Below is the reply – presented in full – that Richard Priest provided to the question OnTheWight posed,
“Before the election, why did you promise to your electorate that you’d “Promote high streets not penalise motorists”, but now you’re in power, you’re proposing jacking up parking charges across the Island – including Shanklin – and removing most, if not all, of the free parking in shopping areas?”
It ranks as the longest reply we ever had to a question – quick or otherwise. We also suggested that he hadn’t answered the question, so we asked it more directly, “Why did you break your pre-election promise not penalise motorists?” – and await his reply – Ed
Thanks for your email and apologies for slight delay in reply – as you may be aware I am still recovering (physically and an inbox full of emails!) from completing the non-stop round the Island walk at the weekend, part of the Walking Festival Promotion – and part of a commitment I made to take part in this, the Randonnee and Walk the Wight: all events that promote the Island.
Thanks also for highlighting the leaflet that Jon Gilbey and I produced last year, when we were standing for election as Town and County Councillors – and you are right to indicate that at that time we were not fully aware of the £28million challenge facing the Island, let alone the Ministerial Directive on Education and Safeguarding, the need to spend £2.5million extra on Children services, not to mention the on-going costs associated with Cowes Enterprise College: it would be interesting to see how these challenges were communicated, at the time, by those that were part of the previous administration,
When we talked, prior to last years’ elections, I reflected that Jon and I have always campaigned for Shanklin Residents to be treated equally with other areas of the Island (many Shanklin Residents had asked us why Car Parks, such as in Carisbrooke, were free and Car Parks in other Towns were not – similarly why Shanklin, and other seaside town beach hut owners paid for parking, but Appley and Puckpool owners did not): Jon and I both wanted clarity on these apparent inconsistencies, and you are right to highlight that the current consultation, which is continuing until June 6th, provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to contribute to this process – Jon and I, as well as our colleagues in the New Administration, would encourage all Islanders to take part.
I am sure that you will appreciate, from issues such as the Music Hub, Biomass Plant, Youth Services, Sale of IW Council Assets, School Crossing Patrols and the Floating Bridge, the New Administration really does take the views of Island Residents seriously, and these views inform the debate and the decision making process – this is not to say that, given the serious financial situation that we are in, difficult decisions will not have to be made, such decisions are not taken lightly but are one’s, such as with Cowes Enterprise College, that need to be addressed.
In addition to working closer with our Island Communities to improve decision making, this Administration has also removed delegated decision making, increased the effectiveness and independence of Scrutiny, developed a Town and Parish Protocol, removed the constraints of question time at Council meetings, held a series of public engagement meetings throughout last Autumn: these and other measures reflecting a significant shift in the culture of this local authority.
In highlighting the ‘Promoting High Streets’ leaflet, you are right to ask what this actually means, and in summary some of the actions that Jon and I, with the new administration (and crediting Government and the previous administration where appropriate) have supported include:
– Introducing small business rate relief
– Continuing with charity business rate exemptions (Jon and I campaigned for this as Town Councillors)
– Introducing £295 parking permit initiative
– Continued investment in Visit Wight with increasing visitor numbers to Island Towns and High Streets
– Small Business Saturday and Introducing the free parking day at Christmas
– Apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship Schemes
– Seeking Assisted Area Status for Towns and Villages on the Island
– Supporting Blue Flag Applications
– Designated Public Place Orders
– Opening the first Tourist information Point in Shanklin, and rolling these out across the Island
NB As Town Councillors we have supported proposed coach parking improvements in the Old Village, the 150th Anniversary of Railway in Shanklin, Green Towns Initiative, Carnival/Regatta/Fun Day, and many other Shanklin initiatives.
Hopefully, the above gives a fair reflection of the steps we have taken to promote Shanklin, and other High Streets on the Island, and that, without the financial constraints that we inherited and that face us now, we would have been in a better position to do more.
We equally recognise, following a series of meetings across the Island, that Islanders want to be a part of shaping an all island parking strategy, and we have been asked why this was not taken forward by the previous administration – and residents have equally been supportive of not proposing the outsourcing of provision because they know that this would result in significantly greater charging and no benefits in kind.
Thanks again for your email, and apologies if I have included actions that you have already included in your article for balance, and can I (with Jon and my colleagues in the Administration) continue to encourage all Islanders to contribute to the consultation.