The idea of becoming ‘master of its financial destiny’ by becoming a ‘Super Council’, is Pie in the Sky; Neo-Liberal Devolution is no Solution.

The idea is that, if the Isle of Wight Council becomes part of a ‘Super Council’ for the South, it could secure a deal to make the new authority master of its own financial destiny. Neither the ‘Super Council’ nor the individual authorities will become masters of their destinies as long as pseudo-democratic mechanisms are imposed upon the people.

Devolution, after the Scottish Referendum has re-emerged on the map in an attempt to pervert the independence of local democracy. The neo-liberal model manipulates the sentiment for decentralisation but in fact creates its opposite by centralising powers and economy away from Local Authorities towards scaled down Regional control. It distances democracy and accountability in favour of more absolute control.

Devolution comes on the back of the EU policy for the regions and ‘Localism’ set going by Eric Pickles in the previous coalition as head of the Department for Communities and Local Government. It has been behind the idea of a northern ‘Power House’ with City type funding and run by Mayors.

It has no place in any pro-social policy.

A Devolution deal will not mean cash independence and will not solve the problem of Isle of Wight Budget financing, a crisis caused by the Government itself with its ideological and political cuts made to make Local Authorities pass on Austerity.

Ditching Revenue Support Grants and replacing them by the Business Rates Retention Scheme will end up in fiasco.

In April 2013, the Government introduced the business rates retention scheme and reformed the way in which Local Government is funded. The Local Government sector (local authorities and fire and rescue authorities) are supposed to benefit directly from supporting local business growth as they are able to keep half of any increases in business rates revenue to invest in local services. We are now seeing the reality of cuts to front-line fire services across Hampshire endangering the capabilities to fight fires.

Revenue will be lower and cost the island more.

The replacement of Revenue Support Grants by Business rate re-allocation spread over the entire region (Hampshire) is a sop, an enticement, to suck in the IOW.

The IOW has nowhere near the quantity of businesses to retain sufficient percentile funding and Hampshire are not interested in “sharing” their allocation. There is no room for a reasonable deal to measure up in the long term.

A bid has been made to government for the 15 councils, which could be part of the new authority to ditch the cash it receives from Government in Revenue Support Grants.

In return, it wants to keep all the business rates collected and spend the money in the new region. Yet the Government will not allow Regions to keep all revenue only half.

They want Isle of Wighters and the people of Hampshire to become guinea pigs, a blueprint, to follow for cities and regions across the country.

“If this comes to fruition, the area will be responsible for its own income and therefore need to make sure it attracts businesses and has the conditions for them to thrive in order to generate funds.”

The reality is more privatisation in Public Services like road maintenance, adding further privatisations in education and establishment of Free Schools and Academies, NHS and Care.

The idea is to “entice” local businesses, but how? Only reductions in business rates have been the tried and tested methods in the past used by the neo-liberals in the 198O’s to “entice” Japanese car producers like Nissan and Toyota in the North East and Midlands. On the Island, funding strategies such as Assisted Area Status and Strategic Funding has failed due to the overwhelming bureaucratic and isolating features of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which includes voting. Even the centre of excellence investment, as in Carbon Composites, and College support has since been undermined with the threats of withdrawal by GKN and other monopolies.

Infrastructure investment, continuity and connectivity, road and rail investment including ferries are part of the general controversy and experience of the island. These have been underfunded and are the carrot and stick, particulars offered in the general equation to be “solved” with devolution and “entice” business. There will be no such “solution” only pie-crust promises of jam tomorrow. It is the general picture being painted where such things as “integrated transport systems” are concocted and where the general strategy of Government fits in. Devolvement and the national rail strategy are part and parcel of the same neo-liberal agenda as are all privatisation and pro-monopoly strategies.

Hampshire County Council, the IW Council, Portsmouth and Southampton City Councils and 11 District Councils are working together on the project along with the Solent and Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnerships and New Forest and South Downs National Park Authorities.

Self-serving Politicians and agents of the Government, representing neo-liberal interests have to be opposed. Notions of inevitability cannot be tolerated as a means of capitulation. Struggle is the only way. There are no quick fixes for economic or political problems. Devolution and deals are about concessions and concessions are never solutions. The real solutions lie in proper Democratic renewal of the political system and real economic alternatives to Austerity.

The people have to defend the integrity and dignity of the Isle of Wight. They must be united whatever their political persuasion to keep it together and not become absorbed or annexed by bigger powers.

The Government has no mandate for such sweeping changes in favour of neo-liberalism. Therefore it is perfectly legitimate to oppose and block such measures. Pseudo-Devolution is one such measure and needs to be seen for what it is, a measure that is designed to make permanent the neo-liberal pro-market parasitical disorder.

The people need to unite on the Isle of Wight to resist it.

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