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COUNCIL TO FOCUS RESOURCES ON KEY PRIORITY AREAS

countyhallstreetlevelThe Isle of Wight Council has revealed its proposals to focus its resources on key priority areas as it plans its budget for 2015/2016 and the following financial year.

A report to the council’s Executive meeting of 13th January highlights the priority themes:

•        Keeping children safe and improving education.
•        Protecting the most vulnerable residents.
•        Growing the economy and tourism, making the Island a safer place.
•        Achieving best value for money.

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As part of its investment in essential services and the Island’s future, for 2015/2016 a sum of £26.6 million is being recommended for allocation on keeping children safe and improving education, and £50.9 million on protecting the most vulnerable residents.

In addition, £32.6 million is being recommended for allocation on growing the economy and tourism, making the Island a better and safer place, and £20.5 million on achieving best value for money.

Council leader, Councillor Ian Stephens, said:

“We are committed to investing in the Island’s future and focusing our resources in those areas where they are most needed – and this is reflected in our priority areas.

“With a view to our government financial settlement for 2015/2016 and our hopes for the future, I will be meeting with the Minister for Local Government on 13 January to highlight the impact the settlement (announced in December) will have on services for Island residents and emphasising the need for greater support.

“I will also stress the need for greater recognition of the challenges we face as an Island and how our ability to generate new income and access alternative funding should be developed and assisted.

“Due to the reduced funding from the government and increasing costs, we are having to consider extremely carefully how we allocate our limited resources to achieve the best services for residents.”

The report to the Executive on 13th January outlines the council’s medium term budget strategy for 2015/16, and gives an early indication of what is to be expected in the finalised report to the 25 February Full Council meeting, which will approve the budget.

As part of its detailed work on the budget plans in the intervening period, the council will be feeding in the findings from the budget consultations and survey conducted in November and December.

From its overall resource allocation of £130.7 million, the council is required to fund increased costs of £7.3 million and together with significant grant reductions has to find £14.5 million of savings in 2015/2016 to balance its budget.

It means there are current services and activities that are no longer affordable and those of a lesser priority must be delivered differently, at a reduced cost or even stopped. Different delivery models and improved income generation are also being investigated, including in priority areas.

To help achieve the savings, consideration will be given to using £2.4 million from the council’s reserves and whether to approve a council tax increase of up to 1.99 per cent (the government capping limit). A council tax increase of this level would cost a band D taxpayer an extra 50p a week.

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

Councillor Stephens added:

“These are extremely challenging times for the council and we are determined to achieve a budget which continues to ensure essential services are delivered to Island residents – as well as providing opportunities for investment in the Island’s future in areas from education through to our economy and tourism.”

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