Isle of Wight Council has presented its draft budget for the year ahead – a budget that seeks to hit the ‘reset’ button and reverse the previous annual cycle of cuts and decline, but still seeks to find £3million in savings and raise council tax. of 2.99%.

In coming up with this year’s £400million spending plans, the council said it was curbing the old approach to managing decline and charting a new course towards a positive future for the island and its community.

It’s a budget, the council says, that protects the young, the old and the most vulnerable in society by safeguarding valuable frontline services.

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To help make up some of the shortfall, the full Council will be asked to approve a general council tax increase of 1.99%, with a further 1% increase specifically to protect adult social care. In total, the proposed increase equates to an additional £44 a year for a typical Band C taxpayer.

There will also be increases in certain areas of fees and charges to try and generate more revenue to help provide key services to residents. This includes parking charges which will rise by 10p per hour from July, as Island Echo reported last night.

Advisor Chris Jarman, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance, said:

“Recent years have seen a process of managing decline.

“Budgets have simply been aimed at tightening the council’s belt more and more, trying to do what is necessary while always cutting funds and misrepresenting the process as cost savings rather than declaring the reality that it is It’s a continuous process of cuts.

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“This process cannot continue.

“We need to reinvigorate the board and start developing a financial strategy based on growth rather than cuts. If we don’t, key services that support our residents, our island and our community will cease or cease to be sustainably responsive to need and demand.

“Our goal is to be able to stop the direction the board has been going in for the past four years, turn the wheel and start moving in a new direction.”

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He pointed to the recent decision by the Plenary Council to aim to increase the level of tax support for low-income households from the current 65% to at least 70% from April 1 next year as an example of the council’s new approach. .

And he said work was already underway to identify and develop business opportunities that will allow the council to move from a program of cuts to reinvestment in services, and he hopes that work will begin to bear fruit in the budgets for the coming years.

However, without additional government funding, an “island deal” or enough time to launch plans to generate more revenue for the council, Councilor Jarman added:

“Part of what we’re doing this year is driven by what we inherited from the previous board.

“As a result, we had to identify savings and income generation measures with our hands tied to some degree.

“Nevertheless, we have sought to do so in the least damaging way possible. Additionally, we have taken an approach that aims to protect as much as we can.

“Our aim is that what we need to do this year, to achieve the £3 million of savings required by the process we have inherited, will actually be primarily cost savings and efficiencies, rather than continuing the ongoing process of cuts that we have seen over the past few years. a few years.

“It means we can then begin the process of rebuilding and regenerating the council and our island community from a solid financial base, rather than simply dealing with inevitable financial decline.

“Our aim is to invest as much of the council’s money as possible on the island for the benefit it can bring in supporting jobs and the economy.”

The proposed revenue budget is accompanied by an ambitious £40 million capital program which proposes a wide range of projects to improve the lives of Islanders, both at home and in the community.

Key highlights include:

  • an investment of at least £25m to provide new homes for islanders
  • £2.5m to start a new council-owned housing company for local people
  • an immediate £3.6m investment in securing relocatable homes to help those most in need
  • £1.4million to improve the availability of independent living apartments for people with high care needs
  • £2.2m for motorway safety and improvement programs over the next 2 years

The proposed budget documents have been released before being discussed at the council’s scrutiny committee next Tuesday, followed by further discussion in Cabinet on February 10 before all councilors vote on the proposals on February 23.

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