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COUNCIL PUBLISHES BUDGET AND COUNCIL TAX PROPOSALS

iowcounciliconThe Isle of Wight Council has this afternoon (Monday) confirmed its plans to focus resources on four key priority areas in its finalised budget proposals for 2015/2016.

The priority areas are highlighted in a report to the council’s Executive on 10th February, and will be put before the Full Council for approval (along with the budget) on 25th February.

[alert-note]• Supporting growth in the economy and tourism, making the Island a better place and keeping it safe
• Keeping children safe and improving their education
• Protecting the most vulnerable with health and social care, investing in support, prevention and continuing care
• Ensuring the most effective use of resources in achieving the Island’s priorities[/alert-note]

Council leader, Councillor Jonathan Bacon, said:

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“These priorities are focused on investment in the most essential services for Island residents alongside helping to plan and build a healthy future. They are also about maximising every £1 spent by the council on behalf of Island residents.

“In 2015/2016, we intend to allocate £26.8 million to keeping children safe and improving their education, and £50.9 million to protecting our most vulnerable residents.

“We also plan to spend £31.4 million on growing our economy and tourism and making the Island a safer place, and £16.4 million on ensuring the most effective use of our resources.

“Alongside this revenue spending will be capital investment in a wide range of projects to support the priority areas.

“Underpinning our budget proposals for 2015/2016 and beyond is a real commitment and determination to focus our resources in those areas where they are most needed. This is being done against a backdrop of major year-on-year reductions in government funding and in a climate of rising costs in many areas.

“We have had to consider very carefully how we allocate our limited resources to provide the best services for Island residents – and in framing these finalised proposals have taken into consideration the feedback from our budget consultation process – as well as other specific consultations carried out by the council in recent months.”

The medium-term budget strategy report to the Executive on 10 February (which can be found via the following link: https://www.iwight.com/Meetings/current/committeeDetail.aspx?cmteId=180) details how resources will be allocated to the priority areas, as well as proposals for savings and a recommendation on council tax levels for 2015/2016.

As well as being considered by the Executive, the proposals will also go before the council’s Scrutiny Committee, before being presented to the Full Council (with any further amendments) for debate and approval on 25 February.

From its overall resource allocation of £123.6 million, the council is required to fund increased costs of £7.3 million and, together with significant grant reductions, find £14.5 million of savings in 2015/2016 to balance its budget (a further £8.5 million in 2016/2017).

The report details proposals for savings, which focus on current services and activities that are no longer affordable and how those of a lesser priority might be delivered differently, at a reduced cost or even stopped. Different delivery models and improved income generation are also considered.

The range of savings options – some of which have been, or will be subject to consultation – includes:

[alert-note]• Developing a new operating model for the council, with a focus on commissioning more services;
• Reductions in senior management and a review of admin and other management;
• Maximising the council’s income streams and review new options for income generation;
• Introducing a new waste and recycling contract for the Island;
• Developing a strategic partnership between the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service and its Hampshire counterpart;
• Reintroducing passenger charges (40p is proposed) for a return journey on Cowes floating bridge (under-18s and concessionary bus pass holders exempt);
• Asking schools to take on school crossing patrol funding;
• Introducing a community toilet scheme with local businesses and other organisations[/alert-note]

A full list of the options can be found in the report to the Executive, published on iwight.com.

To help achieve the savings in 2015/2016, it is also proposed that an additional £2 million is used from the council’s reserves.

In relation to council tax – which contributes approximately 20% of the council’s gross funding – an increase of 1.99 per cent (the government capping limit) is proposed for 2015/2016. This would cost a band D taxpayer an extra 50p a week (excluding town and parish council and Hampshire Police precepts).

The council has also been required to issue a formal consultation notice in relation to potential staff job losses among its staff, as part of the savings proposals.

Councillor Bacon, who became council leader in January, added:

“The development of these budget proposals has been an extremely challenging task, but we remained dedicated to delivering the best possible services we can to Island residents.

“I would particularly like to thank my colleague, Councillor Ian Stephens, who as my predecessor and along with Executive colleagues and other council members and officers, has been so important to the development of these proposals. We are also indebted to the many Island residents, organisations and stakeholders who have contributed their views.”

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