St Helena Online

Tag: chief councillor

I’m stepping down from politics, says Rodney the reformer

One of St Helena’s leading politicians has announced that he will not fight to keep his seat as a councillor in the next election, due to take place before the end of July 2013. 

Rodney Buckley suffered a disappointment when he failed to persuade people to vote in favour of having a chief councillor – but that did not appear to be the reason for stepping down.

He delivered his news after Governor Mark Capes dissolved the island’s legislative council in readiness for the election, several weeks earlier than expected.

The law required an election to take place by the end of November 2013, but Mr Capes said waiting until then would mean new councillors could not adequately prepare for budget making and the annual visit of UK aid advisers.

He also said the last legislative council was dominated by older men, and he hoped to see more women and younger people standing for election. There were only two female councillors at the start of April 2013.

Rodney Buckley has overseen major improvements in teaching standards during his time as education chairman, as well as having to cope with a crisis when the island was left without enough maths teachers in the run-up to GCSE exams.

He spoke candidly about the sub-standard conditions of buildings in the island’s three primary schools, which were the subject of a public review.

He campaigned without success in early 2013 for the island to have a chief councillor. Legislative councillors voted to put the idea to a public referendum because of doubts expressed at public meetings.

In the end, he was unable to overcome a lack of public understanding about the idea, though two other changes to the St Helena constitution were approved by LegCo.

Only a chief councillor, he said later, would be able to do “great things” as a councillor.

In an interview with Saint FM Community Radio, he said: “I have decided with my family before Christmas that I would not stand for re-election and with my family we are going to take a new direction.”

“What I have learnt is that to govern an island you most certainly need to work in partnership. You cannot go to war with the government. You have to use strategy. 

“No words written on a piece of paper will run a system. No matter how good it sounds on paper, there will always be grey areas. The crux of the matter is, you have to work in partnership with what you have got.

“What we have got is a small island, a small bunch of people, and very complex issues.

“What I have learnt is the value of life is working together.”

Public gets a vote as chief councillor plan is put on hold
Vote on future of schools is treated with caution
Transparency campaign prompts fear of island tensions

Public gets a vote as chief councillor plan is put on hold

The idea of electing a chief councillor for St Helena has been put on hold after a vigorous debate by the island’s Legislative Council.

It will now be put to a public ballot, to be held before LegCo’s next meeting towards the end of March.

The proposal would have seen one member elected to lead the Executive Council (ExCo) and choose its other four members.

Concerns about the idea – one of three suggested changes to the island’s 2009 Constitution – were expressed at public meetings across the island.

It was felt that people had too little time to understand the implications.

Local authorities in the UK all have a chief councillor – usually known as the Leader, and elected from the political group in control of the council. However, the leaders of opposition groups are entitled to attend and speak at meetings of the council’s ruling cabinet – the equivalent of ExCo.

With no political parties on St Helena, that safeguard would not exist. Concern has also been expressed to St Helena Online that the system could see non-executive councillors forming an unofficial opposition.

That could lead to them using their vote in LegCo to block initiatives by the executive, creating the kind of difficulties seen in the United States, where the President’s wishes can be blocked by policital opponents in Congress.

Rodney Buckley, who put forward the idea of a chief councillor, amended his proposal to allow a secret ballot among the public, with new efforts to explain the proposal.

He told St Helena Online: “The motion received a really good debate – likely the best ever seen in the Chamber.

“It was clear there was considerable difference of opinion, with no evidence-based mandate from the people, so I moved for an adjournment until the next meeting, to take it back to the people with a view to seeking their mandate through a consultative poll.”

Two other proposals were voted through: to reduce the number of government committees, and change the constitution to prevent executive councillors serving on the island’s main scrutiny body, the Public Accounts Committee.