Devolution (IOW Update)

It looks like the “done deal” is being procured even more quickly on devolution than at first thought. Is there no limit to their treachery that (some of) the Council and Sandy Hopkins (CEO East Hampshire District and Havant Borough Councils) is perpetrating.

Talk about sleepwalking into something of magnitude then this has to beat the lot.

A major constitutional issue that takes away local democracy and hardly anyone bats an eyelid! Everyone becomes complicit in treachery through ignorance, disinformation and inaction.

They continue to progress with the aim of securing a deal with the Government early in the New Year.

Grants are to be replaced by business rate retention, where the island will be “dependent” on Hampshire to vote some of theirs to us because we hardly have any.They are hoping that the small businesses at present exempted, will cough up some. There is little hope of any gifts from Hampshire or elsewhere.

They know that only 50% maximum of the business rate can be retained.Even now the HIOW combined area raises around £705m each year and, despite recent reforms, approximately only 37% is returned to the HIOW area.This means that the maximum 50%, which will replace the grant, realises a meagre 13% to cover it and actually reveals a prospective Austerity Cut. The Government will not give ground on this as it costs money. and the key ‘ask’ within the bid – that is for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (HIOW) to be the first area in the country to secure retention of 100% of business rates in return for foregoing Revenue Support Grant and other grant funding.

Sandy Hopkins is floating the big hope, that it will be introduced faster and it will incentivise economic growth and give us local public services. In other words it will be the solution to all of our problems (a bit like a fixed link), Be rest assured there is no magic money tree over there, there is no golden egg and there is not even jam tomorrow with Super Councils, Southern Power houses or Mayors.

Devolution is no solution, it will make things much worse and remote. Devolution is in fact centralisation in disguise. It is a neo-liberal ploy playing on people’s genuine sentiment for real decentralisation and democracy. It is not something one will be able to change or stear in our direction it is a fraud.

Securing greater financial independence from central government and to have more freedom and flexibility to encourage economic growth is a pipe dream and the experience of the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership is the evidence of it. All of the national partnerships are a fraud, they are unelected and run by businesses. They have already been denounced on the select committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge, as unelected quangos of local Government. They are to be the regional section of economic governance.The Isle of Wight experience of being outvoted in them has taken place already when it came to Strategic Funding.

Under the current business rates system, local authorities collect business rates on behalf of central government which then applies a national formula to determine what proportion is returned to local authorities. The HIOW combined area raises around £705m each year and, despite recent reforms, approximately only 37% is returned to the HIOW area.

Being fully aware of both the continual decline in government grant and HIOW’s significant economic potential, local partners consider 100% business rates retention to be the way to secure the combined area’s economic prosperity and the long-term well-being of its residents.

The system proposed definitely makes local government less secure.
Under the current system only the withdrawal of grants makes us insecure. Now we presented as shifting authority off-island and is presented as the only alternative. An alternative that is a concession not a solution and one that takes away our independence.

Local authorities are dependent on both business rates and grants handed down from Whitehall only because the contract between the people paying taxes and receiving some back was maintained. It is our right and the Government are destroying the basis of that right.

The argument that that it is complicated and technical does not hold water because it is a “complex formula” that is out of control.

There are some amongst us can’t wait to do a devolution deal even before the national reform.They are seeking to negotiate an early deal with Government.

We shouldn’t let them get away with it. It is within the remit of uniting the Isle of Wight to oppose it.


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