THE Isle of Wight Council passed its budget tonight, finalising cuts, savings and income generation — including a 3.99 per cent council tax rise, equivalent to an extra £1.09 a week for a Band C property.

At a meeting of the full council , councillors argued the benefit of the Conservative administration's budget including raising parking charges, green garden waste subscription costs and reviewing care packages.

Cllr Dave Stewart, leader of the council, said: "We need to get this budget done to keep our Island up and running — we are doing the right things in the right place."

Cllr Stewart asked members to come forward in the future and help the administration make the savings that is required of the budget.

Alternative budgets were set out by opposition councillors from the 1957 Group (cllrs Michael Lilley and Geoff Brodie), the Liberal Democrats, and the Island Independents Group, but all were unsuccessful.

Cllr Lilley, for the 1957 Group, 'hoped to showcase and celebrate' what the council was already doing for the environment but enable town and parish councils to send a message that the council cares about climate change.

He proposed £1 million came out of the council's reserves to develop local environment projects across the Island, including planting trees, solar energy farms and developing green tourism, making the Island more 'green and liveable'.

Cllr Lilley pressed the need for government funding, he said: "We, one of the poorest parts of the south east, are getting ignored by government and we need to make sure we get a deal."

Cllr Andrew Garratt, proposing the LibDem budget, said the Island is still waiting for the Island Deal promised by the prime minister Boris Johnson 'while more cuts were being proposed tonight' — "the Island's children's services cannot take anymore pain", he said. — and pleaded with Conservative councillors to support the amendment.

The LibDems proposed £900,000 for adult and children's services, boosting local entrepreneurial spirit with a £100,000 fund and backing environmental initiatives.

Cllr Garratt said: "We would reinstate the £16,000 cuts to beach cleaning. If you go anywhere in the UK, the Isle of Wight is known for its beaches — one of our most prized assets could and should be cleaned properly.

"I am going to ask you what is the risk of not doing things — there are costs and there are benefits. "

Cllr Debbie Andre, representing the Island Independents Group (IIG), suggested withdrawing the £820,000 refurbishment of the Sandown Civic Centre, adding £500,000 of that to purchase sites which can develop affordable and social housing.

The IIG also proposed a strategic asset review of the council's non-operational properties including land which are held for sale or financial return.

She said: "The IIG cannot support this budget, which does not empower or support our Island residents — we believe our amendment is sound and will be a positive move in the right direction."

Cllr Julie Jones-Evans, of the Island Independent Members Group, said the council needed to put themselves in the shoes of the service users.

She said: "This is the budget that has been put in front of us with more cuts. We should have a clear message to the government — 'where is our money?' All we are asking is that we are on a level playing field as everyone else."

Cllr Geoff Brodie, part of the 1957 Group, said the budget was 'quite depressing' and he thought the public 'had given up' — "I remember when the public gallery was full, when there were protests in the streets — we used to have exciting meetings", he said.

Members passed the Conservative budget with 23 votes in favour, 12 against with one abstention.

UPDATE: Labour's Chair, Julian Critchley, said: "There is nothing inevitable about either the cuts or the tax rises which are imposed on Islanders every year by the Conservative councillors."

"Labour councils around the country have been showing that with innovation and investment, citizens can expect better services from their councils."

"Next year, Islanders have a choice. More of the same cuts and tax hikes, or a better future, with a Labour council."

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