The Conservatives at County Hall have agreed the Council's budget for the next 12 months, which includes council tax being frozen for a third sucessive year.
The freeze was approved at a Full Council meeting on 27 February alongside a range of steps designed to help local households meet the rising cost of living and to stimulate the local economy.
Council leader David Pugh said careful budget management had enabled the council to not only keep council tax at 2010/11 levels but also to continue to introduce initiatives that would benefit residents and the economy.
He told the meeting: "We have the opportunity tonight to freeze council tax for the third year running, and in doing so ensure that we protect Island residents from a further increase in the cost of living. This is the responsible thing to do.
"We have steered the council through the most challenging financial period it has ever faced, and have ensured that we are well prepared for the further decisions of the future.
"The local authority has a clear path for achieving further savings and allowing additional resources to be invested in support of the local economy. At the same time we have set out how we are helping Island households, not least through a third year of a council tax freeze."
Under the theme of Helping Island Households, the agreed budget includes:
- freezing council tax for the third year running and the option of spreading payments over 12 months;
- keeping parking charges at the same level for the fifth year running;
- using grant funding of almost £450,000 to address fuel poverty and help householders reduce their energy bills;
- pledging to introduce additional schemes to help Island residents onto the housing ladder;
- establishing a hardship fund of nearly £350,000 to provide residents with emergency financial assistance.
The council is also providing an additional £60,000 of local funds to support the innovative community bus scheme over the next financial year.
Initiatives to boost the local economy include:
- allocating £300,000 to continue with the award-winning pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship schemes, including expanding these opportunities into new employment sectors and for residents with learning and physical disabilities;
- staging another Careers and Jobs Fair, following a successful inaugural event in November 2012;
- an ongoing commitment to deliver Superfast Broadband across the Island, with £3m of Council investment, to establish our community as a major growth area for the digital economy;
- continuing support for the Council's ambitious plan to establish a Solent Ocean Energy Centre - a testing and demonstration facility for tidal power - off St Catherine's Point with the potential to create renewable energy and up to 600 jobs in the Solent region.
It was also agreed that investment in adult social care is increased by £8.7m over the next three years and an additional £475,000 is made available to help improve child safeguarding and improve services for vulnerable children.