Darren Duncan, via email director@anrd.gov.sh or post to the ANRD Office at Scotland. All responses to the draft document will then be considered by the policy team and presented to the Natural Resources, Development and Environment Committee as part of the process to agree a final draft for ExCo approval.
 

SHG
 

26 March 2013




FIRST EVER ASCENSION ISLAND FLAG TO FLY
 

His Excellency Mark Capes, Governor of St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha, has warmly welcomed Royal approval of the design of the first ever flag of Ascension Island, saying: “I am delighted to announce that Her Majesty The Queen has graciously approved the design of the first ever flag for Ascension Island, part of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. Ascension Island now has its own flag, which it will fly with pride. “The residents on Ascension Island will raise their flag for the first time during a ceremony on Saturday 11 May 2013, when the Island will celebrate Ascension Day, after which the Island was named in 1503.”
 

The flag, as for other Overseas Territories, is the Blue Ensign adorned with the Coat of Arms for Ascension Island (see attached picture). Ascension’s Coat of Arms, which was approved by Her Majesty in May 2012, shows important symbols from the Territory, including a shield emblazoned with the Green Mountain that dominates the skyline, together with three Wideawake Birds, secured by two Green Turtles.
 

Both the design of the Coat of Arms and the flag emerged from an extensive public consultation exercise on Ascension. Ascension Island has previously flown the Union Flag on Island and on state occasions.
 

SHG
 

26 March 2013



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