David Cameron provided little hope towards a budget boost for the Isle of Wight Council at Prime Minister’s Questions today (Wednesday), after the issue was raised by the Island’s MP Andrew Turner.
Following the announcement of cuts as high as £17 million for the forthcoming years budget in January, the lack of encouragement shown by the Prime Minister regarding the Council’s financial future is sure to displease many – especially when they may not be able to balance the books in future years.
“The Isle of Wight Council can balance the books this year, but fear they will be unable to do so next year. Would my Right Honourable Friend confirm the government is willing to work with them to help them access existing sources of funding or finance, or find new ways to address the Island’s unique circumstances.”
– Andrew Turner addressing Mr Cameron at PMQs today
The Council is due to learn just how much money it’ll receive from the government to run services in the coming days.
Council leader Jonathan Bacon branded the cost-cutting measures set in place as ‘radical and painful’ in January when the Council was preparing to set the 2016/17 budget, despite saving £50 million over the past five years.
“We are very happy to work with the authorities on the Isle of Wight. I think I am right in saying that when it comes to spending power, actually the spending power is increasing slightly in the next year.
“But what we are doing with this settlement for local government is, because overall it is a relatively flat cash settlement over a five year period, we are allowing councils to use reserves and sell off unwanted properties and use that money directly to provide services to bridge over the period of the next five years.
“We’re very happy to look at the circumstances of the Isle of Wight, but I believe it is a fair settlement.”
– Mr Cameron in response to Andrew Turner
Councillor Bacon has urged residents of the Island to use the online tool You Choose, which encourages users to try and understand the difficulties in setting a lawful and balanced budget.
The simulator lets users reduce spending and raise income from various areas while keeping council tax below four per cent.
The public consultation closes on February 12 and the meeting regarding the council’s budget setting will commence on February 24.
You can watch footage from today’s coverage below, or click the link in the above Tweet to see Mr Turner address the Prime Minister directly.
Alternatively, you can follow The Guardian’s live blog of the rolling political coverage here.