The Island Independent Group have presented their proposals for an alternative budget ahead of the budget debate at Full Council this Wednesday.
It includes prioritising support for Town and Parish Councils, an innovative scheme for bringing empty homes back into use as social housing, the setting up of a Sustainable Transport Fund and also a Community Engagement Fund to provide a mechanism for the Council to listen to, engage with and to action matters that are of local concern to residents by working with local groups to better effect.
Andre: Prioritise services where there is the greatest need
Cllr Debbie Andre, leader of the group, had this to say,
“We have all been affected to a greater or lesser extent by the Covid-19 pandemic, not just financially, but socially and mentally. As we gradually emerge from this crisis, it is more vital than ever that we prioritise Council services where there is the greatest need and where that funding can make a real difference to people’s lives.
“We know that we have a higher than average demographic of over 65s on the Island and we agree that support and care must be offered to the highest standards to enable a high quality of life in later years. However, we also need to provide a good standard of education for our children and support a buoyant economy to enable everyone to have an equal opportunity to succeed.
“In restoring the Local Tax Support Grant to Town and Parish Councils, we will enable them to ease the burden on local residents. They are best placed to work at grass roots level to identify the individual needs of the community. Closer collaboration with Town and Parish Councils both now and in the future is a fundamental principle of our group and we continue to work hard both at a County and more local level.”
“We know that there are serious problems with the supply of social housing on the Island, yet there are over 430 empty properties that could be made available with the right support. Our innovative scheme to offer affordable “bounce-back” loans to owners who would otherwise not be able to afford the costs of bringing their properties back up to the required standard, will enable more Island residents to have a place to call home by releasing more properties onto the local housing register.
“In looking at how we would reallocate funding in this year’s budget, we have consciously avoided “quick fixes”, and have looked to the future with the establishing of a Sustainable Transport Fund offering match funding to Town and Parish Councils and Community Groups for initiatives such as the setting up of Community Bus companies, the potential for the return of Dotto trains (electric) and other sustainable transport initiatives.
“We intend to fund our alternatives by reducing the replacement of ICT equipment, withdrawing the proposed investment in video-conferencing, withdrawing the proposed installation of 2 speed cameras at a cost of £300,000 and deferring 50% of the investment in the Council fleet vehicle replacement programme, where electric vehicles were due to be phased in, until 23/24, as we believe that the cost of electric vehicles will reduce over this time.
“In presenting our alternative budget, we will show that, although we know that our finances have been pared to the bone over recent years of austerity and impacted heavily by the pandemic, there is still scope to prioritise our core principle of putting Island residents at the heart of everything we do, both now and in the years to come.”
Figures as follows:
- £35,000 to reinstate proposed reduction in Local Council Tax Support grant for Town and Parish Councils
- £20,000 for a new Community Engagement Fund – to promote a “listening Council” to facilitate better public engagement in policy and strategy decisions at an earlier stage
- £300,000 for a new Sustainable Transport Fund – match funding open to Town and Parish Councils and Community Groups for a range of sustainable transport measures
- £225,000 for a new Empty Property Regeneration Fund – Interest free “Bounce Back” loans to enable empty properties to be brought back into use and made available for a minimum defined period to those on the housing register at rents in line with Housing Benefits rates
News shared by Debbie Andre on behalf of the Island Independent Group, in her own words. Ed
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