Isle of Wight Council fights for survival

Get ready for rising council tax as Isle of Wight Council fights for survival

COUNCIL tax rises of 3.99 per cent could be on the cards for years to come, a leading Isle of Wight Council officer warned today (Tuesday).

Outgoing managing director Dave Burbage said the Isle of Wight Council was unlikely to survive without extra government cash and warned that everything from public parks and toilets to school crossing patrols and bus passes for disabled people faced the axe.

The warning came as the details of a briefing note sent to government, asking for help, were published.

The Isle of Wight Council has already saved around £50 million during the past five years, but must slash £31.5 million more from its budget over the next four years — £17.4 million next year alone.

At a time when demand for services is increasing — adult social care is forecast to cost an additional £18.3 million a year by 2019/20, compared with the £68.8 million it costs currently, partly due to the introduction of a national living wage which will have a significant impact on the care sector — the outlook is bleak.

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in the autumn statement local authorities would be given discretion to raise council tax by up to two per cent, with the cash ring-fenced to pay for adult social care.

That could be combined with a general rise in council tax of 1.99 per cent, the maximum allowed without sparking the need for a referendum.

But that alone may not be enough to save many services, warned Mr Burbage.

He said: “The problem is we have very little wriggle room, we spend very little on discretionary services. It all goes on statutory services like children’s services, adult social care and concessionary bus fares, or contracts we are committed to like the waste and PFI contracts.

“The severity of the position the government is forcing us into is pretty horrific. Members are going to have to make some difficult, and very unpalatable decisions next month.”

In its briefing note to minister for local government Marcus Jones MP the council called on government to help.

It called on government to “recognise the very serious financial challenge facing the council and that under the current funding mechanisms the Isle of Wight Council is potentially at risk in the very near future of being unable to meet its statutory duties and facing financial failure.”

Reporter: emilyp@iwcpmail.co.uk

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