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The Election Manifesto of Jan Cheek (28/10/09)

Jan Cheek - Manifesto

Whoever is elected to the new Legislative Assembly must be ready for a tough time dealing with reduced income, depleted reserves and with many of the electorate feeling aggrieved by the perceived diminishing of their quality of life. No individual can promise instant, or any, results but if elected I would offer time, hard work, mature common sense drawn from broad life and work experience and a willingness to listen, not patronise.

International

I believe that everyone elected has a role to play in upholding our undeniable right to self determination in the face of the anachronistic and increasingly irrelevant Argentine claim. The aim should be to promulgate the facts including their deplorable refusal to co-operate on issues like sustainable fishing. Their claim is indefensible, firstly because our forebears did not replace an indigenous or settled population. Secondly they would in effect be making the Islands a colony of Argentina, a totally unacceptable concept in the 21st century. Third, and most important, they ignore our right to self determination. It would be good to think we could get this message out to the rest of the world once and for all, but unfortunately we have continue to reiterate it to old and new audiences who otherwise would only hear Argentine propaganda and posturing. Although regularly assured of the support of successive British governments it is important to keep our supporters at all levels, and of all parties, informed of developments and potential problems. Likewise it is important to keep up FIG’s links with the EU, however cumbersome and unproductive they may seem at times.

Internal

A matter to which I have given much thought is the question of scrutiny of the executive in a non party, non adversarial system. This requirement is not currently met, but I believe a system could be devised involving formal questions, challenging of decisions, scrutiny of papers and possibly ‘call in’ of a member or members of Executive Council by a scrutiny panel of other assembly members. Some of this may already be happening informally but I would like to see it being more transparent. If elected I would like to be part of a working group to tackle this important issue. I have not been convinced that the role of a single spokesperson for assembly members has worked and if elected would call for a review, by members, of the new portfolio system to see if improvements can be made in the light of recent experience.

Environmental Protection

Whatever our main income source I believe we should consolidate and increase efforts to conserve the environment that provides our resources and attracts tourists, while wherever possible reducing our dependence on imports, in particular fuel. I applaud the successes achieved in using wind power and hope that we can develop more alternative energy. A useful activity for the Development Corporation would be the identification of the most efficient uses of solar power and heating. I would queue to be a customer of a new business offering cost effective domestic energy options. If oil is found in commercial quantities then we must have absolute confidence that effective controls and safeguards for the environment and the community are in place and that they will be applied. It is fine to have the legislation in place, but there must be the will to use it.

Economy

Our financial reserves represent the safety net that allows us to retain control over our internal affairs. Any further reduction can make us vulnerable to the alternating neglect and interference that we experienced pre ’82. One of the most urgent tasks for the new assembly will be to set our finances back on a stable footing and give the private sector assurance of a predictable tax regime as they plan their future development. The economy is heavily dependent on new money brought in by viable businesses. The next assembly will need to review priorities and work to stop the decline in services already apparent in some areas. When there is a financial upturn I believe that we should start to rebuild the reserves aiming for at least three years operating expenditure. This way the country would be better able to weather the next financial storm without any draconian cuts in services.

The rural economy is clearly in trouble and all the money poured into it over many years has had few tangible results if letters to Penguin News in recent months are a fair reflection of the situation. There seems to me to be a serious disconnect when, for almost the first time in living memory, there is no fresh dairy produce available in Stanley, in what was, not so very long ago, an agricultural economy. I have talked in the past of import replacement and I still believe that the availability of more local produce would reduce the amount of money draining out of the economy.

Government Restructure

It is obvious from publicly available Executive Council papers that the restructure of government management with which the Chief Executive was tasked by EXCO must have had the full agreement of a majority of assembly members. However, if elected, I will be pursuing some areas that I think anomalous or not adequately explained by the outgoing members.

1. It is very difficult to believe that there can be an annual £200k saving when an extra tier of bureaucracy has been created.

2. The fact that the service has lost individuals who probably represent the greater part of FIG’s corporate memory is a concern. It seems short-sighted and I can foresee many reinventions of the wheel in the months and years ahead.

3. I, like many who have spoken to me, cannot see how FIG can do without the highly specialized expertise previously thought necessary to manage separately the medical and education departments. Both have very diverse requirements and huge cost pressures. If the solution requires new specialist management in each area then the alleged saving will immediately disappear

Education

Many of the electorate are concerned about decisions and policies of those on 2 or 3 year contracts who then leave us to live with the sometimes unsatisfactory consequences. I don’t think that the answer lies in verbal attacks on contract officers. Stop and first imagine, for example the schools or the hospital without them. We should be encouraging good people to renew their contracts until they are eligible for local conditions and FIG should be working harder to retain good locally based staff. The level of turnover of secondary teachers highlighted in a recent Penguin News is unacceptable; our students deserve more continuity of subject teaching. The long term answer is in the hands of the new assembly, education has always been key to the future of the Islands. Well educated young people do not just bring their new qualifications and skills; they bring vitality, new ideas, confidence and commitment. We should beware of allowing creeping pay differentials disguised as gratuities and resettlement grants to discourage the return of our most valuable resource.

When, during my time on council, I fought for UK rates to replace higher overseas fees for students from Overseas Territories I envisaged FIG being able to fund more students for the same cost, rather than seeing the saving diverted into unproductive areas of the economy. Education is the most important investment we can make for the future Within the islands there is a danger that fashionable and unproven educational fads from the UK are introduced and shortly afterwards discredited and withdrawn in the UK. SATS for very young children is a recent example, they are criticized for narrowing focus to coaching for SATS results at the expense of children’s broader education.

Another worrying suggestion is that the islands should fund a set number of overseas students annually. This is unrealistic and could rob some of opportunities. The fact is that year groups vary and flexibility is needed to cater for all who can show the ability to benefit from A’ level and further and higher education and training and apprenticeships. We should be wary of statistics based on a single year group which, any statistician will tell you, is too small a sample from which to draw valid conclusions.

Health and social care

Looking in more detail at the medical department and the cost pressures on it, surely immense care is needed to ensure that short term savings do not lead to more expensive problems in the future. Preventative medicine may not show immediate results but can allow people to enjoy longer, healthier and more productive lives.

I was disappointed that the smoking ban in public enclosed spaces was not given higher priority by EXCO members. Evidence of health improvements is already being reported in districts and countries where the ban has been in place for some years.

If elected I will also be pursuing the issues raised in the last year at meetings of many concerned relatives and friends of older long term residents of the hospital and of terminally ill patients. Some serious problems were raised involving the care of, and respect for the dignity of, long term patients and in the management of palliative care for the terminally ill. Most of the hospital regime is efficient and caring, but some shocking lapses and deficiencies emerged. While some of the problems were addressed immediately, patients and their families need to feel confident that systems and oversight are in place to prevent any repetition.

Apparently increasing levels of social problems will have to be addressed by the new assembly. I am hopeful that an early review of employment law and reconsideration of a minimum wage may go some way towards fairer treatment of the lowest paid.

Housing is a continuing problem and I would support a scheme for the provision of more subsidised plots for first time buyers with due safeguards to ensure that it is not exploited for commercial gain. The success of the East Stanley scheme must have come close to doubling the housing stock in Stanley.

If anyone wants a copy by e-mail or wishes to discuss any issue with me please call 21372

Whatever your opinions please use your right to vote on 5 November, your vote could be the one that makes a difference.

Thank you for taking time to read this

Jan Cheek Sixth generation Falkland Islander born in Stanley 1948 Married John Cheek1968 Two daughters 1971 and 1973 Widowed 1996

Education 1954-57 home educated South Georgia 3 years in Stanley Schools 4 years (GCE O’ levels) government scholarship to a Dorset grammar school 2 years (GCE A’ levels) Stanley Teacher training Bristol 1966-69 Commonwealth bursary

Teaching, mainly secondary English to 1989. This included some supply work when the children were small, during which time I also started and ran a twice weekly play group for two years

Fortuna Ltd. - office assistant and later co-owner and director until retirement and sale of shares 2008 Interests include gardening, wildlife, conservation, fishing, reading, theatre

Trustee of the John Cheek Trust, Falklands Conservation, South Georgia Heritage Trust and Falkland Islands Museum Trust Member of Shackleton Scholarship Committee

Business interests Director and shareholder of Consolidated Fisheries Ltd. Director and shareholder of Kelper Stores Ltd Shareholder of Falkland Farmers and Stanley Co-operative Society

Declarations of interest If elected I would declare interests related to the above trusts, directorships and shareholdings and to a loan to a fishing company.



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