Rural buses and old-age care set for budget cuts

By Ross Findon

Friday, June 25, 2010

 

FREE social care for the elderly and rural bus routes will be among the services facing cuts on the Island as the council looks to save up to £7 million a year for the next four years.

Reacting to Tuesday’s emergency budget and following last week’s announcement it would have to cut £2 million from this year’s spending, council leader Cllr David Pugh and chief executive Steve Beynon said preparation for further cuts had begun.

Chancellor George Osborne is to cut government spending by 25 per cent and the council, which relies on central funding for 90 per cent of its budget, anticipates losing between six and seven per cent — the equivalent of about £7million — a year.

One of the first services facing cuts will be uneconomical rural bus routes, subsidised by the Isle of Wight Council, due for review in August.

Free home care for over 80s could also be scaled back, with the council planning to review the threshold at which it provides the service. Cllr Pugh said they were not looking at means testing for the service.

The first cuts, on the day of the budget, came to the council chairman’s civic affairs budget. These saw him saw him lose his car, Cowes Week reception and other civic events. Remembrance Sunday or Armed Forces Day were not affected.

Directors will look at what other areas can be cut and make recommendations in time for councillors to make decisions in the autumn, following the government’s comprehensive spending review.

Officers will also make recommendations next month about how to deal with this year’s £2 million cut, as reported by the County Press last week.

Cllr Pugh admitted the loss of funding would impact on services and would lead the council to look to other groups, including charities, the voluntary sector and town and parish councils, to see if they could provide some services more efficiently than the council.

He highlighted the decision to sell Shanklin Theatre to the town council as a way this was already happening.

The council is also to investigate moving up to 400 staff to County Hall, joining the 300 already there, and disposing of other properties it owns or rents.

Mr Beynon said this would be possible if they changed the way people worked, suggesting he would sacrifice his own office to create an extra meeting room, while he worked at other officers desks.

He said it was not clear yet how Chancellor George Osborne’s pledge not to reduce capital spending would affect the council but welcomed last week’s payment of the School Pathfinder funding for a new Cowes High School and said the project could definitely go ahead.

Reporter: ross.findon@iwcp.co.uk

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