THE Our Island group has drawn up a series of alternative budgetary proposals to those released by the Isle of Wight Council.

The group says on Wednesday, February 24, the council will meet to debate and pass one of the worst budgets the Island has seen in years.

The election explained here

Covid has affected many aspects of the Island's economy, wellbeing and future — and that was laid bare in the Isle of Wight Council's budget proposals, revealed earlier in the month.

Underpinning many of the decisions was, in council leader Dave Stewart's words, the need to "rebuild our Island Economy — with a clear plan of recovery from the impact of Covid-19".

"The Conservatives will use their majority to push the document through," said a spokesperson for the Our Island group.

"They'll claim it shows their sound financial management and they will doubtless spend much time attacking and undermining any opposition proposals on the basis of where they come from rather than what they might say."

Our Island candidate, Pauline Evans, described it as "a political charade leading to an inevitable conclusion".

Fellow candidate Jonathan Bacon said the group is offering five alternative proposals that could work if there is a willingness to think about how to help the Island.

The proposals are as follows:

  • Cancel the mainland investments in commercial property and invest locally. Use that money to bring back life to our high streets by helping new local business start ups and giving business rate holidays to help them get established. Buy up empty properties which could provide shop floor premises for businesses and upstairs office space for the council, which would allow us to convert County Hall into affordable flats for young people.
  • Sort out the derelict buildings in some of our towns and iconic locations. Pursue compulsory purchase orders to bring these sites back into use. By taking the initiative we could make our towns places that people want to come to and thereby attract new investors and businesses
  • Scrap the idea of spending £300,000 on new speed cameras, particularly as any fines that might be generated would not go the council. Instead, buy three new Dotto Trains, at a cost of £150,000 which will help bring life back to our seafronts, as well as provide an income generating business for the council.
  • Actively work with the local community by investing in a process of seeking ideas and proposals from residents and local businesses to develop income generating schemes and projects which support and enhance the local community and environment.
  • Launch a full restructure of the Isle of Wight Council. The current structure is not sustainable. The ongoing process of cuts which has taken £19 million from services and added 20 per cent to council tax in the last four years has to stop. We need to arrive at a new model of council which can properly operate the services residents expect and pay for. Let town and parish councils take on and operate the local services which they can provide better than the council.

Read each Our Island candidate's statement below

Pauline Evans, Our Island candidate in Sandown South, said: “The budget was effectively decided the moment the proposals were published.

"What follows that point is a political charade leading to an inevitable conclusion. This is one of the reasons why many people have lost any interest in local politics.

"They know there is no point in them engaging with the process or putting forward ideas or comments as they will be ignored, just as is happening at the moment with the Brown’s site in Sandown.

"There is no transparency, a lack of clarity and things are made unnecessarily complex. It is difficult to see how many parts of the budget documents can be understood by anyone who didn’t actually write them.

"Many councillors probably don’t understand them either, although many won’t try. They will just be voting the way they are told and don’t have to worry about what they are voting for. This needs to change.”

Phil Warren, Our Island Candidate in Ventnor and St Lawrence, said: “The Budget proposals contain a series of barrel scraping cuts, many of which are mean and unpleasant, and many of which are so vague and ill formed as to be meaningless.

"It’s about nothing more than the Council keeping itself going and, what’s more, keeping an old outdated model of operation going that is ill suited for the twenty first century and the circumstances we find ourselves in.

"This is particularly so with residents facing the imminent financial challenges of increased fuel costs and reduction of the Council Tax subsidy. This needs to change.”

Mike Hailston, who is the Our Island candidate standing in Shanklin South, said: “What is clear above anything else is the total lack of creativity and imagination in the budget proposals.

"They have come from a small pool of inward looking individuals.

"There has been a failure to engage with residents and businesses who have the ideas and inspiration that could be drawn on to take things forward positively.

"This needs to change.”

Jonathan Bacon, Our Island candidate standing in Brading and St Helens, said: “The absence of clear information and the lack of clarity in the proposals means it is difficult to offer costed alternative proposals.

"The current administration would prefer to retain the means to attack the suggestions of others rather than share the means to help things to be improved.

"Even serving opposition councillors will tell you about the obstacles that are put in their way and how difficult it has been for them to find the information they need to challenge the proposals.

"However, Our Island is offering five alternative proposals that could work if there were a willingness to think about how to help the Island. This is how things could change.”