Ahead of the Cabinet meeting on 12th February, this in from the council, in their own words. Ed
Isle of Wight Council budget proposals released today (Friday 1 February) outline how the authority will seek to boost the local economy, at the same as helping Island families meet the rising cost of living.
The budget papers, to be discussed by Cabinet on 12 February, provide details on a number of initiatives under the themes Helping Island Households and Supporting the Local Economy, along with a range of other steps to ensure the Council reduces its own running and management costs.
“The overriding principle for our budget process is to ensure that council’s limited resources are used as effectively as possible to deliver services to our Island community,” said Isle of Wight Council leader councillor David Pugh.
“By operating the council efficiently we can release public funds to support the local economy through a range of initiatives, whilst also helping Island residents who are affected by the rising cost of living.”
Budget proposals include
Under the theme of Helping Island Households, the budget proposals include:
- freezing council tax for the third year running and the option of spreading payments over 12 months;
- keeping parking charges at the same level for the fifth year running;
- using grant funding of almost £450,000 to address fuel poverty and help householders reduce their energy bills;
- pledging to introduce additional schemes to help Island residents onto the housing ladder;
- establishing a hardship fund of nearly £350,000 to provide residents with emergency financial assistance.
The council is also proposing an additional £60,000 of local funds to support the innovative community bus scheme over the next financial year.
Proposed initiatives to boost the local economy include:
- allocating £300,000 to continue with the award-winning pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship schemes, including expanding these opportunities into new employment sectors and for residents with learning and physical disabilities;
- staging another Careers and Jobs Fair, following a successful inaugural event in November 2012;
- an ongoing commitment to deliver Superfast Broadband across the Island, with £3m of Council investment, to establish our community as a major growth area for the digital economy;
- continuing support for the Council’s ambitious plan to establish a Solent Ocean Energy Centre – a testing and demonstration facility for tidal power – off St Catherine’s Point with the potential to create renewable energy and up to 600 jobs in the Solent region.
Extra money for child safeguarding
The budget also proposes that investment in adult social care is increased by £8.7m over the next three years and an additional £475,000 is made available to help improve child safeguarding and improve services for vulnerable children.
This investment is proposed against the backdrop of the council needing to deliver £7 million of savings during the next financial year because of a reduction in government funding and an increased cost in providing local services. Among efficiency measures being proposed are further back office and management savings, including a proposal to delete the post of chief executive in light of the imminent retirement of the current postholder.
Top tier of senior management reduced to three posts
It is recommended that the statutory responsibilities of the Head of Paid Service would be allocated to one of the existing directors alongside their service responsibilities, thereby reducing the top tier of senior management from four to three posts.
The current chief executive Steve Beynon – who had already announced his intention to retire this year – will leave at the end of the current financial year, when the post will be made redundant, in order to give a full-year saving in 2013/14. It is proposed that the Head of Paid Service responsibilities are undertaken on an interim basis by the strategic director for resources until a permanent appointment is finalised in May.
“The council must continue to reduce its running costs”
Councillor Pugh said: “In what remain difficult financial times, the council must continue to reduce its running costs in order to release as much money as possible for its priorities. This means looking throughout the organisation – from top to bottom – for savings.
“Making the post of chief executive redundant not only yields a significant saving but also demonstrates that we can radically reshape the local authority in light of the continuing changes to local government. The leaner we are in terms of our operating expenditure means that more investment can be made available to support the economy and to protect our most vulnerable residents.
“I consider that this proposed budget is both prudent and realistic. It is one that offers real support to the Island’s economy and also to individual families by helping them to meet the cost of living in what are testing times.”