The decision means that Island households will now have to fork out 4.99% more in council tax from April, on top of the precept rises such as the 7.4% Police precept rise.
As well as a rise in Council Tax, motorists will have to pay 100% more from overnight parking from October – increasing from £1 to £2 – and bereaved families face a 7% increase in cremation fees.
Dinosaur Isle will run to reduced opening hours and the Lord Louis Library in Newport will close for an extra day a week. The mobile library service will be scrapped.
Conservatives say the focus of the budget is to ensure a financially sustainable position for the local authority, underpinned by three important priorities: ensuring that the Council is able to continue keeping the Island’s community safe; to create an environment and financial plan to deliver the economic recovery the Island needs and to continue towards achieving the Council’s vision of the Island being an inspirational place in which to grow up, live, work and visit.
However, many will likely argue that forcing Islanders to pay yet more money at a time when they simply don’t have the spare cash is not helping the Island become a place to live or work.
The Liberal Democrats have declared the budget ‘cruel’ and many have commented on social media saying that this latest move may just cost the Conservatives their seats in May’s local elections.
Councillor Dave Stewart, Isle of Wight Council leader, has said:
“This is the fifth budget that this Conservative administration has delivered since that time just over four years ago when the then leadership of the independent administration walked out on the Island, without warning, claiming that they could not set a lawful and balanced budget.
“With no strategy in place – and reserves depleted – we immediately had to pull a budget plan together and take steps to get the local authority’s finances back to a healthy position. That has now been achieved, and the budget approved this evening confirms the responsible approach we have taken.
“In contrast, we have seen alternative budget proposals with headline-grabbing ideas such as restoring ‘dotto trains’, rather instead of focusing on how to keep our community safe. Other proposals have suggested raiding reserves, which would leave them at a dangerously low level.
“The council tax rise of 4.99% – which Liberal Democrat and Independent alternatives also supported – generates additional income of just £4.4m. Whilst it is not sufficient to cover all additional costs on its own, it is necessary in order that we can meet our social care responsibilities (and 3% of the increase relates specifically to those).
“This budget ensures that the books are balanced with a sustainable financial plan that deals with the challenges we face now and provides a Medium-Term Financial Strategy to meet the requirements of tomorrow. This secure the Council’s long-term financial future.
“This budget also provides much-needed assistance for our community, including a Covid Support Fund of over £14million to protect people against the worst impacts of Covid and to help address important priorities such as Long Covid, Mental Wellbeing and ongoing business support.
“The budget also means we are able to continue important investment into our Transformation Programmes – which is making a real difference.
“By 2024 the Council will have no outstanding budget deficit to cover. This means that we will be well placed to further support a growing economy, whilst at the same time continuing to keep our community safe. This is in contrast to the unmet £7.5m savings target that we inherited from the independents in February 2017 when they walked out.
“This budget also secures general reserves at over £8 million. These are essential when we are faced with responding effectively to something as huge as a pandemic – which we have been able to do.
“This is the prudent management of the Council’s budget in action. Such sound management is needed for a sustainable financial future.”
Tonight’s approval of the Budget includes plans to spend £550,000 on air conditioning and data centre upgrades, £300,000 on 2 sets of average speed cameras and £30,000 on buoys for Sandown Bay – things that Islanders have said could simply wait.
Commenting on the Capital investment, Cllr Stewart has said:
“The budget will also see us invest £9.6 million from our capital resources, to help leverage in a further £46.5 million of external funding. This will result in £56 million of capital being invested in the Island’s future.
“This figure includes over £40 million invested in coastal protection, £6.4 million invested in our schools, £2.9 million invested in affordable housing (and a new Biosphere Centre) – and a further £1.3 million in highway improvements (including investment in sustainable transport).