For those of you who know me, there is absolutely no need for me to introduce myself, you know of me and my background, warts and all.
To those of you who don’t then you have probably had a very lucky escape. To give a brief background, I am Falklands born and bred. I am a product of our education system, being one of the first batches of those who got regular access to the O level system and for that I am truly thankful. Apart from one year away from the Islands in Chile I have passed my entire 47 years here. I have served on the Council before some 15 or so years ago.
I have no business interests or affiliations. The only “interest” that I have is with the local union, my Islands and its people.
I am offering myself as a candidate as I feel that I have something to offer these Islands. Good old fashioned Falkland Island common sense, which seems to be sadly lacking nowadays and a complete and utter belief in my country and its people.
I am an ordinary Islander, I have a full time job as well as a couple of part time ones to help make ends meet and perhaps get ahead a little, just like a good many of you out there.
Somewhere along the way this last council has lost touch with the public. I am getting a feeling from talking to people that in spite of regular public meetings and white papers on this and green papers on that there is no genuine communication with the real people here. This isn’t helped by the weird management speak that seemed to have crept in; at times you almost need an interpreter to get things into plain English. People feel that no one cares about the ordinary person any more and their views don’t count. They are being told what is going to happen, like it or lump it. I can promise you that with me your views WILL count, I will speak in plain English and do my utmost to stop this flow of gobbledygook.
I know I will miss out many topics that individuals will feel important but in the interests of brevity here are but a few of my thoughts and ideas.
The economy: Two years ago I said that I could feel the chill wind of an economic slowdown starting to blow. I have been proved right. To be honest with you I think things are going to get a little worse before they can be stabilised and turned around. We were very lucky to only get a side swipe from the worldwide recession. We could still be undone by a sudden fuel price hike or the like. Our economy is in fairly good shape and with prudent management can get better but there is less cash around now and government must cut its cloth to suit its pocket.
As part of this I offer the following: I firmly believe that this council MUST initiate a review of the whole government.
I know that there is a review of the civil service going on at the moment but it started half way down the road so as to speak. What I want is for councillors and NOT the administration to sit down and review the FIG machine from TOP to BOTTOM. Not the other way around as always happens. With a bottom up review it is normally the workers who get laid off whilst the fat cats who cost the real money stay in place. If I have my way that isn’t going to happen this time.
As part of the review that I have in mind, I would like to go through each and every contract post that we have, from the chief executive down and including these new fangled super heads, eliminate those posts that we can do without and those that we deem necessary should then be scrutinised to see just how quick we can have a local in place, where we can. This isn’t going to be a quick process; it may mean that we will have people understudying post holders for some time, but if that is what is required then so be it. It will mean that instead of just advertising jobs and seeing what turns up we will have to be aggressive in our search for the right people. There would be, I feel, a high degree of resistance to this being done, but probably not from the general public.
This is not contractor bashing. I have nothing against the people that are here. They are in the whole doing very well what they were contracted to do. They did not force themselves on us, they answered advertisements that we placed. The fault lies squarely with us.
15 years ago we made inroads into localising FIG, to reducing the amount of contract personnel. This has slipped back; the numbers seem to be increasing again. I want to see posts localised as quickly as possible. There are some out there that are saying that there seems almost a move afoot to keep the locals out of higher government. Who knows, they may be right. It will be up to your new council to turn that around if it is happening.
I also want to see any organisation that receives public money have their personnel structure scrutinised and a firm plan put in place for localising any posts that may be held by persons on contract or subject to work permits before any public funds are handed over. I rather think there may be a few bellows of protest but I am more interested in getting posts localised than keeping everyone sweet.
We seem to have a situation developing whereby young local people (and the not so young) are finding it hard to get work. I will promise you that I will do all in my power to make sure that we drive towards as much localisation as we can and open positions for our people. I will also promise you that I will search for new openings in all available areas.
As I have spoken of local people or islanders, I will qualify what I mean. As I see it an Islander/local is not just someone who is born here but someone who is living and working here, has made a commitment to these Islands, is on local wages, local conditions, is probably up to their ears in debt like the rest of us, and has adapted to, accepted and has respect for our way of life and are not wanting to change this and that within minutes of getting here. Believe me, there are some very good people out there who have done exactly that and are making a valuable contribution to our islands.
We also need a thriving private sector. Good employers have nothing to fear from me. I want you to prosper so that you can pass on a fair percentage of your profits to those who work for you. I will not however look so kindly upon those who may want to turn a fast buck at the expense of our people or our country. I am fully committed not only to opening up as many new positions as I can for the people here but also to stop any further work being placed outside of the islands and lost to us.
There will be decisions that have to be taken, including, for example the deep water port that will have far reaching consequences for the Islands. You are going to need a strong and unified government to carry forward the wishes of the population.
We have just had a review of immigration. This is a delicate subject but we must be extremely careful of how many people we allow to have citizenship. It’s a fine balance between not having enough people and having a situation where we seem to be getting too many. We must constantly monitor and adjust the flow as is necessary.
One area that MUST be looked at as a matter of urgency is how jobs are advertised. I hear adverts on the radio that would seem to be intended for the renewal of a work permit, or someone from outside who would require one, and are worded in such a way that there is no way that a local can get at them. This has to be stopped. If, for example, it really needs someone with 5 years experience for a particular job then the company or business should be asked to start actively training a local person and the issuing of a work permit be made dependant upon that happening. I really do look forward to getting my teeth into this subject, should I be elected.
The working conditions and ill treatment of migrant workers in the Islands is also something that our government must be duty bound to investigate. Reports keep surfacing about maltreatment, such as workers being too scared to book a hospital appointment if they feel unwell as it will, I presume, cost the employer if treatment is required, and they are threatened with dismissal should they do so. Also long hours and low pay keep coming up; workers are warned off talking to anyone on pain of being dismissed. Is this really the type of society in which we can feel proud of living???
Whilst I support camp and feel that we have a duty to fully support our people in the agricultural sector we may have to revisit just how we do this. As things stand I would NOT look favourably upon any further advances from the abattoir for any public funds. It is time it stood on its own two feet. It is also probably time we produced an exit strategy. If there was plenty of cash sloshing around, perhaps I would take a more relaxed view but at a time where we are, if you listen to the government, almost reduced to rooting down the back of the sofa to see if we can find a dropped fiver, we cannot keep pumping vast amounts of cash into something that is eating money quicker than it does sheep. There is an internal review under way and I will be more than interested to see what it contains but am not that optimistic. I hope I will be proved wrong.
Oil: Although we must continue to prepare ourselves for the moment that a hydrocarbon industry does take off, we must not allow ourselves to become fixated on the possibility. If it is going to happen then this will require you to make some far reaching and wise decisions for your government to implement. These are your islands and it is only right and proper that you are provided with all the information possible to say what level of impact that you want the industry to have. If the Shetlands experience is anything to go by, we will only get one shot at getting it right. All indications seem to be good but no one really knows what is going to happen until the crude comes gurgling up the pipe and even then the grade and location and world economics will dictate when it will be exploited. It is going to be a blessing and also a curse. A blessing in that it will completely secure our future, economically speaking, and a curse in that we are going to have all sorts of charlatans and singers of sweet songs beating a path to our door trying to part us from our cash. For those of you who remember Seamount will understand that we must never let this happen with the oil industry.
One major project that will probably be started during this council is the building of the deep water facility. It is something that I think is required. We may have to stage it over a couple of years. The final decision again must be taken by YOU as to whether it will go ahead. If it does then I will certainly be pressurising for the maximum possible local involvement in its construction.
On the whole, at the grass roots level the FIG has a really good team of people who are working for it, doing the best that they can within the guidelines given to them. The police, whilst being much less maligned than in the past seem to be riddled with unhappiness. Something must be done to at the very least understand what is going on. This can only be achieved by talking to those on the shop floor. I am also worried by the low levels of native borne policemen and ladies.
I am extremely proud to be a veteran of the FIDF. Although the importance of the force is sometimes not appreciated, it is, as far as I can see a well equipped, trained and most important of all, an extremely well motivated force. Although I would never wish anyone from the force ever again sees active service I know that this time the aggressor would receive a rather nasty surprise.
There must be a continued programme of building social housing, there is always going to be a need also a rolling programme of providing building plots at affordable prices. Apart from plots for commercial use, I do not support the offering of building plots on an auction basis.
I would like to take another look at the child allowance payments. I have no intention of lowering them but rather would like to see what the qualifying criterion is.
The holiday scheme must stay on the books and at the first opportunity when we can, re-introduce it.
We must get to grips with whoever it is that we use for doing our recruitment overseas as some of the selections made over the last few years have been somewhat questionable.
The twin planks of education and health, I support fully. Could we do better in these areas? The answer probably is yes. There is always room for improvement. It will become more difficult as expectations grow higher; however in the case of the medical department I would be very reluctant to even think about private insurance to cover medical treatment. I have seen what that is like in practice in South America. It is not good. I still believe that medical should be free at the point of delivery from the cradle to the grave.
External relations: Whilst I presume our relations with the British government are good, we must always be on our guard against any Argentine appeasers that may come along, especially within the FCO. Relations with Argentina are another matter. The present government in Argentina is arrogant, macho and doing all it can to beat us into submission. The Kirchner dynasty is well known for being aggressive not just with us but with their neighbours as well. However I do not expect any change even when the Kirchner government goes. The message I have to you and them is this: I will not be bullied or pressurised into anything. This is MY country, I was born here and fully intend to end my days here under the government of my choosing. I have experienced a very small taste of what Argentine government is all about and am in no particular hurry to repeat that particular experience again, thank you very much.
I am a firm believer in keeping hold of our traditions and forming a national identity. I have no wish to become a mini England or a mini anywhere else for that matter. I am more than happy to adopt an idea that is beneficial to us from anywhere in the world but am getting somewhat fed up with us having things foisted on us just because someone thinks it’s good for us. We should be the judge of that. I am actually proud of the few differences that we are still allowed to have with the rest of the world. Hang on to them, cherish them, and build on them.
As an employee of Cable and Wireless I would have to declare an interest in, and keep out of any debates and decisions that may affect that company. This rules me out of any debates on, for example, the camp or Stanley internet and phone systems. As an employee, it means that I will be a part time councillor, I know that if elected it’s not going to be easy but I have taken time to think hard about it and reckon that I can balance the two.
Finally, please, please, get out there on the 5th of November and vote, I obviously hope one of your votes is for me but even if it isn’t, please take part. If we are to show that we care about what happens in and to our country you must use this opportunity to vote in the people you think will listen to you and can really make the changes that you want.
Remember, together we CAN make things happen