As we mentioned earlier, a row broke out in the council chamber at County Hall on Wednesday evening following the withdrawal of a motion relating to the Economic Improvement Fund (EIF).
The motion had criticised Newport Parish Council for failing to submit a bid for a slice of the EIF – Newport Parish Council (NPC) was entitled to £36,425 of funding.
EIF proposals shared with all members
On Monday evening, Newport East councillor, Geoff Lumley, sent all members an extract from the NPC minutes for 13 February 2012.
The extract outlined the various proposals NPC had suggested, discussed and rejected (reproduced at the bottom of this article).
Following the row at Wednesday’s meeting, Cllr Lumley told VB, “After I circulated the Minutes of Newport Parish Council regarding the Economic Improvement Fund to all IW Councillors on Monday, I was not at all surprised that Cllr Jones-Evans withdrew her Motion on Wednesday night.
“The last thing Pugh and his group would have wanted is me having the opportunity to relate the truth about why Newport PC did not submit an EIF bid after weeks of trying to.”
Claims of misrepresentation
Cllr Lumley continued, “Far better that Cllrs Pugh and Jones-Evans could continue to misrepresent what actually happened at Newport PC than have the truth told. Oh so typical of this tyrannical Tory Council.
“However, Cllr Pugh still had his planted public question option on Wednesday night from a Calbourne Parish Councillor who had the chutzpah to criticise Newport PC without knowing the truth, when his own council also did not bid for EIF money! That is why we had the extended row about ‘points of order’ over that question on Wednesday night.”
We wrote to Jed Dwight on Friday morning inviting him a right of reply to Cllr Lumley’s comment above.
As yet we’ve not received a reply, but if we do, naturally, we will update here.
Update 27.03.12: Jed told VB, “I am disappointed that Councillor Lumley would think that I raised a planted question which, of course, wasn’t the case.
“I spoke on my own behalf because I am interested in the Economic Improvement Fund on the Island and I know that Calbourne PC investigated the chances of success for three of our projects and were advised that the proposals would be unsuccessful.
“My question was how we can make the process easier for us and others in the same position and no slight was meant to Newport Town Council.”
“Undemocratic and disreputable”
Cllr Lumley continued, “I believe it is entirely undemocratic and disreputable not to allow an IW Councillor who can reveal the truth about what happened at Newport PC over the EIF, whilst allowing the IW Council Leader to misrepresent another Council of which he isn’t even a member.
“Frankly I would rather Cllr Jones-Evans answered the question given that she is also a Newport PC councillor who could then be held to account at that body for any misinformation.
“The extended row was unfortunate, but sometimes you have to stand up to Tory bullies. That is what I did on Wednesday night and will continue to do as long as I have a platform.”
Below is the extract from the Minutes of the NPC meeting in February that Cllr Lumley sent to all members on Monday evening.
*Economic Improvement Fund* – a report had been circulated on the various proposals discussed at the working party meetings. Members discussed these in more detail.
*Guildhall* – the proposal was for external decoration and repairs to the building using a contractor that would employ a young person to learn the old methods of construction that related to a listed building. This was rejected because a decision has not been made by the IWC on a way forward for the Guildhall, so use of the Fund money was not considered to be appropriate. However, it has been ascertained that there are not funds in the 2012/13 IWC budget for renovation works, only essential repairs.
*Free car parking *- the proposal was to consider subsidising the cost of the town centre car parks on a Friday afternoon. However, this was rejected as it would change IWC policy and therefore is not within the criteria of the Fund.
*Administrative Apprentice *- consideration was given to employing an apprentice to shadow the parish clerk. However, the advice given by the IWC was this may be too limited to meet the criteria, as it would only have economic benefit for one person, for a short time.
*Incredible Edible *- this was to be match funded by the Spectrum Group, but Members felt this did not meet the criteria for economic growth and this was backed up by advice from the IWC
*Subsidised bus journeys – *a reduced rate on Southern Vectis bus journeys to Newport on a number of Saturdays was discussed, but after consideration it was felt this may be open to abuse, so the proposal was withdrawn.
Cllr Lumley summed up the projects saying the Guildhall renovation was the preferred proposal and he felt the rejection was very disappointing as it was well supported and had been initiated by the local member, Cllr Dawn Cousins. The final two proposals were discussed.
*Signage -* a detailed proposal was made for new tourist signs in the town, with a view to removing the illegal ‘A’ boards. The new signs would include a map and historical information which would replace the dated information currently available. It was proposed that businesses could pay to be named on the boards. A number of members expressed concern that this would not remove the illegal boards, as removal had been requested numerous times in the past four years without success. In addition it would increase the visual clutter in the town, as well as providing more obstacles for disabled visitors to negotiate. A vote was taken with 4 votes in favour and 6 against. Therefore, the proposal was lost.
*Digital Signage -* the proposal was to advertise on the ferries to encourage tourism in Newport. Ryde Town Council had recently carried out a similar campaign. However, it was argued that it was not known if this was successful in Ryde as there was no data available. It was also felt that until the traffic congestion is addressed it would not be advisable to encourage more visitors. A vote was taken with 2 votes in favour and 8 against. Therefore the proposal was lost.
It was agreed not to put forward any applications to the IWC Economic Improvement Fund unless any further proposals were brought to the parish council before the deadline of 17th February.
*2012/13 Precept* – at the December meeting it was resolved to set the budget for 2012/13 at £139,140. However, the anticipated under spend of £17,462 had been left in abeyance while the EIF was discussed. It was suggested that the apprentice scheme required further investigation independently of the EIF and £5,000 should be set aside until this discussion was completed. If this scheme proved to be unsuitable then the funds would be returned to reserves. Therefore, it was proposed to set the precept at £126,678 returning £12,462 to the residents. This was agreed with 1 abstention.
*THAT, the parish council would not submit any application to the IWC
Economic Improvement Fund at this time.*