The Conservative Group of Isle of Wight councillors have published more details of their alternative budget proposals ahead of the budget-setting Full Council meeting on Wednesday 26th February.
The proposals include a commitment, previously announced, to retain school crossing patrols and confirm Conservative support for a major road safety initiative across the Island. But the Conservatives have now announced that they would retain existing free daytime parking periods and fund this by a small, £1, overnight parking fee. The Conservatives would also avoid the major hikes in car parking charges proposed by the Independent Council which Group Leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, argues today would “suffocate the life out of many of our high streets and town centres”.
The moves would be funded by increasing slightly (5%) existing planning fees and introducing a new pre-planning meeting fee for major commercial developers whose demands on planning officers have been increasing substantially in recent years. Speaking today, Conservative Group Secretary, Cllr Chris Whitehouse, (Newport West) adds: “Many major developers stand to make substantial profits from building housing estates and retail properties on the Island. Whilst the planning approval process is quasi-judicial and must be separate, it is increasingly the case that planning officers are called upon to meet such developers repeatedly to help them progress their ideas. It is wrong that such commercial meetings should be paid for by our local council taxpayers. Introduction of these new charges would bring our practices into line with those of many councils on the mainland.”
The Conservatives are also proposing to reduce the total cost of provision for Special Responsibility Allowances paid to Cabinet Members by abolishing the posts of Deputy Cabinet Members. “This is only sensible” says Cllr Stewart “because the new Administration has abolished delegated decision-making, so the responsibility shouldered by the Cabinet Members is reduced and there is frankly no need for Deputies. The Independents are also proposing the introduction of bureaucratic and expensive Executive Advisory Committees to help do the work of Cabinet Members.”
The Conservatives are also confirming their opposition to local tax-payers having to fund the salary and employment costs of the full time trade union organiser which they argue “should be met by the union concerned”.
Cllr Wayne Whittle also announced that: “Conservatives will be calling at Full Council for a thorough review of charges for leisure facilities so that the major subsidies paid to council run facilities do not undermine sports centres provided by the community such as the Waterside Centre and the West Wight Sports Centre. Council leisure centres should be run as cost neutral operations.”