Cllr Phil Jordan, IW Council leader:

Back in October 2023, I had the pleasure of welcoming the then Minister for local government, Lee Rowley, to our Island. Pleasant enough chap. Spent a good part of the day with him.

We visited some of our success story projects and took a tour around Branstone Farm to see the newly finished homes there and the business areas set aside for local firms to rent and create and grow their businesses.

It is a great project, nearly 50 homes there, all occupied with businesses already operating from the site or planning to move there shortly. He was impressed, I think.

Our conversations soon turned to more serious matters. Funding. It is fair to say the Minister was a good listener and appeared briefed and interested in the Island financial position.

I was not surprised, of course. That is because the council had already spent inordinate amounts of time, effort, and application in getting together the information Government said it needed and wanted to understand why delivering services on an Island cost more money than delivering services on the mainland.

The council produced data, numbers, explanations, examples, and complicated descriptions of why it costs more money to deliver the same services on the Isle of Wight than it does anywhere else on the mainland.

Government asked for more information. We responded. They asked again, and again. Each time the council dutifully answering the questions posed until finally Government said, we have enough information, thank you.

Subsequently, Government wrote to me officially thanking us for engaging in the process, thanking us for the data and information we had given and said they understood that the Island had a case for a special funding approach – an Island Deal perhaps – though they could not estimate what the amount should be.

Well, despairingly, I pointed out we had provided the evidence and the estimation of the differential costs and that we had made our case that a minimum cost difference was around £10m a year just to maintain the same services as a mainland authority.

Remember, the Council have made savings of around £90m in the past 13 years already. £10m back did not seem such a bad deal for Government. 

Wait until the annual financial settlement in December, the new minister told me. By then, they had changed minister and Simon Hoare MP had taken on the role from Lee Rowley.

We waited. We waited some more anxiously. Then came the Christmas present we had been told to wait for. A week before Christmas we got our financial settlement amount notification.

Wait for it! Yes. We were gifted £400,000 less than we had expected and planned for, with no additional funding, no Island Deal, just empty promises.

The Island (alongside Thurrock) was the lowest increase funding settlement of any authority in the country.

Two days before Christmas the minister wrote to me again giving us an extra £1m as agreed the previous year.

That’s it, good folks of this beautiful Island. Cast adrift by Government without much of a paddle and now facing tough decisions on cuts, savings, and increased charges just to balance our budget in February.

Winter could not get much colder from the chill of broken dreams, promises and icy hopes.