THE local authority, the Isle of Wight Council, has launched its annual budget consultation that once again includes an online simulator that gives residents the opportunity to say where savings should made and what areas should be the spending priorities for the council.
The council consults with residents, groups and organisations each year in the run up to the annual budget-setting meeting but, following feedback, it has brought the process forward this year to give residents the chance to make their views known at an earlier stage of the budget setting process.
Another change is that this year’s online simulator is wider in scope giving those participating more options for how they suggest the council directs its resources or makes savings, again based on the feedback received last year.
Besides the simulator, the consultation also involves a series of meetings at which representatives of Island interest groups and organisations will be invited. The first of these meetings – for the business community – took place on Tuesday (July 3).
Other workshops are scheduled with trade unions, community and voluntary sector groups, parish and town councils, ward councillors, council staff and members of the Island’s residents’ panel.
The views of those taking part will be taken on board as the budget proposals take shape ahead of the annual budget setting meeting in February next year. This will include presenting the feedback from the consultation to the budget review that will be part of September’s Full Council meeting.
Council leader David Pugh urged residents to make their views known through the consultation process.
“Once again we have to set a budget that prepares us for the harsh financial realities that face us in the next two-three years, so we are keen to hear the views of residents to help us do this,” he said.
“We listened to the feedback that residents gave us last year and, as a result, are bringing the whole process forward this year to give them more time to give their opinions and to allow more time to take the views raised into account. This feedback is particularly helpful to us when we determine where we should prioritise our limited resources.”
Due largely to reduced funding from Government, the council has had to address a funding gap of £33 million. It will have found 80 per cent of this by the end of the current financial year and needs to find a further £2.5 million in 2013/14. However the council is also pointing out that whilst this may be a smaller amount than in previous years, budget forecasts indicate a potential budget gap of £22m that will need to be met by 2016-17.
The budget simulator – which will be available until August 6 – can be viewed on the following link: www.iwight.com/haveyoursay