The Isle of Wight Council’s Executive will consider proposals for the council’s budget for 2017/18 next Wednesday, but things aren’t looking rosy for Islanders with a proposed Council tax increase of nearly 5%.
Should the budget be accepted, the Full Council will set the council’s budget at its meeting on 22nd February, where it will also set council tax for next year.
It is proposed:
- Council Tax to increase by 4.99% – £1.34 per week for a Band D property
- All public toilets across the Island closed or transferred to town and parish councils
- Floating Bridge prices increased with removal of free travel for bus pass holders
- Reduced opening hours at Lynnbottom Tip, only opening 6 days a week and closing at 18:00 in the summer and 16:00 in the winter
- Reduce/remove street lighting from areas such as cul-de-sacs and areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- Reduction in the Fire and Rescue Service’s Road Safety Programme
- Reduction in the Fire and Rescue Service’s office support staff and activity, resulting in more shared services with Hampshire
- Reduction in street cleaning and hedge cutting Island-wide
- Hours cut for Council staff in a number of departments
- Charging for waste bin and sack replacements
- Cancel membership for the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire
- Cease Halberry Lane traffic management scheme during the Isle of Wight Festival
The proposals are based upon the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) that was agreed by Full Council in October 2016, with the ambition of protecting council services while balancing a need to reduce spending by £7.5 million during the year 2017/18. The strategy was designed to ‘smooth out’ savings requirements over the medium term, protect the council from any ‘financial shocks’ in future years, enable ‘pump-priming’ of invest to save and transformational activities to occur as appropriate.
Councillor Dave Stewart Leader of the Council said:
“I find myself in a very unexpected place in presenting this budget for consideration by the Executive and the Full Council. Having only become leader within the past fortnight, there has been little time for me and for my colleagues working together in our cross-party Executive to address the financial challenges facing the council.
“Our primary objective was to propose a legal and balanced budget, which we have done. We have approached the challenge in a professional and disciplined manner, ensuring that core services are protected and sustained wherever possible, while maximising opportunities for economic regeneration and growth.
“Much of what we have presented in the budget is based on the preparatory work of the previous Administration. Working with the council’s senior management team we have been able to interrogate and build on these foundations to present budget proposals which we believe is fair and which the Director of Finance has agreed are both legal and achievable”.
Councillor Stuart Hutchinson, deputy leader and executive member for corporate resources, said:
“It is important that when next year’s budget is set, firstly that we meet the target of £7.5 million savings identified. However, importantly the council must continue to operate effectively.
“The budget proposals align with the Medium Term Financial Strategy, which received Full Council support in 2016. The strategy aims to ensure ongoing financial resilience for the organisation, with a focus on increasing the council’s income base and especially upon the future opportunities available to the Island through regeneration, alongside the development of effective local services and resource resilience.”
The Full Council will also set Council Tax for the Island when it meets later in February. The recommendation to the Executive is for the Isle of Wight Council to raise its precept by the maximum 4.99% – 1.99% is the maximum level that council tax can be raised each year in line with the referendum threshold, however, an additional 3% increase can also be made to take advantage of the flexibility offered by Government to implement a ‘Social Care Precept’. In accordance with the scheme, the full amount to be collected would directly fund adult social care provision on the Island.
Cllr Stewart, added:
“I am keen to ensure that we continue to provide the best possible services for the most vulnerable in our community and to continue to support those people who need to cross the Solent to access health care. However, this can only be achieved by taking full advantage of the option to have a 3 per cent council tax precept to fund adult social care. This challenge, having been made still harder by the Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group withdrawing some £3.1m of social care funding by the end of 2017/18.”
The Executive will also consider the council’s capital programme which focuses upon creating a robust future service over the medium term, to enable increased efficiency within council services, ability to ‘invest to save’, and to support regeneration in the coming months and years.
Cllr Hutchinson, added:
“The MTFS and the capital funding available to the council collectively provide a significant opportunity to set the council on a secure footing for the future, ensuring that it has the capacity to transform and continue to deliver important services to our community. I and my colleagues in our cross-party Executive will not waste this opportunity, and the proposals in the budget paper ensure that we can take the fullest advantage of this opportunity for the council and the Island.”