Budget: Parking charges frozen and investment in frontline services
Published: 7 February 2024
The Isle of Wight Council has announced that car park charges will not rise next year.
That's despite huge pressures on public finances as a result of years of government-driven austerity, significantly increased costs to provide services and rising demand, especially for vulnerable young people and adults.
Today (Wednesday) the council published its draft proposals to deliver a balanced budget and safeguard essential frontline, visible services that residents value.
At the heart of its 2024/25 spending plans is an extra £11 million to meet the rising demand for children's and adult's social care services that protect the most vulnerable, and a targeted £1.9 million investment to help address the Island's desperate need for affordable housing.
Building on the good work achieved through the Household Support Fund (HSF) and other government-funded programmes such as the Island's trail-blazing Family Hubs, a new £250,000 Community Capacity and Resilience Fund will further strengthen the support for Island residents.
The aim is to enable the voluntary and community sector to intervene where there are gaps in provision, support people to become self-sustaining and empower residents to have better control of their lives.
The council is also proposing a £200,000 Place/Towns Initiative Fund to support the delivery of the place plans that have been or are being delivered in areas across the Island. The fund will provide capital investments to support local initiatives identified in these local plans.
It is intended that the fund will work alongside the other funding opportunities that communities can access and will provide pump priming for local projects. The fund will also support local business to help improve the prosperity of the Island's communities.
Listening to the needs of local businesses and residents, the council is proposing a freeze on existing resident car park charges and parking permits for the year ahead. In addition, all crossing charges for the floating bridge will remain the same and no new fees will be introduced.
Also outlined in the budget is the draft capital programme. Significant capital investment of £9.3 million is planned for the Island including £2.1 million for schools' capital maintenance and £400,000 for highway drainage schemes to reduce flooding.
Other examples of investment include:
- £500,000 for structural and drainage works at Osborne Steps in Shanklin;
- £1.8m in improvement grants to help Island residents and tenants with disabilities to remain in their homes;
- £400,000 towards repairing and reinstating footpaths and other rights of way damaged by the winter storms;
- £300,000 towards coastal protection works;
- £400,000 for improvements at a council reablement facility providing support for older people to return to an independent life in their own homes.
As in previous years, local authorities across the country are experiencing severe financial stress.
The latest estimates are that it costs the council an extra £23.7 million to provide services on the Island compared to its statistical neighbours. The current uplift in funding of £4 million in total is considered an initial starting point for future discussions with the government.
Despite the extra money, an increase in council tax of 4.99 per cent - 2.99 per cent for general purposes and 2 per cent for adult social care - and savings proposals amounting to £2.75m, the council will still need to draw £1.2m from general reserves.
Council leader, Phil Jordan, said: "Our financial situation continues to be challenging and difficult. Our approach for the council’s spending plans remains to reverse the annual cycle of cuts that the structural financial deficit commands and instead, reinvest in the services the community would like to see.
"However, the absence of funding keeping pace with inflation and pressures in social care has made that impossible. In fact, over the past 13 years the council has had to find savings of £97 million.
"In appreciating the ongoing financial hardship faced by many, we are working in a prudent, responsible manner to correct the ongoing structural deficit that has been impacting the council's finances. Our budget is a positive budget which looks to invest in our community services while protecting residents as best we are able from financial hardship.
"Freezing the costs of car parking in our towns and villages is good for businesses and for shoppers. Many councils across the country have had no option but to increase these charges.
"There has never been a time where there has been more pressure on local government finances but we are an ambitious and responsible council taking on the challenge and finding new ways of working for the benefit of local residents and businesses while maintaining our key services."