ISLE OF WIGHT VOICE
I was an Isle of Wight resident for six years and my family still live there. I have a love of the Island and think anyone who stays there for any length of time will feel the same.
The Island has been heavily affected by the recession but in all honesty its tourist trade was falling before the recession hit.
The biggest problem in my humble opinion is that the two ferry companies who service the Island notably Wightlink and Red Funnel charge exorbitant prices for both cars and foot passengers to both visit and leave the Island.
This is not only a restrictive cost to holiday makers and one that I know has put many people off visiting the Island, but basically a restriction of trade for Islanders wanting to work on the mainland and vice versa. We at the National Liberal Party have written to WightLink and Red Funnel asking them to introduce a £30 a week daily return ticket (requiring a photocard) to make it cost effective for people to work on and off the Island and thus inject both skills and much needed money from the mainland into the Island’s economy. As yet we’ve had no response from the companies in question.
Now let’s remember that this is meant to be a holiday Island and keep this in mind when we look at the latest events in the Island’s finances and the money saving proposals.
The Isle of Wight County Press reported this week that SAVAGE service cuts, parking hikes and mass redundancies are on the cards as the cash-strapped Isle of Wight Council looks to plug a £28m black hole in its budget over the next three years.
Following repeated warnings services would have to be radically overhauled, farmed out to parish councils and community groups or simply axed as a result of further reductions in government funding and rising costs, the sheer scale of the budget crisis emerged this week with the publication of papers ahead of next week’s cabinet meeting.
Savings proposals due to be considered by the cabinet on January 9, and full council on January 15, reveal how many services are under threat. The full report can be viewed below.
All non-statutory services — including the maintenance of parks, beaches and cemeteries, school crossing patrols, leisure centres, youth services and Medina Theatre — could be farmed out to third parties, if anyone is willing to take them on.
Charges for the Cowes floating bridge will be reviewed, with a view to generating an extra £900,000 over the next three years, and parking charges look set to rise, generating £600,000. Proposals include increasing short-stay charges by 20 per cent and long-stay charges by ten per cent, scrapping free parking at leisure centres, ditching the blue badge concession in car parks and introducing more on-street charges.
The number of community safety and environment officers could be reduced, which means there would no longer be any monitoring of toilet and beach cleaning contracts, or enforcement of fly tipping, graffiti or littering, and the Fairway Athletics Track could be closed.
Other proposals include increasing charges for bereavement services, scrapping emergency phones at beaches and free swimming for children in the summer holidays and axing funding for Dinosaur Isle, the Youth Island Games, Walking Festival and Cycling Festival.
Social care cuts, including increasing charges for respite care and reducing personal budget payments, residential care admissions and funding for adult and community learning, are also on the cards.
Redundancies look likely across the board — from strategic directors and heads of service, to senior and middle managers through to support and back office staff.
It is proposed an HR1 notice, where the potential exists for more than 100 redundancies in 90 days, be issued.
Last week, as revealed by the Isle of Wight County Press, Unison warned there could be as many as 300 compulsory redundancies over three years.
Members will consider increasing council tax by two per cent, which equates to £26 per year on a Band D property, raising £600,000.
Further options to be considered in more detail include merging the Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service with another authority and squeezing extra £1m worth of savings from the new waste contract.
A proposal to use £5m from balances and reserves during the next financial year, to buy the authority some time, has already been agreed.
Given the budget is due to be set by full council on February 26, a question mark hangs over the council’s ability to make the necessary savings in time. Many of the proposals are subject to reviews and public consultations before services can be cut, and staff will need to be consulted prior to redundancies being made.
• Reducing the number of senior and middle managers, saving £1.1m over three years.
• Increasing parking charges, saving £600,000, and reducing the number of traffic wardens, saving £60,000.
• Transferring the provision of school crossing patrols to schools and parents, saving £230,000.
• Reducing the number of environment officers, saving £400,000.
• Reducing the maintenance of council-owned parks, cemeteries and beaches, or seeking third parties to take them on, saving £1.4m.
• Increasing bereavement service charges, saving £120,000.
• Scrapping the provision of beach safety equipment, such as emergency phones, saving £100,000.
•Scrapping sport development and support for the Youth Island Games, saving £280,000.
• Encouraging the West Wight Sports Centre to operate independently, potentially leading to its closure, saving £148,000.
•No longer running the Walking and Cycling festivals, and seeking third parties to take them on, saving £152,000.
• Reviewing floating bridge charges to increase income, saving £900,000.
• Seeking to operate all leisure centres (The Heights, Medina and Westridge) at nil cost to the council, saving £1m.
• Re-introducing fees for children’s swimming in the school holidays, saving £90,000.
• Handing the management of the Fairway Athletics Track to the athletics club or school, or closing it, saving £46,000.
• Seeking a third party to take on Medina Theatre, saving £138,000.
• Seeking more NHS funding for community and residential care provision, saving £2.1m.
• Reducing personal budget payments, saving £1.3m.
• Reducing admissions to residential care, saving £2.1m.
• Increasing charges for respite care, saving £450,000.
• Reducing funding for adult and community learning, saving £300,000.
• Scrapping funding for Dinosaur Isle, saving £60,000.
• Reducing library administration costs, saving £120,000.
• Implementing a new senior management structure, including the deletion of strategic director and heads of service posts, saving £2.2m.
• Reducing support services and back office posts, saving £1.3m.
• Reducing support services, saving £6.6m.
• Reducing the number of community safety officers, saving £110,000.
• Restructuring administrative support and reducing spend on external consultants, in relation to the highways PFI, saving £480,000.
• Reducing youth service spend, saving £600,000.
• Reducing procurement spend, by scrapping the courier contract and reducing mobile phone usage, saving £423,000.
Frightening isn’t it? And what has Andrew Turner MP the Island’s Conservative Member of Parliament done about securing jobs and securing an additional £28 million over three years to make sure that the jobs are secured and services remain up to a level where the Island is still work visiting ? The answer as per usual with Mr. Turner is a pretty unimpressive NOTHING.
Let’s put the Island’s THREE year shortfall into perspective shall we?
£28 million pounds is approximately Three times the amount spent on a funeral for a certain Margaret Thatcher!
+£28 million pounds IS THE ESTIMATED cost of keeping the British military in Helmand province for TWO DAYS!
The UK Government estimates it has spent 11 billion pounds in fighting in Iraq.
*The war in Afghanistan has cost Britain at least £37bn and the figure will rise to a sum equivalent to more than £2,000 for every taxpaying household, according to a devastating critique of the UK’s role in the conflict.
Since 2006, on a conservative estimate, it has cost £15m a day to maintain Britain’s military presence in Helmand province. The equivalent of £25,000 will have been spent for every one of Helmand’s 1.5 million inhabitants, more than most of them will earn in a lifetime, it says.
By 2020, Britain will have spent at least £40bn on its Afghan campaign, enough to recruit over 5,000 police officers or nurses and pay for them throughout their careers. It could fund free tuition for all students in British higher education for 10 years.
# Much of this war finance comes from the Government’s ‘Special Fund’ currently estimated to be £8 billion pounds for this financial year.
I’m asking Islanders, whether they are National Liberal supporters or not to write to Andrew Turner asking him to go to his war loving Government and ask that as the Island is a special case in that it is hindered by the most expensive to cross small section of sea in Europe and is an area of natural beauty that the UK should be proud of could his Government fill the £28 million pound hole from the ‘Special fund’ as this is a ‘special’ case.
He can be emailed at mail@IslandMP.com
Let’s make 2014 the year we get our elected representatives to work for and actually help GOVERN instead of blindly following parties who just don’t care.
National Secretary of The National Liberal Party
*Frank Ledwidge, author of damning study Investment in Blood,
All other information is copied from the Isle of Wight County Press.