31 Oct 2018 Last updated at 15:00

Isle of Wight Council budget proposals

The Isle of Wight Council has published its initial budget proposals for 2019/20 as it looks to save a further £5.5 million in the forthcoming year.

Preliminary savings have been identified from all council services with 95 per cent coming through efficiencies and income generation and only five per cent in cuts to services.

Leader of the council, Councillor Dave Stewart, said he wanted to highlight budget discussions as early as possible so everyone is aware of what is needed and people can give their views on how the council could proceed.

He also asked other political parties to come forward with ideas to help balance the books and protect and enhance council services. However, he said the council’s reserves cannot be used - as they offer a financial cushion and the money can only be used once – meaning it would be inappropriate for it to be earmarked to run services year after year.

The headline is that the council is proposing a council tax increase of no more than 2.99 per cent for general services - which will cover the current level of inflation.

In previous years, the government has allowed the council to levy an additional council tax precept of three per cent specifically to fund adult social care services but this option is not currently available to the council for 2019/20.

“Just like all councils across the country, this council will have to make financial savings in the next financial year and this will be a challenge,” said Councillor Stewart.

“The administration is not fighting shy of what this means and that tough choices will have to be made, but we have also an opportunity to be innovative and spend some money to make our services more responsive to need and efficient for the future with the use of technology, for example.

“But this is just an outline plan and we want to hear what people think. We want other political parties to give their views and we will listen to them because we’d like to have a joint approach for the good of the Island, and especially those who are vulnerable.

“It must also be stressed this council is now on a much firmer financial footing than it was two years ago. Many people will have heard about other councils, such as Northamptonshire County Council having severe financial difficulties.

“I can assure residents this council is not in that position. We have proposals to balance our budget next year and we move forward with increasing confidence that we can deliver the best possible services to residents while delivering a legal and balanced budget.

“The reserve cushion we have has also allowed the council to pursue a commercial investment strategy which has so far generated an additional income of approximately £750,000 and is expected to deliver a further £150,000 in the next financial year. This means the council is becoming increasingly successful in paying its own way, something that it has to do as government grants reduce.

“However, we must not lose sight of the fact that our medium-term financial strategy still requires a further £11 million of savings even when next year’s budget is agreed and the council must be mindful of this.

“So, we continue to press vigorously our ‘unique island case’ with government regarding our financial challenges including our exceptionally high costs of Adult Social Care.”

The council has identified substantial efficiency savings and ways to improve its income, which include:
• savings on the highways PFI agreement relating to changes in the specification, that has been previously reported and will be in the region of £1 million;
• reconfiguring its learning disability residential homes to make to allow people to live independently in their own home;
• revisions to the school bus contract to better match current levels of demand;
• benefiting from our previous investments in leisure centres which has meant higher levels of demand and therefore more income that originally anticipated;
• taking a more consistent approach to parking charges across the island, especially in relation to on street parking and night time parking, and this will mean an expansion of charges to help fund services.

Finally, as a result of the council’s prudent approach to revenue budget management the authority will now be able to develop substantial capital budget options, which will be shared publicly later in the year.

Budget facts

The draft budget papers can be viewed via the link for the upcoming Cabinet meeting on 8 November:

The council has saved £76 million since 2011/12.

Since 2016, the council has increased its reserves to twice the minimum requirement and this gives the authority some freedom to take more calculated risks in pursuing savings ideas that have the least impact in services. Without this cushion, the council would have to consider savings, which would most likely to come from real service cuts.

In addition, the council commissioned research from the University of Portsmouth regarding the government’s review of local authority funding and it understands that it has been well received. However, the results of that review will not be known until the settlement for 2020/21.

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The council has today published its initial budget proposals for next year.
The council has today published its initial budget proposals for next year.
  • The council has saved £76 million since 2011/12.
  • The authority is looking to save a further £5.5 million in the forthcoming year.
Isle of Wight, UK