This week the County Press gave two local politicians the chance to explain their issues with, and alternatives to, the Tories' Island Deal and the council budget.

From Harry Rees, Newport:
REGARDING the so-called Island Deal, I have been involved in seeking a correct level of funding for the Island and its residents for many years. 
Readers need to be aware the IW Council took the then government to a judicial review in the High Court in London and an appeal to the European Ombudsman regarding the Island’s funding by the European Commission (Grants etc). I was the lead elected member for the IW Council to both of these. 
I also represented the council at the Local Government Association and at the European Islands Commission / Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR). 
My involvement was from when the late Lord Ross was the Island’s MP and all the subsequent MPs including Bob Seely. MEP involvement being Roy Perry and Catherine Bearder. 
I was somewhat intrigued by Julian Critchley’s comments and the MP’s response to same. 
All I can say to readers is when the Labour Party was in government, the IW residents and its council saw no major financial benefits.
The IW Council’s agenda for its meeting on the 26th February which does include the Councils budget for the coming year. 
Due to the government’s withdrawal of the Fair Funding Review for another 12 months, the council’s budget attempts to cover the shortfall. 
This clearly demonstrates the IW’s future funding from government will fall well short of what is required. 
We must also remember the government faces strong demands from the northern constituencies for more funding. 
Government actions to date clearly show that the PM’s promises are no more than pie in the sky which has regrettably been the norm for ministers, etc. 
It also looks like the MP’s Island Deal has virtually been ignored. 
I wonder if the leader of the IW Council plus Cllr Hutchinson and other Conservatives still support their comments to me when I sat on the council scrutiny committee that they were Conservatives but were ashamed at the government’s funding of the Island. This took place just prior to the Conservatives taking over control of the council. 
It is obvious to me the Fair Funding Review precludes the IW as being an Island-based local authority by example because severance was put at just over £6 million by Portsmouth University. 
This review puts these costs at £1.5 million. 
NHS England has approved travelling costs for the Isles of Scilly at £5 per head while the Scottish islands receive similar support. The IW has no set base set by NHS England.Why? 
May I suggest it all comes down to money. The IW’s population is far greater than that of the Scottish islands and the Isles of Scilly.
The MP’s Island Deal is lacking in some areas i.e. cross Solent travel, NHS social care, climate change, environmental issues, coastal erosion, etc. 
Our Local Enterprise Partnership should have put a bid in for flood prevention and coastal erosion. 
Mainland councils did bid by their own local enterprise partnerships and did receive such funding. 
Our MP has totally failed to grasp The Solent waters are classed as a Calm Water Area. 
One of the key attributes for such a designation is that we do not have waves above one metre.
This designation has precluded the Island from receiving millions of pounds in European grants and also continues to have a national negative effect as to how our ferry movements are recorded at a national level and should be challenged immediately by our MP. 
Such designation disbarred our ferry operators from millions of pounds of EU funding. As our MP says, our ferry operators did not receive the preferential funding granted to the Scottish operators and the Isles of Scilly. 
Both the NHS and the council’s social services are close to imploding — pressures grow by the day as does the Island’s projected population growth figures. 
I, for one, have needed to use local NHS services for over a year. I have witnessed, first hand, the pressures the staff are under and it is only due to their dedication that these services still remain operable. 
The reconfiguration of such services is a major problem for all concerned. 
I fear it is becoming no more than a number game. A game which has little room for the personal individual touch. A matter so vital for those having to travel to the mainland for treatment which is set to grow considerably. 
Finally, the IW Council was offered the opportunity to present a petition to the European Parliament over all of these issues — this was in progress until the control of the IW Council passed to the Conservatives.
This was a major oversight by the Conservatives as such a petition did have the support of the then government and would have put the European Commissioners under extreme pressure. 
In the light of the Government’s lack of recognition of the Island’s position when coupled with the ongoing Fair Funding Review I feel we are running out of options and it may require Islanders to come together and to consider refusing to pay their council tax. 
Illegal I know, but what options do we have? 
I remember the judge in his summing up of the IW’s Judicial Review charging the then representatives of government to stop the Island and its residents falling through the statistical net. 
This is set to continue which will cause much heartache for all concerned. 
We deserve better
From Jonathan Bacon, St Helens:
We HAVE just seen another council budget and another parade of cuts, accompanied by claims that it’s all for the good of the Island. It isn’t. How can it be? 
This Island deserves better. So how do we do the best for our Island? 
There are many good things about the Island but one thing we’re not good at sometimes is working together towards a positive common goal.
Unfortunately, this is perhaps seen more than anywhere else in the field of our local politics, however we need to deal with this before it is too late. 
What we desperately need is a strong unified council that works in the interests of Island residents and businesses, rather than continuing with the current situation.
In 2013 no one political group gained a majority at the local council elections. That is not a bad thing if groups are prepared, willing and able to work together towards common goals, but that didn’t happen. 
The Conservatives openly declared they would ‘oppose’ and, within the ruling group, there were factions driven by personal ambition that led to splits. 
Efforts to introduce more democratic governing structures to the council failed as a result of that opposition and division. Sadly this happened at a time where, due to the continuing failure of central government to recognise we are an island, with all the resource implications that carries, the future of the council was on a cliff edge. 
In my time as council leader I attempted to address this situation, but when you can only rely on 13 of 40 of your colleagues to work together there is not much you can do.
Now, of course, we have ruling administration that commands a clear majority but they seem to be more interested in standing behind the battlements of that position rather than working to do something for Island people. 
Perhaps this is because they, like me, fear that we have already gone over the edge of that cliff and they think that this is the best stance in the circumstances.
I would instead argue that now, more than ever, we need the strength that unity and common purpose can give and that we need to get away from divisions and partisan stances. 
While such remain we will keep plummeting downwards. Without them maybe we have a chance. However the worry must be that the raw material to achieve this necessary change just doesn’t seem to be there. 
Currently we have seven different groupings in County Hall and that doesn’t include the Green Party or the Labour Party, who currently have no elected councillors.
An election is just over a year away. Obviously we need able and committed individuals representing all facets of our community to come forward, whether they be party members or apolitical. 
I would suggest that, in addition to that, they need to unite under the banner of a clear simple pledge to work together for the Island over and above all other considerations. 
Such a pledge, if honestly made and adhered to, could be the route to bring together the people and ideas we need, in order for us to have a chance of dealing with the mess we are in.
We also have the problem that, those few people who retain an interest in local politics, many say ‘why would I want to be part of that system?’ 
Well, it’s not going to change unless people are prepared to do something about it. 
Unless we want to lose our own local government, we, as an Island, need good people to come forward to work together to get something done. 
Complaining achieves little and just letting the old factional interests continue on in the way that has got us to where we are now will achieve even less.
We definitely deserve better. Let’s see if we can get what we deserve. Hopefully we haven’t done that already.