Plans by Conservatives at the Isle of Wight Council to build beach huts have been criticised by an opposition councillor. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
TORY plans to use part of a £2.3 million underspend to build beach huts have been blasted by an opposition councillor.
The council's ruling Conservative Group has tabled a motion for Wednesday's (20) full council meeting, asking members to back a series of one off schemes.
The schemes would be paid for using part of a £2.29 million saved by the council this financial year. The amount of council underspend was revealed in full council papers published earlier this week.
Conservatives claim the projects — which include inviting businesses to suggest town improvement ideas, working with Job Centre Plus to cut unemployment and a Celebrate the Isle of Wight weekend to promote Island produce, as well as plans to build beach huts — would benefit tourism.
Council leader Cllr David Pugh said the projects would build on existing work to support the Island's economy.
"As the motion acknowledges, we are only able to bring forward these plans for additional investment due to the council's healthy financial position. The difficult decisions of the past 18 months mean we can release funding to support community-based initiatives that will contribute to the Island’s economic wellbeing," he said.
As a one-off underspend, Cllr Pugh said the cash could not be used to reinstate areas of recurring expenditure, which would include services such as public toilets and libraries.
"Whilst the council is not able to reinstate areas of previous recurring expenditure, it is able to make use of the £2.290million net savings achieved in 2011/12 to support ideas such as these," he said.
However, the plans came under fire from Labour councillor Geoff Lumley.
"It's an absolute insult to all those at the council who lost their jobs — and those left behind to struggle on without enough staff — that this money is to be spent on petty little projects like beach huts.
"The fact the underspend is so significant shows the council has either mismanaged its finances, or that it deliberately cut public services it didn't really want to spend money on. Public toilets are more of a priority than beach huts and this money could have been used to keep such services going," he said.
Cllr Lumley has also tabled a motion for the meeting, urging the council to do all it could secure Assisted Area Status for the Island. The extra government funding would be used to tackle unemployment.