State of the Island debate at the Riverside Centre. Picture by Peter Boam.
SUSTAINABLE farming, transport, the Isle of Wight's economy, caring for the elderly and jobs for young people were among topics covered in a debate about the state of the Island.
The packed two-hour meeting, staged at the Riverside Centre, Newport today (Saturday). called for by Independent Alliance co-ordinator at County Hall, Cllr Ian Stephens, was attended by around 70 people including representatives from all the Isle of Wight's political parties and Island MP Andrew Turner.
During the wide-ranging debate, members of the public raised a variety of issues including how to tackle the number of jobless people on the Island, how the Isle of Wight could encourage small-scale sustainable farming and council cuts to local services.
Bob Burton from the Isle of Wight Trades Union Council told the meeting that organised labour was the only way that the Isle of Wight could break free from being a low-wage economy.
He added that there was also a lack of housing with an estimated 6,000 people on the Isle of Wight Council's housing waiting list.
He said: "What we need is manufacturing industry on the Isle of Wight. Our problem is unemployment, which has to be addressed, and the housing problem."
Unison branch secretary, Mark Chiverton, added that 'instability' had been created at County Hall due to the frequent changes in the Isle of Wight Council's chief executive.
He said: "I have never known a situation which is so unstable and such an intense sense of despair amongst staff."
Robert Butler told the meeting that the Isle of Wight Council should encourage small-scale farming.
He said: "Our Island used to be a net exporter of food, meat and textiles. All the fields where I grew up used to be completely full and productive, every square inch, and now there are no animals and hardly any crops, apart from really big, industrial crop production."
Maureen Phillips said she had lived on the Isle of Wight for 26 years and she had 'looked on in horror' over the past two years at decisions made by the Isle of Wight Council's 'unelected executives'.
She said: "Executives appointed from the mainland, who sometimes live on the mainland, have no interest in this Island."
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Stephens hit back at critics of the meeting who had branded it as 'navel gazing.'
He said: "If we did a bit more thinking, we would save ourselves a bit of money."
A debate on the state of the Island will be staged at a full meeting of the Isle of Wight Council next week.