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Tristan : St Helena EXCO REPORT 62 – 1st March2011
Submitted by Tristan Times (Juanita Brock) 03.03.2011 (Article Archived on 17.03.2011)

This EXCO consisted of the same people as last week’s, with Cllr. Isaac replacing Cllr. Yon, who I understand has now reached New Caledonia.

EXCO REPORT 62 – 1st March2011

This EXCO consisted of the same people as last week’s, with Cllr. Isaac replacing Cllr. Yon, who I understand has now reached New Caledonia.

I began by mentioning the tragic death of Mrs. Mary Manley and all Members were saddened in offering their sincere condolences. This kind of loss is hard for all of us to come to terms with, and it tends to put government business into a different, and more real, context.

We began with a most unusual disagreement. The Attorney General presented the Dogs Bill, which he explained is the result of separating the law on dogs from the law on cats. The Bill had enjoyed a wide consultation process managed by the Home & International Committee and was being put forward for submission to the next Legislative Council. Normally a Bill like this would already have broad acceptance from Members and we would agree with it without much discussion. However, it soon became clear that neither the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee nor the Health & Social Welfare Committee is particularly happy with the Bill in its present state.

Stray dogs and stray cats are a particular hazard in our community. Uncontrolled dogs can worry and savage sheep or endanger road travel; unmanaged cats can be a health hazard, make an unwelcome noise, or threaten our wirebird population. So the objections to the Bill were along the lines that it really didn’t go far enough, and that we should be able to produce even tighter laws relating to the management of both dogs and cats. It was felt that limitations on breeding should be introduced to help deal with the issue and so we deferred further debate until such time as the Bill has been tightened. It may well return to EXCO around the same time as the revised Cats Bill.

The next Memorandum was proposing an amendment to the Social Security Ordinance. At present payments made under the Ordinance are not regarded as a direct charge on the Consolidated Fund. That means that such payments are not enshrined in law and, in an extreme circumstance, do not actually have to take place. This change, although mainly technical in nature, will be widely welcomed as it is more efficient and provides a degree of certainty to such payments. All those present agreed with the recommendation.

The next item on our varied agenda was the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill. The initial reason for studying our existing legislation originated on Ascension Is. where last year they reduced the amount of alcohol permitted in a driver’s blood from 50 microgrammes per hundred millilitres to 35. After wide public consultation, and for a number of reasons, it was decided not to reduce that limit here. However some of the measures surrounding the offence will be changed by this Bill. There are higher maximum penalties and longer disqualification as well as a more flexible approach if driving is an integral part of a person’s employment.

Moving on to the closed agenda we had in front of us four short Bills related to a major change in our pattern of taxation. Three of them were amendments and one a repeal.

The issue of taxation has been the subject of consultation for some months and there are many different points of view. Councillors were truly representative of the public in that they too had differing views on the subject.

The Financial Secretary spoke at some length about the need for reform of the system and the fact that it is a package that is being presented and not something that one can “cherry pick”. So although the proposal is for a substantial increase in the personal allowance before income tax is payable, it also includes the introduction of certain duties on the importation of goods that don’t exist at present. The aim of the package is to be entirely neutral so that we should end up collecting the same amount of tax in total as under the existing system

The proposals are also aimed at moving from a “direct” system, where the majority of people have to pay tax whether they spend money or not, towards an “indirect” one, where most tax is paid only if something is purchased. So more tax would be paid by those who have the money to spend, but less by those who are not so fortunate. This is known as a “progressive” regime. Under our existing system 70 % of all wage earners pay income tax, but under the proposed one, only 30% would. The new package also aims to be investor friendly so that private business would be encouraged by the nature of the regime.

In many ways this seems an attractive package, and all were agreed that whatever the system it must produce the same income for government and it must be selective and progressive in ensuring that the poorer are more helped.

As with so many matters that are complicated, there have been a number of objections to these changes, and Members felt that although they welcomed the aims of the package, they wanted more time to discuss all the details as well as see further evidence of the overall impact. However the legislative programme is very tight and so we will need to drill into a fair amount of detail during the next week. This will happen at a number of meetings prior to next Tuesday’s EXCO where we hope to have enough information to enable an informed decision.

The meeting then took on a much faster pace, with the Roll-over Resolution enabling us to begin the next financial year without a full budget, and the Remuneration and Allowances for Councillors, Speaker and deputy Speaker - both were passed through without debate.

There was very little Any Other Business and so this EXCO which contained a significant amount of sensible discussion and understanding ended at 12.30 pm.


Andrew Gurr


1st March 2011


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