Stone by stone, new assembly takes shape
Saturday 27th October 2012, 10:00AM BST.
SARK taxpayers will be pleased to know that, according to the word on the street earlier this week, the work on the Chief Pleas assembly room and adjacent Seneschal’s chambers looks to be on time and within budget.
The assembly room is being redesigned and although it would have been perhaps desirable to have conseillers sitting in a sort of horseshoe-shaped seating arrangement it has to be remembered that the room also has to function as the Seneschal’s Court, which makes that sort of thing impractical.
I am told also that members of the public attending the sittings – and a greater percentage of the population regularly attend Chief Pleas than any other legislature I’ve seen – will be seated in a raised gallery, which means they’ll be able to see much more of the action (and indeed inaction on occasions) than has hitherto been the case.
From their point of view, and that of Sark Scribe editor Bob Parsons and yours truly, who report on the proceedings, it is pleasing that the sittings will not only be amplified – with each conseiller having a microphone on his or her desk – but the words of wisdom (and otherwise) uttered by members will be digitally recorded.
Perhaps this may do away with the wastefully time consuming process of the committee secretary spending an inordinate amount of his (and our, because his salary doesn’t drop off trees) time manually recording speeches and then trying to transcribe them.
Hopefully, it will also do away with the somewhat tiresome process of correcting minutes in open session.
There have been occasions when my own notes have concurred exactly with those of the committee secretary but individual conseillers have nonetheless insisted on corrections.
It’s crossed my mind that sometimes it’s more a case of reflecting upon what they actually said but wishing they’d said something else. The wonders of modern science, in the shape of digital recording, should do away with such nonsense.
As to the building work, I and many other residents have been admiring the external stonework on the new Seneschal’s chambers done by master craftsman Terry Regan, ably assisted by young Sarkee Charles Carre.
As the work has progressed it’s been a pleasure to see someone like Terry pass on his skills to the next generation, even though – so I’m told – he had to be dragged out of retirement to do the job.
I look forward to the finished article, not least because Sark will have a legislative chamber it can be proud of.
Additionally, the back office bit of the building – from where the Seneschal carries out his day to day duties – will at long last be an appropriate place in which official visitors to Chief Pleas can be welcomed.
The previous set-up, which looked more like a back kitchen turned into an office, was a disgrace to Sark.
In common with other places, and despite the fact that there are no cars, lorries, vans and motorcycles, traffic in Sark remains a problem for both the legislators and the island’s two police officers.
To their credit, members of the Road Traffic Committee are in the process of revising legislation. That said, some of the measures they appear intent on introducing seem to me and many others to be as about as appropriate for this small community as a chocolate fireguard would be in front of my wood burner.
Why can’t the committee just hold a public meeting, explain what they’re trying to achieve, and listen to the residents’ views? People would much prefer that approach to the ‘give us your views in writing’ one which the committee have adopted.
It would be better to extend the consultation period – where’s the rush, I ask myself – hold a meeting and then present their draft for consultation.
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