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Council of the Isles of Scilly

Council of the Isles of Scilly

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a sui generis unitary local government authority covering the Isles of Scilly off the west coast of Cornwall. It is currently made up of 16 seats, with all councillors being independents. The council was created in 1890 as the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council and was renamed in 1974.

Council of the Isles of Scilly
Sui generis
Chairman of Council
Robert Francis, Independent
since 25 May 2017[1]
Political groups
  Independent (16)
Multiple non-transferable vote
Last election
6 May 2021
Next election
1 May 2025
Meeting place
Town Hall, Hugh Town


Historically, the Isles of Scilly were administered as one of the hundreds of Cornwall, although the Cornwall quarter sessions had limited jurisdiction there. For judicial, shrievalty and lieutenancy purposes, the Local Government Act 1972 provided that the Isles of Scilly are "deemed to form part of the county of Cornwall".[2] The archipelago is part of the Duchy of Cornwall[3] – the duchy owns the freehold of most of the land on the islands and the Duke exercises certain formal rights and privileges across the territory, as he does in Cornwall proper.

The Local Government Act 1888 allowed the Local Government Board to establish in the Isles of Scilly "councils and other local authorities separate from those of the county of Cornwall"... "for the application to the islands of any act touching local government." Accordingly, in 1890, the Isles of Scilly Rural District Council (the RDC) was formed as a sui generis local government authority, outside the administrative county of Cornwall. Cornwall County Council provided some services to the Isles, for which the RDC made financial contributions. The Isles of Scilly Order 1930[4] granted the council the "powers, duties and liabilities" of a county council. Section 265 of the Local Government Act 1972 allowed for the continued existence of the RDC, but renamed as the Council of the Isles of Scilly.[5][6]

This unusual status also means that much administrative law (for example relating to the functions of local authorities, the health service and other public bodies) that applies in the rest of England applies in modified form in the islands.[7]

The Council of the Isles of Scilly is a separate authority to the Cornwall Council unitary authority, and as such the islands are not part of the non-metropolitan county of Cornwall. However, the islands are still considered to be part of the ceremonial county of Cornwall. With a total population of just over 2,000, the council represents fewer inhabitants than many English parish councils, and is by far the smallest English unitary council.


The council is headquartered at Town Hall, by The Parade park in Hugh Town, and also performs the administrative functions of the AONB Partnership[8] and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority.[9]

Some aspects of local government are shared with Cornwall, including health, and the Council of the Isles of Scilly together with Cornwall Council form a local enterprise partnership. In July 2015 a devolution deal was announced by the government under which Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly are to create a plan to bring health and social care services together under local control. The Local Enterprise Partnership is also to be bolstered.[10]

As of 2015, 130 people are employed full-time by the council[11] to provide local services (including water supply and air traffic control). These numbers are significant, in that almost ten per cent of the adult population of the islands is directly linked to the council, as an employee or a councillor.[12]


The five wards (which are also the civil parishes) of the Isles of Scilly; red is St Agnes, blue is Bryher, orange is Tresco, green is St Martin's, and grey is St Mary's.

The council consists of 16 elected councillors – 12 of which are returned by the ward of St Mary's, and one from each of four "off-island" wards (St Martin's, St Agnes, Bryher, and Tresco). The latest elections took place on 6 May 2021; independents won all seats, with the off-island wards all seeing uncontested elections.[13] The number of councillors elected in each ward was reduced by one for the 2017 local elections, with the islands previously being represented by 21 councillors representing unchanged ward boundaries.[14]

Whilst each of the inhabited isles is formally a civil parish, none of them possess a council or meeting in their own right.


Elections to the council were last held in May 2021. Independent candidates won all seats, with St Martin's, St Agnes, Bryher, and Tresco seeing uncontested elections.

Notes and references

  1. "FULL COUNCIL Thursday, 25th May, 2017 6.30 pm, MOVED". Council of the Isles of Scilly. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  2. Local Government Act 1972 (1972 c.70) section 216(2)
  3. "Around the Duchy – Isles of Scilly". Duchy of Cornwall. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 5 October 2012.
  4. "Isles of Scilly Order 1930" (PDF). The National Archives.
  5. "Isles of Scilly Cornwall through time". Retrieved 19 January 2007.
  6. "Isles of Scilly RD Cornwall through time". Archived from the original on 6 May 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2007.
  7. Examples include the Health and Social Care Act 2003, section 198 and the Environment Act 1995, section 117.
  8. "Welcome to the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)". Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  9. "Welcome to the Isles of Scilly Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority". Isles of Scilly IFCA.
  10. "Cornwall devolution: First county with new powers". BBC News Online. 16 July 2015. Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  11. Leijser, Theo (2015) Scilly Now & Then no. 77 p. 35
  12. "Council of the Isles of Scilly Corporate Assessment December 2002" (PDF). Audit Commission. Retrieved 21 January 2007.
  13. Elections
  14. "Final recommendations on the new electoral arrangements for the Council of the Isles of Scilly" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2017.
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