A CONTROVERSIAL move to increase the cost of care services provided by the Isle of Wight Council, allowing people to live independently in their homes, has been defended by top council officials.

The plan to increase charges for Wightcare is included in the leading Alliance administration's proposed budget for 2022/23 to help stop the service from running at a loss.

If passed, charges will rise by roughly 13 per cent.

Laying out the figures, cabinet member for strategic finance, Cllr Chris Jarman said Wightcare was running at £380,000 yearly deficit, despite a £100,000 subsidy for many years.

Cllr Jarman said to try and fill the budget gap in one go, estimated to be a 36 per cent increase in fees, would be 'dramatic and detrimental.'

Instead, small, incremental amounts would see charges gradually increase over a number of years.

He recognised Islanders could opt out of Wightcare but said it was a very valuable service in great demand and the Alliance administration was looking to build on and improve it further. He said he could see it becoming more wanted, rather than less, in the future.

The council's interim head of adult social care, Laura Gaudion said the authority would support people to ensure the increase would not negatively impact them and the council needed to utilise its scarce funds to discharge its statutory duties.

The £100,000 subsidy the authority was providing towards Wightcare, however, Ms Gaudion said, only added pressure when trying to deliver the council's statutory duties.

She said: "As our budget becomes tighter we need to become ever-increasingly aware of where we are spending the very limited funds we have and for a service people can purchase from other care providers, it feels like a worthwhile decision to see if we can reduce the level of subsidy we pay and better support our statutory duties."

Budget papers suggest £101,000 could be made in the first year of the service increases.

The increase is part of the budget the Alliance administration will put forward for approval on February 23. If accepted, they will come into force from April.

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