Council & Democracy

It had long been a cherished dream of Scillonians that their own elected authority administer their islands and in 1890 these hopes were realised when the first council was elected under the conditions of a provisional order of the Local Government Board.

The council was to be made up of four aldermen and 21 councillors under the chairmanship of Thomas Algernon Dorrien-Smith and first met on 2nd April 1891. Twelve of the councillors had been elected from St Mary’s, three from Tresco, two from both St Martin’s and St Agnes and one from Bryher.

The council was granted the power to deal with all aspects of the islands’ administration, and from that time onwards the islands became an administrative entity with powers equal to those of mainland county councils.

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is actually one of only two sui generis unitary authorities in the United Kingdom, the other being the City of London Corporation. Both organisations have a wide remit that goes beyond that of an ordinary local authority.

We are responsible for education, housing, waste management, fire services, highways, environmental health, planning, social services, tourism, coastal defence, sea fisheries, promotion of economic development and emergency planning. We also own and operate St Mary’s Airport, which is central to the local economy, and provide a water supply for St Mary’s and Bryher.

Our unusual status also means that some administrative law that applies in the rest of England applies in modified form in the islands.

The Isles of Scilly is not part of the administrative county of Cornwall but our small size makes it prudent to share some strategic functions with Cornwall Council in order to provide the best possible level of service to the public.

The present day council consists of 16 available seats for elected members; 12 from St Mary’s, and 1 from each of the other inhabited islands in the archipelago, Tresco, St Martin’s, St Agnes and Bryher. Elections are held every four years.