Changes to the Isle of Wight Council Executive have been finalised this week, as Council leader Ian Stephens takes up a role by the Local Government Association as a member of the Leadership Board and Chairman of the Culture, Tourism and Sports Board, which is a sub-committee of the main Board.
The role will require his attendance at 12 meetings each year, all of which take place in the middle of the day thereby avoiding the need for Cllr Stephens to stay off the Island to attend such meetings and meaning that the post will take up no more than 5% of his working hours over a year.
Nevertheless, in recognition of his acceptance of this post, Cllr Stephens has passed some of his portfolio duties to Cllr Shirley Smart but will maintain oversight of resources, including taking responsibility for the forthcoming budget in which the Isle of Wight Council has to find savings of £13M this year alone in order to deal with the financial restrictions placed on the local authority by central government.
At the same time, concluding the recently announced reshuffle of Executive roles, Cllr Phil Jordan has been given special responsibility for the PFI contract in order that some of the problems with the Contract that are now becoming apparent can be addressed – details of which have not been released.
The Executive say the offer of the LGA role is both an honour for Cllr Stephens as well as recognition and a major benefit for the Isle of Wight. They say it will raise the profile of the Island and provide a voice in some of the most important forums in British politics for Isle of Wight issues as well as direct access to Government Ministers dealing with issues of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Involvement in mainland bodies by the current Independent administration of the Isle of Wight such as the Solent Local Economic Partnership has already secured in excess of £7million funding for the Island and there is every hope that this will continue as such involvement is nurtured. This marks a significant change from the previous Conservative administration which withdrew from membership of and involvement with all external bodies.
Of the 22 members of the LGA Leadership Board, 16 are also Leaders of Local Authorities including 6 Conservative Council Leaders . The other 6 members are either Deputy Leaders, Mayors or political group leaders. All LGA Board members come from across the political spectrum.
The Executive have said that it is nonsensical to suggest, as has been done, that Cllr Stephens should not accept the role with the LGA as it conflicts with his role and responsibilities on the Isle of Wight. The Executive say the role only enhances Cllr Stephens position and standing and places him and the Isle of Wight at the Top Table of the 433 local authorities in the United Kingdom and with direct access to Ministerial levels of Government.
Councillor Ian Stephens has this week said said:
“The LGA appointment is important for the Isle of Wight. It gives national recognition to the fact that the Isle of Wight is an important area for Tourism and means that the Independent Administration of the Isle of Wight Council can continue to build links with politicians and bodies across the water and across the political spectrum that can bring funding to the Island and help develop tourism, sport and culture as well as regeneration and employment.
“It is perhaps no surprise that this role has been offered to an area so important and significant for the tourism industry”.