UPDATED: Councillor Jonathan Bacon has stepped down from his role as Leader of the Isle of Wight Council, with Deputy Leader Councillor Steve Stubbings also resigning, it has been announced this morning (Monday).
The shock announcement states that there is now a situation amongst elected members where party politics and ego are being put before the concerns and issues of Island people.
In a statement issued this morning, Cllr Bacon has said:
“Over the past six years the Government has imposed austerity measures which have forced many Local Authorities, including the Isle of Wight Council, to impose severe cuts on services to the serious detriment of their residents, for many of whom these services are essential for their lives. Due to the unique nature of the Isle of Wight these cuts have had a more severe impact on the Island than elsewhere as a result of which the Independent Administration has continually requested the Conservative Government to recognise that unique situation and the particular pressures the Isle of Wight faces. They have continually failed to do so and it seems apparent that the Government has no wish or intent to help this Island. Rather they wish to impose the burdens of their failures in relation to supporting health and welfare on local authorities and Council Tax payers rather than address the issues themselves.”
“While it is difficult enough to deal with this situation, it becomes even more difficult when many of those charged with that duty would rather play political games than take on that responsibility. Personally, and as part of the Independent Group, I came on to this Council on a ‘ticket’ of ‘People Before Politics’. However I am of the firm opinion that we now have a situation amongst elected members where Party Politics and Ego are being put before the concerns and issues of Island people. Elsewhere in the Chamber this has been the case for a long time, however I am sad to say that I think this has now crept into the Independent Group where there is a small element who are now more focussed in that way.
“The situation is such that to my mind there is no longer in the Chamber a sufficient number of members who are willing or able to address the real problems faced by the Council and the Island and, accordingly, there are not sufficient members across the council who are supportive of me or my approach. Instead we have a majority who would rather play games and fit into the negative stereotype of the self-centred, bickering, power seeking politician, or simply act at the behest of their party leadership, rather than take responsibility for the work that needs to be done to fight the brickbats of Central Government.”
“Steve and I have done our best to lead the Council through the difficulties it faces, but, in the face of the unwillingness of Government to lift a finger to help and the preference for too many elected members to act negatively rather than try and help, we are of the view that our positions as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council are now untenable and, perhaps more pertinently, intolerable.
“Therefore with apologies to all those who have worked, whether with us or otherwise, to address the problems the Island faces, we are resigning from the Leadership roles of the Isle of Wight Council and the Council Executive.”
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Meanwhile Cllr Stubbings has said:
“The Isle of Wight Council has been forced into a corner where, with the best will in the world, the opportunity for anyone with even a modicum of compassion and concern for residents to do anything to address issues that need to be dealt with is pretty much impossible in the face of the cuts that have been and which continue to be imposed. In addition to those bare faced cuts, in areas where it has been suggested more money is being given to us, if one looks closely, it is found that equal or greater sums are being taken away elsewhere. When a stand has been taken, as with the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (for health and social care), the response received was that such action may prejudice other funding – essentially a form of blackmail.”
“We are now in situation where the need to work together for the common cause of Isle of Wight residents against the effects of the Government’s Austerity Programme is greater than ever, however this is overwhelmed by the inability or unwillingness of many elected members within the Isle of Wight Council to take that approach, damaging the interests of both the Council and the people of the Isle of Wight.”
“We note, in closing, that there is an election coming up in four months. This heartens us for two reasons. Firstly, whoever takes over now is, we hope, unlikely to do anything unduly adverse to the Island in the coming weeks as they will be thinking mostly about winning votes at that election and, secondly, the public can shortly decide what sort of Council they want and whether they are happy to continue with a Council where members will just toe a party line, bluster and argue for the sake of it, allowing austerity to continue unchecked, or choose Councillors who are willing and able to work together as I hope we have always done, in order to move away from such damaging behaviour and support the Island we and many others love.”
UPDATE @ 11:37 – John Metcalfe, Chief Executive of the Isle of Wight Council, has acknowledged receipt of the resignations of Councillors Jonathan Bacon and Steve Stubbings, from their roles as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Isle of Wight Council.
In accordance with procedures, it has been agreed that the process to elect a new Leader will take place at Full Council on Wednesday (18th January 2017). This will become the first substantive item on the agenda for debate.
Existing Executive Members will remain in post until a new Leader is appointed; it will then be the role of the new leader to select their Cabinet/Executive.
In the meantime, tonight’s public budget consultation meeting will go ahead as planned.
Cllr Kendell was only appointed to the Executive at the start of the month.