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VIEW FROM THE TOP - COLONIAL CAREER

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It began as curiosity, but the top job at the Falkland Islands became...
It began as curiosity, but the top job at the Falkland Islands became

just irresistible. Chris Simpkins looks forward to a sea change

In three months my wife and I depart for the Falkland Islands - not an obvious career move I hear you say. Maybe not, but then it has become clear that most people in the UK have a false impression of life in the Falklands.

In July I obtained the candidate pack for the post of chief executive of the Falkland Islands Government. Initially,

it was curiosity but the information provided described a fascinating job

and environment. The opportunity became irresistible.

I have long held the view that the two-tier system of shire local government is inefficient and does not provide the opportunities for effective representative democracy available in unitary areas. However, to compare the system of government in the Falklands with UK unitary government is to seriously understate Falklands government.

There are just eight councillors, no party politics, no chairman and no leader but - with the exception of foreign policy and defence - councillors are responsible for all activities that we associate with local and central government in this country and then some, for example an airline, a radio station, the police force and a prison.

Each councillor oversees a wide portfolio of activities and, with a population of under 2,500, everyone lives next door to a councillor. Unpopular decisions require great courage.

The recruitment process was thorough: the usual tests, a dinner, a presentation and an interview in London. Then a week in the Falklands involving discussions with chief officers and heads of service, lunch with the chamber of commerce, dinners, another presentation, an interview by the governor, another with all eight councillors, four internal flights - the islands have an area the size of Wales - and a magical day and a half enjoying the amazing wildlife on Sea Lion Island.

Stamina was essential. For example, tea with the governor two hours after

an 18-hour flight was followed by dinner a couple of hours later. Falling asleep in the soup was an interview technique to avoid carefully.

The Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the UK but, apart from defence, its government is self sufficient. Significant income is derived from fishing, wool and tourism and there is the prospect of the discovery of offshore oil. Access to European markets is available and potentially profitable, particularly for organic products. In short, the islands have huge potential for economic growth.

The climate is much better than we think in the UK. The 1982 winter conflict gave us a false impression.

The average temperature is higher than that in London.

So, is it a good career move? Who knows? Time alone will tell. It will certainly be an adventure and one that I, and my wife, are eager to experience.

Chris Simpkins

Chief executive, South Holland DC

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