Ascension : Meeting of the Ascension Island Council on Friday 5th August 2011
Submitted by The Islander (Ascension Island Government) 18.08.2011 (Article Archived on 01.09.2011)
The Ascension Island Council held a formal meeting from 2pm on Friday 5th August in the Council Chambers.
Meeting of the Ascension Island Council on Friday 5th August 2011
The Ascension Island Council held a formal meeting from 2pm on Friday 5th August in the Council Chambers. All members were present with the exception of Councillor Bendall. The Governor and Attorney General participated by telephone link.
The minutes of the last formal session, held on 23 May were agreed, as were the minutes of the informal meeting held on 16 June. This was the first formal session for a while because a lot of the Council’s current work had required detailed legal input and informal discussions before being ready for consideration in a formal session.
Under matters arising it was reported that the AIG will install the fresh water line to the Boat Yard, with a coin operated meter to regulate usage in the same way as the water tap at the fishermen’s bench on the pier head. A meeting will be held with users of the boat yard to discuss the clean-up and to help identify items prior to their removal.
Enquiries have been made with organizations on island that might be interested in providing a passport photo service on a commercial basis. The volume of business is too small to justify investment in a photo booth and acceptable quality photos can be taken with a good quality camera, correct following of the guidelines and a high standard printer.
It was reported that work to repair the damage to the road and parking area near the Red Lion would commence shortly with an estimated timing of October for completion. In the meantime the road above the turn off to the Residency must remain closed for safety reasons.
It was necessary to ratify the advice given in the informal meeting of 16 June, to extend the Child Welfare (Interim Provisions) (No 2) Ordinance for a further period. This is the old St Helena Child Welfare law which had been extended to cover Ascension until such time as our own Child Welfare Ordinance could be enacted. Although that law is old, and on St Helena has since been replaced by a new law that cannot be extended to Ascension, it is important that we are not left without anything in this area.
A question had been raised about effluent water deliveries on a public holiday, incurring overtime costs. It was agreed that this will normally not happen, to reduce overtime costs, and that it will be closely monitored.
Moving on to the substantive agenda items, the first concerns moves to give the Police more power to act in response of complaints of excessive noise, and the proposal was to extend Section 12 of the Summary Offences Ordinance (St Helena) to Ascension to allow this. This was technically complicated because part of the St Helena ordinance had in the meantime been repealed and replaced with something else. Councillors advised the Governor that they supported the proposed Ordinance, and that subject to technical amendments that might be necessary, should be enacted.
The next item concerned a proposal to amend the Income Tax Ordinance to apply the personal allowance on a pro-rata basis in the case of short term contracts. This was felt to be fairer than the current system whereby someone coming to do a job on the island for say six weeks enjoyed the same allowance as someone working for the full year. There would be no effect on people who came to the island for full time employment for a year or more. This was agreed and the Governor was advised that the amendment should be enacted.
The draft Child Welfare Ordinance was then discussed. This is a long outstanding and important piece of legislation. Previous drafting attempts were unsuccessful as they had failed to produce something that would work in the particular circumstances of Ascension. The latest draft had been worked on extensively by our Crown Counsel, the Attorney General and our Social Work manager, Fay Howe, during her last two visits to the island. Fay had held a meeting with Councillors and discussed the draft at length. Its aim is to provide us with modern legislation for the welfare and protection of children and young persons, in line with modern norms and the UN Charter on the Rights of the Child. Councillors supported the latest revised text and advised that subject to checking by the Legal Draftsman, the Ordinance should be enacted. The text will in the meantime be made available to any members of the public who would like to see it and have the opportunity to comment or ask any questions. Finally, for the record, the interim Child Welfare Ordinance, as discussed at the informal meeting on 16 June, was formally ratified.
There were a number of items under Any Other Business. The first concerned the proposed extension of the Public Telephony Licence with Cable & Wireless and what improvements they planned to offer on the broadband service and costs. The Chief Executive is currently on leave and it was agreed that a meeting between him and the Council should be requested upon his return to pursue this issue.
There was then a question about swimming pool guidelines. There are temporary notices disallowing all children under the age of 16 from entering the swimming pool area unless accompanied by an adult and the proposal is that this should become permanent. This had been discussed with the Social Work manager on her last visit and with the police, senior medical officer and the head teacher, and all had supported this in the interests of child welfare and safety. All Councillors agreed that the temporary restriction should be made permanent.
It was suggested that the Human Rights Training which was planned for June but postponed due to the volcanic ash cloud disruption to flights, should also be made available, if possible, to organizations on the island when it is re-instated. The Attorney General noted that the 2009 Constitution brought in a number of rights and that it was in the organizations’ interests to be fully aware of these. The Administrator has made this suggestion to the training organizers and it was agreed. The proposed dates for their training visit are now October this year.
A concern was expressed about the alleged poor condition of some of the bed linen at the Hospital. This had been taken up with the hospital staff and was strongly refuted on the grounds that any damaged bed linen is always thrown away. It was agreed that a proper complaints procedure should be put in place so that this kind of issue can be highlighted and resolved at an operational level and early on.
The question of prior notice for discussion of new legislation was raised with the suggestion that at least five working days be provided in such cases. Members were reassured that in the case of new legislation or other work that required substantial input and review, papers would first be circulated then an informal meeting held to discuss this so that there is sufficient preparation before discussion in a formal Council meeting. This is the current practice and officials will ensure it is maintained.
The safety of the air conditioning units on the first floor of the Exiles Building was then discussed. The Director of Operations will arrange for a condition survey to be carried out and to remedy any safety issues that are highlighted.
Next was the issue of faded centre line markings on certain roads. This was reported as being particularly hazardous to motorcyclists in the rain. With the EDF10 roads rehabilitation project due to start shortly it was felt that it would be uneconomical to paint new lines on areas that will then be resurfaced, but that the Operations directorate would look into the feasibility of repainting the lines on areas where the markings have deteriorated badly and which are only due to be resurfaced towards the end of the two year project. The road that had prompted the question, the so-called “Nasa straight” will also be considered as that falls outside the scope of the roads project, but nevertheless has faded markings.
The burning of domestic rubbish at the One Boat Dump then came up. There was a perception that burning had ceased but recently re-started. The Director of Operations reported that household waste was burnt on a daily basis from 4pm and that if this was not done, there would be a significant rat and fly problem. There are other methods for dealing with waste and these will be looked into, but they are all likely to be expensive.
Council then discussed the article published in the Islander recently by the Social Work manager, Fay Howe, about the issue of children in and around the island’s clubs late at night, and suggesting that other than special occasions such as Christmas and New Year, children should not be in the clubs after 10pm. Councillor Lawrence read out a letter to Council, written by a concerned resident who strongly supported Fay’s article. Councillors echoed this support and felt that children should not be in the clubs late at night. It was noted that two of the island’s clubs already had such restrictions in place – the Volcano Club and the Mountain View bar at the NAAFI in Traveller’s Hill. There was a lively discussion about where responsibility should lie on this, and how the issue should be approached, and it was agreed that further discussion should take place in subsequent meetings.
This concluded Council business for this meeting but before the meeting closed the Governor said that he looked forward to seeing Councillors again when he passed through in late September.
The meeting was declared closed at 15:25.
09 August 2011