Isle of Wight councillors tonight (Wednesday from 5pm) debated and voted on the annual budget for 2019-20 (jump to papers belowIsle of Wight council say they have to find £5.5m of cuts/savings in the next financial year, with many millions more over the next couple of years.
As well as the budget being put forward by the ruling Conservative group, there have been budget amendments from the Independent Labour member, Cllr Geoff Brodie, as well as the Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Andrew Garratt.
Chairman Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox opens the meeting and takes declarations of interest.
17.05: Public Questions
Tanja Rebel – Is IWC aware that Vodafone making IW 5G ready. If not why not, if yes, will it make residents aware of health and safety concerns? Mandatory radiation 247.
Cllr Stewart – Not aware of this and am sure I would be. Will make sure she gets written reply.
TR: Was on IW Radio news.
Cameron Palin: Does the Council know that the push boat isn’t helping and can’t help the floating bridge at the spring tides it needs to, because land and the pontoon are in the way, and therefore that the floating bridge is still regularly hitting the pile, putting people’s safety in jeopardy and making ridiculous long returns, like last week had 20-34 minute returns?
Cllr Dave Stewart (DS): Good news is bridge is now operating at 99.7%. Not perfect and working to find a solution that is long term. Have put a lot of money into making it work for residents of Cowes and East Cowes and beyond.
CP: Will the Council buy a pedestrian launch like the engineers of the stakeholders group suggested in June 2017, as the Council has now wasted over a half a million pounds of islanders’ money on hiring launches that could have bought a pedestrian launch instead?
DS: Not a waste of public money important infrastructure. One option being considered.
Maria Villa Vine: What consultation took place with parents and carers in connection with the planned cuts to the disabled children’s intervention team and are they aware of the short shortsightedness of this and impact on families and mental health?
Cllr Brading: There are no cuts to the intervention team – appears there is misunderstanding in a line of his budget. Has spent a lot of time explaining it, this is review of all whole early intervention structure at the council and not targeting one team in particular.
MVV: In Feb Cabinet you said cuts would have no impact, how can that be the case twhen there re two central posts going?
PB: Another misunderstanding – no cutting of two posts, it’s a review of the structure of all three early intervention teams – frontline services of all three teams will not be affected.
Will Matthews: Other councils (Reading, Nottingham and Edinburgh) have made money out of publicly owned travel services such as bus companies. Clear financial benefits as well as obvious environmental ones. Has/will the leader look into this?
DS: Asked for question again. Contract with Southern Vectis, contract up for renewal in 2020. Will look at all options.
Leader’s Update and questions
DS presents his update – mentions talks with ministers over the weekend about homelessness, homes and funding. A team effort to make sure Island at heart of Government. A positive response in all areas.
Delivering on what I said at last full council.
Cllr Barry (LibDem): Coming up to end of first seven years of Highways PFI contract – we were promised every road fence to fence would be brought up to proper standard. How confident is leader this will be achieved in final year, not started in Seaview or Nettlestone yet.
DS: How confident? There’s some flexibility on the time for a number of reasons and ask Cllr Ward to touch on it. Going to see good work coming up.
Cllr Ian Ward: Have discussed the end of the core investment period with head of Island Roads and his answer is yes will finish on time. PFI does not say will resurface every road on the Island, but that up to standard.
Cllr Love (Ind): Please explain logic of increading reserves to £12.2m at a time of austerity and public service cuts.
DS: Cllr Hutchinson can give more comprehensive reply. When we got in £6m reserves. Was insufficiant to maintain level of requirement needed. £12m gives us some resilience.
Cllr Hutchinson: Will full make statement about reserves when he comments on budget.
Cllr Stephens (Island Ind): Digital divide – Concerned about period in which we’re going to fibre the whole of Island, re core investment period of pfi problem with roads being brought up to standard and worked upon. Could affect Wight Fibre opportunity to wire the Island. Are you sure you can refibre the Island of Wight by 2021?
DS: Responsibility with WightFibre – positive work of regen team, gathered another £718k, rural places will have better broadband access. Confident the Island will stand as one of best in country. Essential infrastructure.
Cllr Lilley (Ind Green): Draw attention to item 25 Island Plan, public hostility of 10,000 new homes doesn’t match need of Island, built on greenfield sites. Counters Gov policy. Need green space for mental and physical wellbeing.
DS: Consultation has brought forward concerns from residents, it’s a good thing to ask. Raised this with Sec of State at weekend, Island falls under wing of national picture of 300,000 homes to be built. Will need to present evidence based approach. Not enough to say we don’t want it. Good debate moving into. Prioritising it. Need affordable housing for young people, other housing for key workers and elderly. Need right number for needs.
Cllr Jones Evans: Fund for assist with community housing. Missed a trick – no community housing allocations within Island Plan. A way to kick start housing people want and is something different.
DS: Should be creating fantastic places and will look into it.
Cllr Abraham: We are using the funding and looking into it. There was a workshop. Not all included in the land availability in Island Plan.
Leader moves that all budget proposals be considered.
DS: Presents the administration’s budget. 2.99% council tax increase. 5% actual service reductions. rest achieved through savings and income. Lower than expected savings £4.5m per year in future years and will be even more if our unique island case is realised at end of the year. 400 degree level courses now available on the Island. The tide is turning. 100% council tax discount scheme for care leavers.
Key focus now on housing and infrastructure. Reserves up from “precarious” £6m when we took over, to £12m means have opportunity to grow and be innovative. Island Plan essential ingredient.
Thanks to all those for their feedback on early draft budget.
Cllr Stuart Hutchinson (SH): Won’t go through in detail. Over 100 pages. Taken on board much of feedback. Priority to follow medium term financial strategy. Gives clear direction to allow cost of change. £6.4m reserves almost at absolute minimumn allowed (£5m). Amount proposed to deal with unforeseen costs and invest.
Housing – affordable housing for local people – market has not performed. Requires substaintial investment and public subsidy. Needs healthy reserves.
Income (Council tax etc) needs to keep pace with inflation. Savings in next three years is £4.5m each year. Fair Funding review will reset factors and recognition we are an Island and rapidly growing costs.
Unhappy alternative proposals only seen at last minute. Not prepared to support late amendments – will look at for future years.
((he’s now on is fourth microphone – batteries keep running out))
Lib Dem Amendment
Cllr Andrew Garratt thanks Directors and officers who do a difficult task. Impressed with their passion and belief in the purpose of local government to deliver good.
I spoke last year of cruel underfunding by government – it’s not changed. Not a Hobson’s Choice. See LibDem budget amendment here.
Believe the administration has gone too far, such as changes at Adelaide and Gouldings, Mental Health funding, reconfiguration of Early Intervention Teams.
Consultation and engagement must take place even when not statutory. Engage communities and work with them, not to them. £20,000 community engagement fund.
Climate change – vast number of people want to be part of solution. £50,000 extra for initiatives for sustainable travel. Further electric charging points on the Island.
Our proposals wll give better outcome for Islanders than Conservative plans. Robust rainy day balance. Can only pass if enough Tory supporters. Maybe one or two Tor Cllrs unhappy with Tory proposals. Believe in this Island and support the amendment.
Cllr Michael Lilley explains his specific amendment to ring fence funding for early intervention team (EIT).
Have no option but to put forward amendment. IW Children’s services have moved from inadequate to good and some excellent (EIT) in last six years thanks to hard work of staff.
The proposed saving could cut capacity of the team. £150k is proposed to be saved – the cost of one child going into care is £60k. You only need two to go into care and that ‘saving’ is wiped out. Early intervention teams help prevent this happening.
Why break up a good team and move the manager (excellent ofsted rating). It doesn;t make sense.
Reconsider and make a change – put £150k back in. It’s peanuts and in the margin of movement. It would give message to community and staff. I plead from bottom of my heart for you to vote for this amendment.
((Applause from the public gallery)).
Another austerity budget. Explains why last minute amendment. Awaiting losts of bits of information.
Budget amendment is based on the way ASDA money (£17m) has been “misused”. War chest being collected. Section 151 officer said £7m required in reserves. Plans are for £12m, plus £3m from Transformation) in reserves. Salting away money for elections.
No budget amendment this year, but putting forward ideas for next year.
Stop taking and start to give.
How about reduced car parking permits for beach hut owners? Our plans for beach huts last year were misunderstood – we suggested building more and leasing more and selling some.
Retailer business car parking permit to reduce pressure on residential streets.
Where has ASDA £17m gone? Which pot is it in?
Cllr Jones Evans
Cllr Julie Jones-Evans says she was involved in early stages of alternative measures, but pleased with all alternative budgets and thank those cllrs for putting them forward.
Working on future high street fund. Looking at situation on Island. Sobering reading. Housing needs assessment for example/. Working age population going down rapidly and retirement age going up.
Ninth budget – gets worse. Children being referred to as feral children – what’s solution railings around library. Social issues undermining this can’t be helped by parish council.
In ten years time only budget item we’ll have is adult social care. Every time Bob Seely gets up in Parliament he should be saying where’s our money?
Any other member
Cllr Julia Baker-Smith (Labour) – Conservative cuts are unnecessary. Reads speech ((too fast to keep up)). She predicts all alternative budgets will be thrown out and Conservative budget approved and then in 2020 there will no cuts will be made before the election – as paid for with these ones.
Cllr Andre (Island Ind) – Don’t hear of any positive outcomes of consequence. The administration should not fall in line with the Government and should fight back. See Conservative cllrs nationally take a stand. The Island should not suffer as administration pleases its party overlords. Need to stand proud and fight for what we deserve.
Cllr Brading – It’s absolutely right that Children’s services takes its fair share of the cuts. Not always the case in the past. Second highest budget – 2.1% cut is fair.
Re Early intervention team – Cllr Lilley has crossed a line. There are three teams – £80k of cuts already made before Ofsted due to vacant posts. Some fantastic managers. Minor tweak of hours at frontline. Would not cut services that affect children. Services will continue.
Cllr Mosdell – To Cllr Andre – People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, saying that we are morally quetionable I think really you need to question some of the things you have done morally recently before you throw stones at us.
Cllr Andre called point of order for personal comment. Cllr Mosdell took it back.
Cllr Love – Thanks all who have put time and effort into preparing budgets. Not looking at progressive budgets, but emergency measures. Not receiving the amount from government that we should receive. Need united budget to move forward. That’s why not a member of a party. Can’t support a budget that has £12m in reserves when cutting vital services.
Cllr Fuller – No Indie alternative budget but have put forward number of suggestions prior to meeting. Beach hut suggestions. Increasing savings in PFI. Improving access to Section 106 funds – a black hole in many areas. Should promote parternships and working with town and parish councils. Much of problems down to the government, not council.
Cllr Barry: Doesn’t usually get involved in blame culture. In 2005 whern Tories took over from Island First there was £32m in earmarked and unearmarked reserves. First thing they did was take down European flag and then made announcement they had a duty to spend it. If we had some of that reserves now things would have been a lot easier. You spent it all on a waste of money. Everyone wearing baseball caps and a party in the car park costing tens of thousands of pounds.
Cllr Jones Evans – Can understand Cllr Brodies objection to cuts to children’s centres – some of the highest levels of poverty in his ward. 48% of households in her ward are single occupancy, older residents, living in isolation, 1 in ten with no central heating. Can’t support the level of reserves being discussed.
Cllr Brodie – 2005 my first year and watched in disgust as spendign spree – points out some of these Tory cllrs still there. After the bank crash of 2008 – which Cllr Whitehouse clearly doesn’t understand – it would have helpful, but was frittered away. Re: Cllr Brading saying it was fair that children’s services should shoulder some of the cuts, let’s remember that one and I’ll tell some of the kids in my ward about it. There are lots of very poor areas on the Island, but you compare us to Hampshire.
Cllr Lilley, Cllr Garratt and Cllr Stewart all sum up.
Move to recommendations
Leader moves without discussion as set out in the paper. Seconded by Cllr Hutchinson.
LibDem amendment: Cllr Garratt proposes his amendment. Seconded by Cllr Barry
Vote in favour of amendment:
Abstained: Cllr Nicholson
Ind Green amendment: Cllr Lilley proposes his amendment. Seconded by Cllr Brodie
Vote in favour of amendment:
Abstained: Cllrs Bertie and Nicholson
Ind Labour amendment: Cllr Brodie proposes his amendment. Seconded by Cllr Lilley
Vote in favour of amendment:
Yes: 16 (Inc Cllrs Axford, Price both Conservative)
Abstained: Cllrs Mosdell and Nicholson
Vote on leader’s budget
The budget for 2019-20 has been set with £5.5m of cuts.
Full details of the planned cuts and savings can be found in the papers below. Appendix C – Indicative Savings, lays out where services will be cut or savings made.