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Funding plea is pie in the sky

Friday, February 2, 2018 - 11:00

From Harry Rees, Newport:
Re the recent debate in Westminster Hall regarding IW Local Government Funding (Bob Seely column, CP, 19-01-18).
The government is well aware of the IW Council’s financial situation as were previous governments — none of which took any real action to alleviate the Islands’ financial disadvantages.
In 2020, we have the Fair Funding Review for Local Authorities. To me, this will be a visit to never never land given the government’s own precarious financial situation, the Chancellor will have little room to help local authorities. The Island’s MP has committed himself publicly to such a cause starting with this debate.
A search of our council records will show that for years it has fought for such recognition.
I am reminded of the Judicial Review, undertaken by this council against the then government and the judge in his summing up asked the government’s representatives, “when will the government stop the Island and its residents falling through the statistical net?” — a situation that still exists today.
I must point out it is not just the council’s own finances that require attention but that of other government funding streams not available to the Island. i.e. the withdrawal of Leader Plus funding for the rural community. An urgent need to review the Solent Local Enterprise strategy approved by government. The Assisted Area Status Funding. 
The government could and should have used article 105c to designate the whole Island. This would have given the Island the opportunity to obtain many millions of pounds for inward investment etc. 
Finally, there is the urgent need to review how the Island’s health and care are provided and funded.
As I indicated earlier, many governments of various political persuasions are, and have been, well aware of all these facts and while indicating, on a number of occasions, support would be given, nothing, to date, has really materialised.
The Local Government Funding for the IW debate does not inspire me with confidence. 
The minister makes little or no reference to the numerous reports filed with government over many years regarding the Island’s funding. 
Yet he makes great play over the 100 per cent retention of business rates. I am far from being excited over this. 
His ignorance about the Island is highlighted when restates “the Solent authorities” will benefit to the tune of £3.3 million. 
The IW Council’s ability to generate meaningful additional funding, to me, is pie in the sky. The minister will know or should know the Island has been a major nett beneficiary in respect of business rates for years.
In accepting the minister’s proposals to open yet another review if it brings no additional funding, I fear the IW Council will not be able to fulfil its statutory obligations to the residents of our Island by 2019.
Finally, I sincerely hope the proposer for an ‘islands act’ will re-submit his motion, which should have the full support of our MP and the islands at large.

 


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