IW Council: 2012/13 budget - freezing council tax and supporting the economy

  • No uplift in IW Council Tax for a second year running.
  • Parking charges frozen for the fourth year in a row.
  • Investment in the economy: jobs, tourism, broadband, renewable energy and public toilets.

The Conservative administration at County Hall has agreed its budget for the 2012-13 financial year, following feedback from Island residents over the past few weeks and months.

One key change from earlier plans was to scrap the proposal to increase parking charges – and instead offer Island residents a freeze for the fourth year in a row. This responds to a clear view expressed during the recent budget consultation process which urged the Council not to increase charges. This sits alongside the Conservative commitment to deliver a second year of a council tax freeze, thanks to the availability of additional funding from the Coalition Government.

The budget, which strikes a balance between areas of investment and delivering additional savings in light of further funding reductions, was agreed at a Full Council meeting on Wednesday 29th February.

Cllr David Pugh, Conservative Leader of the Isle of Wight Council said: “We are pleased to have secured majority support for this budget package. The plans have been developed over the past six months and reflect the input of the public directly and also feedback provided through local councillors. We have worked hard to take on board the comments we have received: seeking to respond to public concerns as we finalised this budget.

“Many of the areas of investment would not have been possible if we had not put the Council’s finances in order over the past 12 months, thereby paving the way for a range of initiatives to support the Island’s economy. The savings achieved have allowed us to release funding for key economy-related projects, including major investment in creating employment opportunities for the next generation of Islanders.”

Key elements of the budget agreed include:

  • £1m capital investment in the Solent Ocean Energy Centre, to be matched by £2m of private sector funding. This will enable the development of a tidal energy test centre off the coast of the Island.
  • £1m capital funding (over two years) to bring forward the employment use of ex-SEEDA sites on the Island.
  • £500k capital investment in the upgrading of public toilets in key visitor locations and town centres.
  • Confirmation of the £300k investment in employment opportunities for young people.
  • Confirmation of the £250k Economic Improvement Fund for matched funding projects with parishes.
  • £3m investment in superfast broadband (to support business and jobs), to complement £12m private sector and government funding.
  • £3m funding (over nine years) for the Destination Management Organisation to attract visitors.

The budget also agreed additional funding in services for older and vulnerable residents, with annual uplifts leading to an increase of £7m (20%) over the next three years, alongside sustained investment in services for children and the provision of affordable housing.

Cllr Pugh added: “The past year has been a difficult time for the Island as we have implemented decisions to reduce the Council’s expenditure to a longer-term affordable cost base. However this has been coupled with a pro-active local response to these decisions. Community involvement in libraries, buses, Waterside Pool, Shanklin Theatre and many other areas has ensured that services have not only continued but in many cases have actually been enhanced and become more flexible. We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in overseeing this change and reiterate our commitment to working with others to help such initiatives come to fruition.

“Our budget continues to focus on making savings in the back offices and through efficiencies, with over 92% coming from these areas. The Council will continue to protect frontline services and ensure that additional investment goes into key areas wherever possible. We are pleased to have agreed an economy-focused budget which is aimed at creating and sustaining jobs.

"However the plans do not stop here. We have pledged to look carefully at some of the ideas included in the alternative budgets to see whether than can be developed and afforded during the next financial year. The Council will also continue to invest in services as needs arise and resources allow over the next 12 months.”