Chairman's update on the coronavirus pandemic - 8 September 2020

Following the recent storms, I have been relieved to see the return of some sunnier weather over the past few days. The islands remain relatively busy, which is great for all of our businesses that rely on the increased trade at this time of year and I think that these businesses are doing a sterling job of adhering to government advice for operating safely. My thanks to everyone for their continued efforts to keep our community and visitors safe whilst helping our economy to get back on its feet.
I am aware of the difficulties the winter season will inevitably bring for our economy and am supportive of the work being undertaken by the Islands Partnership to extend our tourism season.  The health of our economy is vital to the sustainability of the islands and we hope as many of our businesses as possible will engage with this initiative. Please contact the IP to find out how you can participate and bring real benefit to your business, our visitors and the islands.
You are all aware that our transport links are crucial to the sustainability and future of our islands and community. The pandemic has hit our transport operators hard and we have been lobbying central government to get support for our lifeline services, to enable them to get through the coming winter. We have just received a reply from Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, explaining that government fully recognises the importance of reliable transport links to, from and between the islands, which was demonstrated by the £6m funding allocated to keep the Isles of Scilly connected throughout the first months of the coronavirus outbreak, and that they remain committed to protecting lifeline services on Scilly. The letter assures us that the relevant Ministers are working with HM Treasury officials to explore what options for further support are available for lifeline service operators for the period until spring 2021 and will respond to us as soon as possible.
Now that we are well prepared to deal with a possible outbreak, the Council has resumed its focus on our usual priorities which aim to enhance the day-to-day experience of our residents and visitors. Clearly, some work has been delayed or slowed as we navigated through lockdown and made preparations to cover our bases in the event of an outbreak, but I am pleased to be able to say that we are now getting back on track with our core business, reviewing our priorities and reviving or adapting our longer term plans and initiatives. The Council’s Corporate Plan is a document that sets the strategy that underpins the direction of the Council for the medium term (in this case 2019-2022).  It enables your councillors to indicate where they would like resource to be allocated in order for their collective ambitions for the authority to be fulfilled. Whilst we own the document and have the ultimate say on what is included in it, we work closely with officers to ensure the plan is both ambitious and achievable, and that it will benefit the organisation, islands and community. The Corporate Plan has a lifespan of 4 years, but the objectives contained within it are reviewed annually. The next review of these objectives will take place in January 2021 and will take into account the impacts of the pandemic response and recovery.  You can read all of our current objectives, along with further explanation of the context in which they were originally written, in the attached PDF. We have also made some paper copies of the Corporate Plan available in the library and paper shop on St Marys and have sent copies to our off-island members. Please take a moment to familiarise yourself with the objectives and get in touch with your councillors if you have any feedback ahead of the review in January.

Underpinning all of this, we are continuing to strengthen our financial arrangements, even in these uncertain times, and it is pleasing that our external auditors have noted the progress we have made in the past couple of years, along with improvements to our risk management protocols and scrutiny mechanisms. I remain committed to enhancing communication between our Council and our community. To that end we hope to be able to recommence our community engagement surgeries as soon as permitted. In the meantime, please contact any of your Councillors if you have any issues or concerns that you would like us to deal with.
Stay Safe
Best Wishes
Robert Francis 

Publishing date: 
Tuesday, 8 September, 2020